By Crispin Thorold.
Royal charters have a long and storied history – they have been used by British monarchs since medieval times to establish cities, and institutions like charities, hospitals and universities. From the 14th Century charters have been awarded to livery companies and professional bodies.
The CIPR received its royal charter in 2005. Under this, the CIPR can award the globally recognized designation of Chartered PR Practitioner, Chart. PR. Chartered status demonstrates your breadth of experience, your strategic and leadership capabilities, and your commitment to ethical practice.
Chartership was once something of an elusive prospect for international members of the CIPR. The assessment was only held in person and the cost of travel discouraged many. However, like so much else, that all changed in 2020 with the introduction of online chartership assessment days.
In September 2020, when I was awarded chartership, half of the participants were based outside the UK, one each in Mauritius and Egypt, and two in Canada.
To mark this #GetChartered week, when the CIPR is celebrating and promoting chartership, I have been catching up with a couple of the international members who were chartered on the same day as me 18 months ago.
Kim Blanchette: Senior Vice President and General Manager for Argyle in Western Canada, is a comms veteran with more than 25 years of experience across the public relations gamut in international, national and regional leadership roles. Based in Calgary, Canada.
Marie-Noelle Elissac-Foy: Founder and Director of The Talent Factory, a Public Relations company in Mauritius. She successfully transitioned from a long career in the local media. Marie-Noelle also founded Stop Violans Kont Fam (Stop Violence Against Women). Based in Mauritius.
Crispin Thorold: global communications consultant who has led comms and marketing for international organizations and not-for-profits. Experience in a range of sectors from international law to education. Former BBC foreign correspondent. Based in Toronto, Canada.
Why did you want to pursue chartership?
Kim: As the National Chair for the Canadian Public Relations Society’s Task Force on Ethical Public Relations, I was really interested in a lot of the great work the CIPR was doing. We adapted (with permission) the PR Register and the Ethics Decision Tree for use in Canada and it was through that work I learned about chartership. I really wanted to go through the process to understand it better and to continue my own learning.
Marie Noelle: I had transitioned from being a Media Executive to PR consultant. I had been practicing for more than 10 years, learning on my own and leveraging my media experience. In 2020, the Covid-19 pandemic and the lockdowns had me think about my journey. I felt that the time had come to challenge myself and finally have my competence, my strategic skills and experience independently assessed. I was looking to gain respect and credibility from the industry itself. Recognition from the industry.
Crispin: Like many others in our business, I have worked in-house for organisations which seriously undervalue communications and PR. Especially the contribution that great communications counsel can make to organisational leadership and strategy. Chartership was an opportunity to strengthen my credentials, to be taken more seriously at the top table, as well as to reflect on my own professional practice. What was working and what needed to be developed further.
What were the preparations and assessment day like?
Kim: It was a really interesting process. I liked the opportunity to have a sense of the topics and questions combined with the challenge of bringing my own insights and experience to the discussion. I have to admit I was intimidated going in, but the assessment day was amazing. An opportunity to discuss trends, leadership, PR ethics with so many talented professionals and learning that despite our different experiences there were so many commonalities. The biggest challenge was perhaps the time difference. I started at 2:00am my time!
Marie Noelle: It was a period of hard work to which I had to be committed. The readings were very useful. It was also a great period to review, with a critical perspective, all of my work and my approach. There was also a webinar with other Chartered PRs who shared their experience. This was useful. The preparation, understanding of the evaluation process and expectations were daunting but enriching. The assessment day was stressful but in a positive way. The support provided by the CIPR team was amazing on that day. I felt safe, confident and this made it easier for me to go through the whole process.
Crispin: Like so many things in life the journey was the most rewarding part of the chartership process. My first comms job, after being a journalist, was leading a sizeable communications and outreach department. I had no formal PR training (or comms experience). Ten years later I had gained loads of experience, but there were still significant gaps in my theoretical knowledge. The chartership preparations and assessment helped deepen that knowledge, while always linking the theory with practice. The assessment was a whirlwind, but by far the best element were the discussions where you really felt part of a community of professionals with so many shared experiences.
How has chartership been useful for you since you achieved the status?
Kim: I find myself going back to some of those conversations during the assessment and I feel chartership opened up a new community for me with the CIPR. I also found so many great professional development resources to further my own learning. In my work in Canada, promoting ethical public relations and advocating for the profession, I find the chartership has broadened my approach and provided additional credibility.
Marie Noelle: An amazing confidence booster. I feel more respected and I can interact with more confidence with C-Suite executives. The Chartered status has also opened doors for better professional opportunities and engagements.
Crispin: Chartership was a big self-confidence boost. It is also an ongoing qualification, which requires continuing professional development (CPD) to maintain the status. After chartership I am much more disciplined about CPD. Planning out the areas I want to improve and setting achievable but challenging targets. After chartership I stood for the CIPR international committee and am an active volunteer. The process has made me a much more rounded and mature comms lead.
Why is a qualification from the CIPR useful where you live?
Kim: As one of the first Canadians to become chartered I found a lot of colleagues were really interested in the process and the opportunity as part of their own professional journey. The chartership has certainly become a bit of a conversation starter as it is still new in Canada, but it is such an important part of continuing to advocate for and promote ethical public relations. In fact, we recently conducted a survey of Canadians on their perceptions of public relations and professional designations were highly valued by the public.
Marie Noelle: It is still important to remind the business leaders here that Public Relations is so much more than securing an interview in the media! It is a strategic function where professionalism, integrity and ethics are key. It is not to be overlooked. Especially for Stakeholder Engagement in this ever-changing business environment.
Crispin: The CIPR has a fantastic international reputation and is known in markets across the world. Being a Chartered PR Practitioner is a recognized mark of professional expertise that’s super portable. It is also an important part of the continued efforts by the CIPR and other organizations to professionalize our industry. Getting chartered is a great way to contribute to that important goal, while boosting your own CV.
Crispin Thorold is a member of the CIPR International Committee. He has worked in more than 40 countries on six continents
As part of this year’s #GetCharteredWeek, a number of chartered practitioners have made themselves available to be ‘Chartership Support Buddies’ for other CIPR members.
Find out more about CIPR Chartership.