The Chartered PR Practitioner Q&A: Jon Clements on the reputation business

One of my commitments as CIPR President was to promote the value of learning and development as a foundation for professionalism.

Throughout the year I’m going to blog interviews with practitioners that have achieved Chartered PR Practitioner status to understand their motivation and perspective on the profession.

The Chartered Practitioner qualification is pitched by the CIPR as “a benchmark for those working at a senior level and a ‘gold standard’ to which all PR practitioners should strive to reach.” It consists of an initial questionnaire on your career, a paper and formal interview.

Jon Clements’ paper explored the role of public relations in managing organisational reputation.

jon-clementsWho are you and what’s your day job?

I’m the founder of Manchester-based Metamorphic PR, a consultancy specialising in B2B PR, content creation and corporate/marketing communications.

The day job involves providing consultancy to clients both directly and in partnership with other PR and marketing agencies. Given half a chance, I also blog on the website.

What’s the greatest opportunity for the public relations profession?

Some marketing communications professionals have been quick to pronounce the death of PR, citing social media, SEO and self-publishing as PR’s nemeses. But good PR people are those who live and breathe the concept of building and protecting reputation for businesses, organisations and individuals. That can’t be replicated easily by other communications disciplines – but the PR profession needs to work harder to emphasise this capability, and the value it brings, again and again.

Why did you apply for Chartered PR Practitioner status?

I entered PR via other careers in journalism and teaching, where I’d obtained formal qualifications. After more than 10 years in PR, learning from hands-on experience, the Chartered Practitioner status provided the opportunity to get independent certification of my professional ability and instil the discipline for career-long learning through CPD.

How did you find the assessment process?

Demanding. The statement of professional standing was a great exercise in examining how much I’d learned in PR, while completing the CPD and thesis illustrated the importance of ongoing professional education. The panel interview with existing Chartered practitioners challenges you to think forensically about the work we do.

What was the topic of your paper and what did you learn?

The topic was the role of public relations in managing organisational reputation: a subject fresh in the minds of many organisations that year, following a host of reputation meltdowns such as the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, Toyota’s worldwide vehicle recall and the advent of Wikileaks revelations.

Apart from unearthing a wealth of literature on the subject of corporate reputation, I learned how companies and their public relations advisers can often overlook the importance of reputation in the quest for grabbing headlines, making sales and satisfying shareholders.

And though corporate reputation is deemed an intangible asset, it is no less an asset for the organisation; yet companies tend to focus more on brand building – in other words creating a favourable image – where the success of a brand is actually more dependent on the reputation earned by that company or brand. The reputation is what its customers or stakeholders bestow on it; it can’t be contrived.

Experts in corporate reputation are not nebulous about the impact of its loss. One expert, Peter Firestein, claims reputation risk is a “threat to the survival of the enterprise”. How can a company not want to take that seriously?

Jon’s paper The Reputation Challenge is available as a download (PDF).

Further information

You can connect with Jon via his blogLinkedIn, or Twitter (@JonClements), and if you’re interested in further information about learning and development please check the CIPR website.


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Professional advisor for agencies and communication teams, Wadds Inc. Author: #brandvandals, Exploring PR and Management Communication. #PRstack, Share This, and others. Visiting Professor, Newcastle University.

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