After an encouraging forum of Chartered Institute of Public Relations Fellows earlier this week in London, held in response to planned changes in membership grades of the Institute, there seems to be a clear mood afoot to engage with constructive change to make the Institute more meaningful to its members (whatever their grade status) and also to harness the immense – and largely under-tapped resource – of its membership.
We need to consider new ideas where being a Fellow of the Institute bestows both a status, but also marks a commitment to continue to put something back into the profession.
In addition, there is the issue of their age profile, where, if you take each day of the week to represent a decade of your life, most Fellows are a Saturday, Sunday, or even Bank Holiday Monday. This obviously is unrepresentative of the wider dynamics in its profession.
A suggestion made at the forum of creating a title of ‘Emeritus Fellow’ neatly offers an option for those who do not wish to actively engage, but still be recognised for their professional status.
If we adopt this then we will need some way of defining what is meant by being an ‘active Fellow’. Here, we need a simple, easily-understood yardstick, not requiring burdensome report-filling.
A simple commitment of say, ‘Providing two days un-paid service to the Institute or the profession’ might suffice. This could cover activities such as voluntary work for the Institute, pro bono work such as with the Media Trust, or mentorship of other members.
We then need to consider the issue of members younger in age or length of service, who may have already made significant achievements or shown the potential to become Fellows.
What about creating a news grade of ‘Future Fellow’?
This could consist of a 5 year commitment to become a Fellow, at the end of which they need to demonstrate proof of professional development and putting something back into the industry. If, at the end of 5 years there is insufficient evidence to warrant becoming a Fellow, the Future Fellow licence lapses.
I get annoyed when I see young high flyers promise the earth to secure their nomination and winning of a CIPR ‘Young Achiever’ award, and when successful, walk away with their gong, their latest accomplishment to put on the CV, along with a forgotten promise to continue to put something back into the industry. (I am sure there are worthy exceptions to this.)
The idea of a Future Fellows licence provides a structure enabling them to still be engaged after entering Young Achievers, while providing a forum where Fellows could act as mentors.
Wider access to becoming a Future Fellow could also be linked to the CPD programme. Committing to being a Future Fellow marks a real commitment to match promises with real actions.
So, going forward, we do need to consider doing things different.
Any changes need to ensure the status and relative rarity value of being a Fellow is still upheld.
At the same time, the entry process needs to be more transparent.
Once you are a Fellow you can choose your level of engagement, with the option of being an Emeritus Fellow if you wish.
And we need a first step on, not so much on the ladder, but more of an escalator for ambitious, committed, young professionals.
Such changes could help boost the CIPR brand as a badge to signify you intend to be successful (and probably earn more).
These changes could also play their part in creating a coherent brand story for the CIPR – as an organization where you can demonstrate you are committed to success and professional standards – and where you are part of a movement carrying the collective flames of our profession forward.
Anyone for change? I’m certainly up for it.