Public relations critical for public engagement

By Carolyn Fairbairn,

In the CIPR’s 70th year, I am delighted to support Platinum, a celebration of the Chartered Institute and its members and a reflection on seven decades of progress in PR.

It is a mark of the importance of PR as a management discipline that today the CIPR has more members than ever, is by far the biggest member organisation for PR practitioners outside of North America and by individually registered members and is the leading representative body for PR in Europe.

The reason for that success is simple. Responsible business is a force for good that changes lives for the better. The services and products that firms provide, the taxes they pay and the jobs they create, transform communities in the UK and around the world.

However, there is currently a disconnect between what businesses do and what people believe. Companies that are not complacent about this challenge understand that it can only be overcome by the right behaviour and by making their contribution to the UK feel real for employees and customers.

That means communicating in a way that is genuine and compelling and which resonates with what the public values from business. That is why PR matters. Every business leader is in the business of trust. And as the number of businesses grows so does the competition to be a brand that consumers trust. And when trust is at a premium, a strong PR and communications function can create brilliant shareholder value.

Of course, the CIPR’s 70th year comes at a time when it is easier than ever to lose that trust. Social media and the internet provide new opportunities for brands to have instant and direct interaction with their stakeholders.

But this brings with it new risks.

Social media is still a relatively new phenomenon for companies yet the consequences of getting it wrong can be costly, both to a company’s reputation and its share price. So it is hugely welcome to see the CIPR offer a range of guidance on the core principles and legal considerations of using social media. It is clear that the digital revolution will make the CIPR an increasingly important partner in years to come.

This is why the CBI strongly supports the CIPR’s ambition to have PR recognised as a strategic management function, alongside other professions such as finance, law and project management. All professions are underpinned by the sharing of expertise and education, and that is precisely what the CIPR provides, alongside valuable capability frameworks, continuous professional development and the chartered status that is available to CIPR members.

Professionalism is also advanced through accountability. And here, too, the CIPR plays a vital role, making its members accountable to their employers and the public through a code of conduct and searchable public register.

The rapid changes in the world of PR are matched by changes taking place more widely in the worlds of business and politics. I am therefore delighted that the CIPR has chosen to become a member of the CBI.

The CBI acts as an umbrella organisation for its direct member firms, but also for over 150 trade associations and professional bodies.

By pooling our influence, we are better able to shape our country as a great place for business to thrive. And right now, the voice of business is needed more than ever. Yes, we must secure the best possible Brexit deal with the European Union, but there is also much to do at home: ensuring our people have the right skills; building world-class infrastructure; incentivising innovation; and delivering competitive business taxes and regulation.

Through partnership, both our organisations have a louder voice and more influence and we will use that voice to make the UK an even better home for business – now and for the next 70 years.

Carolyn Fairburn joined the CBI as Director-General in November 2015. Her career spans a range of leadership roles in business, media and government, with particular experience in the finance and broadcasting sectors.

Platinum is a new book from the CIPR showcasing excellence in public relations. Edited by Stephen Waddington Found.Chart.PR Hon FCIPR, Platinum is the story of the CIPR as told by its members. It is out today.

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