The Chartered PR Practitioner Q&A: Martin Turner on communications strategy

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.

Martin Turner’s paper discussed the development of communication strategy and proposed a new model.

martin-turnerWho are you and what’s your day job?

I’m Martin Turner, and I’m director of Brand Motor, a specialist branding company in the Midlands. Before that, I was an NHS communications director, and before that I worked at Lucas Automotive, West Midlands Arts, and Operation Mobilisation.

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

Marketing works on promotional programmes and advertising works on getting the word out, but PR considers the collective impact of all the communication about an organisation that is swirling around people’s heads.

Some of that communication is formal, some informal, some intended, some entirely unintended, some antagonistic, and much just misinformed. This was true twenty-five years ago when I started out. It’s just as true and much more significant in our socially-wired world.

This means that, of all the communications disciplines, PR takes the most complete look at what is going on. The opportunity is for our profession to be recognised for strategic leadership.

Why did you apply for Chartered PR Practitioner status?

I wanted validation. It’s very easy for people in our profession to persuasively spout opinions. You certainly would never hire someone who couldn’t. For that very reason, it’s all too easy for us to believe our own spin. I wanted to put everything I’d learned on the table and have it assessed and validated by people who knew what they were talking about and weren’t afraid to say ‘I’m sorry, that’s not good enough’.

How did you find the assessment process?

Rigorous. I’ve not seen a form before that demanded that level of thought to fill in. When it came to the Viva, it was a delight to be questioned closely by people who had really invested time in understanding what I had to say.

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

It was about communications strategy. It was a piece of work I’d been developing for fifteen years, so the main learning process wasn’t in writing it up.

Essentially, I was looking to demonstrate a framework for general communications strategy which was easy to remember, easy to use and scalable from micro-campaigns lasting a day with four people to macro-campaigns lasting years and reaching millions. I also wanted something that could be explained to non-communications specialists without technical vocabulary or asking people to take things on trust.

My view — which I think the paper justifies — is that if you can pin down Outcomes, Audiences, Messages and Delivery you have a communications strategy, and if you miss one of them, you don’t.

I suppose that sounds very simplistic, but, as a profession, I believe that we need to be able to set out our stall in just a few words if we’re to be taken seriously in the Board room. Accountants can tell you in a very few words what they do, so can legal directors and supplies managers. It’s on us to do the same.

Further information

You can connect with Martin via his personal websiteLinkedIn, Twitter (@martinmturner), 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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