PR Week and the CIPR changes

Last week the CIPR announced yet more changes as it will cease its relationship with PR Week producers Haymarket Publishing and, instead, invest in its own editorial production team. prweekmagazine For those of us involved in the regional work of the Institute, we know that this is another in a long list of changes from staff redundancies and operational movements to proposed changes to things like Awards and member communications (such as Enewsletters).

The reaction to the latest changes have been mixed. For some, the monthly arrival of the PR Week magazine will be missed because it was full of great content, ideas and content appropriate to professionals in the UK industry. For others, the publication was seen as too agency-focussed, too England-focussed and the monthly format didn’t work in our fast-paced world.

CIPR CEO Stephen Waddington had this to say: CIPR-CEO-Quote-PR-Week Much as I welcome the body attempting to provide members with more relevant and cost effective benefits, I do foresee a few problems that they should be aiming to counteract:

  1. I’m not sure the CIPR can claim to have strong media channels as yet, at least not for those of us who work online and still appreciate printed media. It may work if they can create viable online channels where we don’t have to seek the content out, as we do on social media. Currently, Enewsletters are still fragmented, resource-heavy for nations (I have to collate the Northern Ireland ones myself as part of my work for the committee) and read rates are akin to any email communications, i.e. not extremely high.
  2. The CIPR is utilising its existing member and staff base to do yet more with less. I know we’re in difficult economic times, but there is only so much we can expect of teams and as someone who understands what it’s like to create and research content on a weekly basis for a blog, it’s not easy! What I liked most about PR Week was the in-depth articles to counteract the quick, overview-type articles we see online. This isn’t easy to produce by any means.
  3. The CIPR’s own PR message about ensuring value for members isn’t working too well because the obvious reaction is for members to ask both why they weren’t consulted on the idea of lowering their fees to cover the loss of a member benefit as well as why they weren’t asked if they even want owned content to be created by the CIPR. Perhaps an alternative use of resources would benefit people more?
  4. A question hangs over the independence of the editorial when the board overseeing content are all linked to the CIPR.
  5. The publication wasn’t my main personal benefit as a member. That came from local training events and networking opportunities. This was largely thanks to the hard work of the local committee and isn’t, I understand, necessarily replicated across the UK.

We absolutely need great industry content if the ultimate aim of the Institute (to improve professionalism and practice in the industry) is to be realised. But as the austerity continues, I can’t help but feel that paying subscribers will always want something physical, tangible, to see from their investment, particularly those for whom CPD is difficult to achieve and those of us geographically who can’t access cost-effective certified training so easily (something the NI Committee is working to address).

For my tuppence worth – I think looking into some kind of online “space” like the internal communications boards we are now using in varying sectors (such as Yammer) could work well, because they have smartphone apps for ease of access and engage discussion around article posts and documents with the ability to comment and follow certain people.

Yes, I know, we already juggle too many communications platforms!

However, a generic website probably won’t cut it and my social media timelines are already cluttered. Unless the CIPR can invest heavily in regular print materials, I don’t see how else the quality content they may produce will actually get in front of the people who are paying to see it…

2 comments

  1. Dear Lee,

    Thank you for taking the time to share your views. This is all grist to mill for the Editorial Board, which meets for the first time in the next couple of weeks.

    Haymarket took many months to make us an offer of terms to renew the contract, so until a few weeks ago we had no confirmation that they even intended to continue publishing the magazine. The deal they finally offered us would have doubled our costs, and agreeing to it would have required us to pull more resources away from other areas of work, including Group support.

    During the months when we were waiting for their offer, the options for the future were discussed on many occasions at Council and at Group Chairs meetings, and while there was no survey of the entire membership (what would the question have been?) Group Chairs and Council representatives were certainly encouraged to discuss the matter with their committees and wider membership so that when the time came for a decision we would be able to make it in the knowledge of what the range of members’ views was.

    One of the things which has also been made clear at Group Chairs and Council meetings is that as a result of no longer having to pay for copies of the magazine, there is more money available for Groups right away. Group Chairs and Treasurers have been encouraged to bid for additional funds to support their activities next year, so we’re actually hoping that volunteer members will do more with more, rather than more with less.

    You have a good point about the CIPR’s owned channels and this will be among the first things the Editorial Board will review. Many professional organisations have offered well established in-house content through print for many years, and most of them struggle in the current media age. We have the benefit of being at “square one” now we have parted company with PR Week and can decide for ourselves what to do next. Members will be the prime mover in making this happen.

    • Hi Philip,

      Thanks for taking the time to respond in such a detailed way. From my own work on the NI Committee I can only imagine the time and genuine emotion that has gone on behind the scenes to ensure a good outcome in the best interests of members. I agree a question to members would have been difficult but wouldn’t have been needed if people realised how much or indeed how little of their subscription actually funded the PRWeek benefit. I didn’t feel the benefit to Groups was initially obvious (perhaps I didn’t read the statements carefully enough) but having been made aware by our own Chair I now feel this will be a massive benefit in Northern Ireland as our events and training would be our biggest member benefit – in my opinion – and far outweighs any content provided. I agree that it’s a chance to set up good channels for members, online centres that have more two-way capabilities would be great, and as I said in the piece, anyone working on the content has my upmost respect as it will be hard work but hopefully worthwhile for all concerned.

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