This week's Council meeting at the CIPR involved a debate about continuing professional development (CPD) and the role this should play in a PR practitioner's life. CPD is currently something that the Institute expects of its members through a designated scheme and although it is not yet mandatory, I am one of many lobbying to change this. As the CIPR's new President Stephen Waddington has said clearly on a number of occasions, the PR industry is on a slow march to professionalism. If we are to achieve this, making ongoing training and self reflection on ethics and competence something all members have to do is a critical part of the process.
Part of the reading material for the meeting was a paper by Andy Friedman called 'Strengthening Professionalism: Ethical competence as a path towards the public good.' Short and to the point, the paper strongly indicates that ethical competence can help differentiate PRs by separating the wheat from the chaff, but is also important in helping to protect vulnerable businesses, who may not know what to expect from their chosen practitioner.
What do I mean by this? Well, as Friedman points out, "Clients are vulnerable because they do not know which professionals available for hire are competent and ethical...and they lack the information to judge whether the professional they have hired is doing a good job."
So how can a company be confident that they are hiring someone who knows the job, can apply their knowledge practically (but also knows when not to pursue a course of action) and who acts ethically in accordance with a code of conduct? Well by choosing a CIPR member who can demonstrate they are using the CPD scheme and accessing all the best practice guides, skills guides, tool kits and much more at their fingertips through the Institute.
As chair of the CIPR's Professional Practices Committee, one of the goals for this year is making ethics a compulsory part of the CPD scheme. To quote Friedman again: "Ethical competence does not come automatically with the achievement of credentials...This path also requires vigilance, resources and institutional support, particularly from professional associations."
Suffice to say, we're on it. How about you?