How do you pronounce the acronym CIPR? Let’s think. It looks like the front half of one of my favourite hotels, the Cipriani in Venice. Yes. I think ‘chipper’ is the right way to say ‘CIPR’, and a quick glance at Partridge’s Dictionary of Slang reveals that since 1837 ‘chipper’ has carried the meaning ‘WELL FIT, LIVELY’. Are you feeling CIPR today?
Oh dear. We may have a problem. CIPR, you see, now stands for ‘Chartered Institute of Public Relations’, bless its ermine socks, and has done ever since this morning, because this morning was when a Royal Charter was granted to what used to be called the IPR. And who were they exactly? The fact that we need to ask suggests that PR was obviously not one of their strong points. They were what’s generally described as a ‘professional body’. Of course, everyone has a ‘professional body’ nowadays, from refuse collectors to Revenue Inspectors, and I shouldn’t wonder beggars are, as we speak, setting up the ISCR (Institute of Small Change Recyclers). Such organisations are usually established and promoted by the sidelined, the retired or people who simply haven’t generated enough work and need something to fill their timesheets. They’re essentially an excuse for self-aggrandisement via business networking, but always expressed in vaguely altruistic terms. They are nothing of the sort: they are either a sort of police-force to keep out talented mavericks, or they are simply another layer of PR. And what is PR? According to the new CIPR definition…
“Public relations is a strategic management function that adds value to an organisation by helping it to manage its reputation. Reputation is extremely valuable to an organisation and PR practitioners help organisations manage their reputations by communicating with all the different groups who are connected to the organisation.”
Obviously writing clear and attractive English isn’t part of the package, so thank God, at least according to this pseudo-legal rubbish, apparently I’m not in PR after all. Follow the money, as Deep Throat advised, and all becomes clear. The people who lower PR to such depths by trying to contain it are the boring little people in suits, of whom we learn 55% are now women. At my firm I employ lots of bright women because (I find) they work harder than bright men, and when they promise something is going to happen it invariably does, which is not my experience with the majority of blokes (blokes are brilliant at excuses). But that’s my private prejudice, and I run a Premiership division team. Further down the league are the waves of people who were too slow for the Civil Service fast-track, too stupid to read law, too unreliable to be accountants or doctors, too boring and unimaginative to work in an advertising agency, and guess where they all pitch up? My industry, the one where only a tiny handful of people are really any good at it, and the rest run around lying through their teeth and calling it PR.
What on earth were the Privy Council thinking of, awarding this shower a Royal Charter? If it’s simply a handy stunt to get PR a bit of extra publicity I suppose we could just enjoy a quiet giggle. After all, good PR is mercurial, and heaven knows Her Majesty the Queen and her family have forgotten more about media relations and celebrity handling than most of us in the business have ever learnt. And by the way, this isn’t new. Incredibly, for over 50 years the IPR or its equivalent have been told ‘No, Bugger off’, but now, suddenly, in the era of Alastair Campbell, Downing Street has seen fit to grant PR a respectability it utterly fails to warrant.
Does nobody else see this? Laundering and ironing the reputations of politicians, drug companies, arms manufacturers, tobacco producers, junk food sellers and shareholders’ pressure groups using the methods available today is not a respectable business. It is a covert, no-holds-barred war, in which newspaper editors and TV journalists have to be superhuman in their refusal to be swayed, and those picking up the tab acutely wary of detection. More so than any advertising you care to name, PR today is frequently about suppressing truth, and just how ethical is that?
Besides, it’s absurd to imagine that a single ‘professional body’ could honestly represent the mad diversity of this business – in the City, in rock music, in political spinning, in corporate
communications, in celebrity management – when the people involved all come from such radically different directions. But don’t let me put you off if you’re quite determined to miss the point.
Do send your money off (there it goes) and join the new CIPR (good old ‘chipper’) if you want to put smart initials after your name. I notice on their website some ‘Fellows’ of the Institute have
already been created and it’s only HOURS old! Pseudo-academia strikes again. FCIPR? FCKIT