There’s no point in sugar-coating it, the CIPR’s State of the Profession report makes for depressing reading. Pick a subject it covers – gender balance, pay equality, diversity – and there is very little to smile about.
Others have published their own summaries of the findings, notably Stephen Waddington and Rachel Miller, but I wanted to focus on one specific area that really caught my attention; that of competencies.
I was given the chance to read the report last week ahead of its publication yesterday, and the timing couldn’t have been better. Or worse, depending on your perspective.
I’d just finished scheduling my last post suggesting that agency structures are outdated and that recruiting for roles not skills is doing no-one any favours. Having done so I opened up the CIPR report to read that in-demand competencies remain focused on traditional PR, and that that the digital skills gap is exacerbated by recruitment trends.
My heart sank. There are times when you you’d almost prefer to be wrong.
The Cycle of Doom!
The report says that a massive 79% of PR professionals believe that ‘experience’ is a professional’s most valuable asset. Don’t get me wrong, experience is important. But there is no way it should rank above skill. For me, this is something borne of the hierarchical structure that communications teams are so wedded to and drill into employees.
Elsewhere in the study, which covered over 2000 UK PR professionals, 64% identified traditional PR skills (such as writing and interpersonal skills) as key competencies for new hires, with only one in five identifying digital skills (like SEO and HTML). In fact, digital and social skills don’t feature at all in the top five competencies sought by professionals seeking senior candidates.
It all points to a self-perpetuating cycle. Senior people are hired according to their experience in traditional PR; they drill into their teams that experience in traditional PR is important; and they then recruit for experience in traditional PR when they move up or change company.
So how are things supposed to improve?
No Professional Standards. At All.
A further disturbing finding in the report is that 55% of PR professionals believe that “satisfying clients/employers” is what defines professional standards. That’s just depressing and highlights the ‘we must please at all costs’ mentality that’s prevalent in PR due to the very fact that there is no professional standard whatsoever.
Chiropractors need to comply with specific regulations protecting patient safety. Accountants have standards of performance enforced by several regulatory bodies. Even someone setting up a cake decorating business from home needs a certificate from the local environmental health department.
But to set up in PR you need nothing other than a computer. NOTHING.
This was posted in a Facebook group I’m a member of last week:
It highlights the problem more eloquently than I ever could. If this person who has “done a few bits for myself” could work on “making a brand a household name” (*le sigh*) with no possible ramifications, it doesn’t say a hell of a lot for the PR industry, does it? More so perhaps that this person is, technically speaking, as much of a “proper PR” as most of the rest of the industry, who have no specific qualifications anyway!
I’d love to hear your views on this and my last post (which are closely linked) if you have time. Does skill go unrecognised in PR? Does it matter? Do hierarchical team structures suck? Is the lack of professional standards a concern? Have your say below…