I’m passionate about how organizations – and individuals – are Brands, and that at the heart of the Brand is a ‘Brand Soul’.
I define this soul as ‘doing the right thing’.
It obviously throws up the question what is meant by the ‘right’ thing, what defines ‘right’?
To answer this, I would establish the core question of, ‘Why is the Brand there? ‘What is its purpose on this planet?’
Which brings us to the Chartered Institute of Public Relations: what is its purpose?
My response to this is goes along the lines of: ‘its at the heart of advancing the collective interests of people engaged in public relations practice by raising professional standards’.
The ‘right’ thing is whatever accords and promotes this statement.
I’m also passionate about using role models as a tool to provide insight into complex questions; when faced with a major decision I simply run any challenge past them.
My universal, multi-purpose role model is a fictional character, the Captain played by Tom Hanks in the film ‘Saving Private Ryan’. When in doubt, I just ask: ‘What would the Captain in Saving Private Ryan do here?’
Inevitably, in any organization there is a conflict between the organization’s bureaucracy serving the interest of its constituency or self-serving its own interests. (You can call this the difference between ‘producer’ or ‘consumer socialism’ – who is the system looking after?)
I believe the Chartered Institute of Public Relations has been guilty of losing its ‘soul’.
Perhaps instigated by a decision seven years ago – or at least made much more evident, – to move into prestigious new office accommodation, the Institute in my eyes, lost sight of doing the ‘right’ thing.
Faced with the prospect of making itself feel better – while also, in fairness, offering better practical facilities, the lure of making the economics and figures stand up for the new ‘Palace’ become to over-ride other issues – including doing the ‘right thing’.
One example: I was invited to be a judge of a non-CIPR industry awards. I received phone calls saying I shouldn’t do it. It emerged that there were those within the Institute’s bureaucracy who felt these awards would be competition to, and undermine the economic interests of the Institute’s own professional awards programme.
My view was that the #1 goal of the Institute was to raise professional standards. These other awards were doing just that and should actually be encouraged, not discouraged. Therefore, the right thing would be to do the opposite of what I was being asked to do by my professional body. They had, in my view, ‘lost their Soul’. (And I believe the Captain in ‘Saving Private Ryan’ would agree with me.)
There are other instances I could recount where I was witnessing a failure by my Institute to do the ‘right’ thing.
Fortunately, things have changed. The Institute is now doing things different, although it still has further in its journey to travel. (I am delighted to be attending the Excellence Awards, being short-listed in two awards, yet I still think, and have made my views known, that £197 is too steep a ticket price for the awards event. Again, I think the Captain might agree with me)
We face the prospects of an excellent CIPR Presidential election campaign; the fact there is an election taking place demonstrates democracy in action (which is the best system for advancing the collective interests of a group of people – and please, make sure you do vote.)
We have two candidates, both of whom I have immense respect for, with a genuine interest in advancing the cause of raising professional standards within the profession.
It is a tough call, but I will be casting my vote for Stephen Waddington.
More importantly, I just hope the election provides the opportunity of examining why our professional body is here, and what are the ‘right’ things it should be doing.
If we can have a healthy constructive debate within our profession, about what it is, where it is going, and crucially where it should be going, I believe it will enrich the Institute in its quest to rediscover its true ‘Brand Soul’ – that will be the true winner of this election.