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. 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: 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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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?
- A question hangs over the independence of the editorial when the board overseeing content are all linked to the CIPR.
- 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…