The CIPR has announced a change to its membership rules, in an update for the 2011 reality of the PR industry.
Essentially, all those who are Affiliates become Associate members or Members (MCIPR), depending on experience, and Member (MCIPR) grade now requires only two years experience, rather than previous criteria (10 years experience, six years plus a year on CIPR CPD scheme or one year plus the diploma).
From what I’ve seen (on Twitter), this is a move which has been broadly welcomed. Although it does mean higher charges for more practitioners with their membership being upgraded, it makes the grades less stratified, opens up more training opportunities and gives a wider electorate for CIPR elections, such as the one just finished.
Once the changes come into existence in January, 80% of members will be at MCIPR grade.
However, Sarah Williams points out:
But a more fundamental question needs to be asked – has it ever been representative? With fewer than 20% of practitioners choosing to be members (if the CIPR’s figures estimating the size of the industry are to be believed), then can the CIPR ever claim to have been representative?
I didn’t study PR at university, and I daresay nor do the majority of new entrants into the profession each year. Therefore, I hadn’t heard of the CIPR until well after I started working in the sector. Given the cost of joining and the disjointed nature of the industry (what counts as PR?), it’s not surprising that less than 20% of those in the industry join the CIPR. The solution seems to be somewhat of a Catch-22: there is some responsibility of the wider industry to point new practitioners in the direction of the CIPR, but they’ll only do this if they think it’s relevant. But the CIPR will only be so with a broad membership from across the sector.
The changes are definitely a step in the right direction and should be a positive move for future and current members and the sector as a whole – but there is still an underlying problem of representation, and of how to attract younger practitioners.