As the CIPR celebrates its 70th birthday one member reflects on the past 20 years and has contributed a passage to a new book to mark the occasion – Platinum.
by Ruth Fry
1998. The year the Good Friday Agreement was signed. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets was published. Blair was Prime Minister, Princess Diana conspiracy theories were still coming thick and fast, I was studying history at a Scottish university not yet synonymous with a future monarch, and the CIPR turned 50.
Of course, it was the IPR back then, and I wasn’t yet a member. It would be another few years before I found my way into public sector communications, and I found the CIPR.
From my first foray into the formal study of public relations as a CIPR Diploma student, the CIPR has consistently set the standard high, urging members to earn respect for our profession by respecting our audience and, crucially, to make our field count as a management discipline.
When the call went out to members for submissions to a book to celebrate the CIPR turning 70, the themes I found emerging in my chapter were those that had remained constant throughout my career: building trust and relationships; accessibility; and evaluation.
Amongst the huge variety of essays in Platinum, Celebrating the CIPR at 70, published this month, these core values of the organisation shine through.
That isn’t to say that a lot hasn’t changed over the last 20 years. When I moved into local government communications, best practice was still a regular residents’ magazine. Now, digital channels take precedence, not only because fewer local authorities can justify expensive print runs but also because it means we can target information better, communicate more quickly, learn what our audiences want and interact with them in ways we never dreamed would be possible back in 1998.
And being really good at telling people what we do is no longer enough for councils. We need to work with people, tapping in to their local knowledge and experience, to create new solutions together. In my chapter ‘Community co-creation as a means of public relations’, I look at how communications professionals can lead the way in this emerging practice.
Public relations will always be evolving. Like the CIPR, we need to keep learning and growing, applying our key skills and attributes to new challenges and environments. I can’t wait to see what the next 20 years will bring.
Ruth Fry is corporate communications manager at Perth and Kinross Council
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