IPR gets Chartered status

The UK’s Institute of Public Relations, its professional body, has received chartered status from the Privy Council (finally after 50 years of applying). Colin Farrington, its director general, sees this as ‘a national endorsement of the profession’. For US readers, the IPR is similar to the Public Relations Society of America.

Both bodies want you to join for access to training, some of which is quite good, and also for commitment to its code of ethics. While this is an excellent endeavor, they both lack teeth since a transgression results in little more than a slap on the wrist, with the ultimate sanction of having membership revoked. Since few clients or PR practitioners care about membership, this isn’t much of a penalty – not like being dis-barred from being a doctor or lawyer. Perhaps getting chartered status takes the IPR one step further to having that clout. Not all UK PR-types are in favor of the move though:

Falling into this last
category, presumably, is PR supremo Mark Borkowski (below). ‘What on
earth was the Privy Council thinking of, awarding this shower a
charter?’ he says. ‘Incredibly for over 50 years the IPR or its
equivalent has been told "no, bugger off", but now, in the era of
Alistair Campbell, Downing Street has seen fit to grant PR a
respectability it utterly fails to warrant.

and ironing the reputations of politicians, drug companies, arms
manufacturers, tobacco producers and junk food sellers, is not a
respectable business. It’s a covert, no-holds-barred war, in which
editors and journalists have to be superhuman in their refusal to be

It looks as if Borkowski
will be seeking fellowship of the newly chartered organisation, then.
‘FCIPR? FCKIT’, he ends his missive.

  • Clive Booth

    I’m proud to be a member of any association that doesn’t have Mark Borkowski as a member.
    The Institute of Public Relations has achieved a royal charter in recognition not just because of the importance good communication plays in the board room, the ngo and public bodies today, but to differentiate what we do for a living with the alchemists who peddle their trade as ‘publicists’.
    There’s a world of diference between PROs who can demonstrate the value of professional reputation management and drumming up a bit of coverage, just because you can.
    If you’ve got a broken leg, the witch doctor might be able to fix it. Personally, I’ll go to a trained physician. Here in the UK that clinican will have qualified as a member of the royal chartered college of physicians. The fact that 8,000 PR practitioners in the UK aspire to work in the same ways as our doctors, accountants, surveyors and dentists serves our clients well.
    There’ll always be a living to be made by people who are paid by those who only recognise the value of Mark Borkowski’s ‘school of hard knocks’ credentials. But he’s not going to practice those skills with my money, and I’d advise you don’t let him do the same with yours.

  • Thanks Clive – you are ever the bastion for the IPR and the reason I joined in the first place. I do not doubt the importance of distancing public relations practioners from publicists, any more than I associate the ‘PRs’ who try to drag you into a bar on tropical islands with the profession.
    I’m pleased that the IPR has achieved this measure of respectability. It does come at a surprising time when the industry is under such scrutiny, but such is the way of institutional approval, I guess.
    I do think there is more that the IPR could do however to further the cause of PR as a profession. It needs to take a stronger stance on key issues so we can see its importance. It needs to rejuvenate and become more relevant, distancing itself from the ‘lunching PR-types’ of yesteryear. It needs more practical and up to date training courses, fewer committees, a better and more regular magazine, more champions, a cause we can rally behind.
    Above all though, I think it needs teeth, like the professions you mention above. At the moment, we’ve got the League of Nations – it needs to become the UN.