Why and how to become a chartered PR practitioner
A guest blog by Christina Yang
Since I posted about my CIPR chartership assessment on LinkedIn, I’ve received huge congratulations from my engineer friends on upcoming pay rise and promotion – I’m working for an engineering consulting firm and this happens to the engineering profession.
I’ve also received many enquiries from my friends in both PR and engineering industries – why getting chartered in PR? In the engineering profession, chartership is a licence to your future career, and everyone who would like to establish their career in engineering pursues chartership before their 30s. However, it seems PR, to many people, is not a profession but simply a practice that requires specialised knowledge, skills and experience.
Why getting chartered?
Working with chartered engineers, planners, designers and project managers every day, I often find I have to fight a place for PR as a profession. I believe if we want people to view us as professionals like accountants, engineers and lawyers, we must start from ourselves – taking our professional development seriously and working to high standards of professional excellence and integrity. So I’ve competed my CPD programmes since 2012 and decided to get chartered early this year.
After an initial round of research, I was a bit hesitant: I will probably be the only non-native English speaker and I’m a typical introvert. How can I survive the whole day long group discussions? In addition, through my 12 years of career so far, I’m very focused on internal communications and content strategy (though I’ve also supported various regional campaigns). Do I have a wide enough spectrum of knowledge to pass the assessment? After careful considerations, I decided to challenge myself – seeing it as a learning experience.
Prepare, prepare, prepare!
The first step is to understand how the day works. I joined ‘How to become a Chartered PR Practitioner webinar’ where a team of experts shared how they prepared for and what they experienced on the assessment day and provided some practical tips. I also find it useful to read through the Chartership Handbook which provides all the details about the chartership process, what the assessors are looking for and what you will be marked down etc.
Second, get the tech, time, place...right. Due to the pandemic, the assessment was moved online and as an international member based in Hong Kong, I really felt relieved – I was able to join without travelling all the way to the UK! However, I had to deal with technology, which I’m not very good at, and time difference.
Upon receiving the pre-assessment documents, I first familiarised myself with the joining instructions, making sure I have all the tools from software to earphones. The assessment would run from 4:30pm through to 11:30pm local time – a period when lots of family activities would be going on in our small apartment. To ensure a quiet environment, I booked a hotel room to escape from my kids, and prepared all the snacks, coffee and cup noodle to energise myself during the assessment. The breaks between sessions are rather short and you can just have some quick bites so get prepared!
The most important is to prepare around the topics and jot down real-life examples. With the pre-assessment materials, do make sure you invest enough time in the thinking and preparation. The questions are just to get you started, and you need to research, read and think around the topics and draw on examples from your practice. I find it very rewarding – as PR practitioners, we are always too busy to pause and reflect; the preparation process provided a rare opportunity to reflect on my experience and practice over the years. I realise that I’ve learned so much from so many practitioners over the years, and that I know more than I thought!
What happened on the day?
The assessment day was rather intensive. Seven of us were divided into two groups and assessed during three sessions – ethics, strategy and leadership – followed by a 2-year CPD plan peer review session. Each session was around 45 minutes with breaks in between. The assessor facilitated the discussion in each session, sometimes directing questions to each candidate and sometimes asking for clarification. Some questions were picked from the pre-assessment materials and some were not.
I was quite nervous at the beginning and felt more and more relaxed – we were not competing with each other; instead we got inspired by each other, building upon each other’s ideas and supporting each other to get through it together. As the youngest in the group from a totally different culture, I learned a lot from other candidates, from working for NGOs to working as government consultants; and I also contributed a different perspective. During the CPD plan review session, my group mates shared numerous useful resources and advice for my further development. It turned out to be a valuable development experience for me!
Is it important?
I should admit that employers here are not familiar with the PR chartership and this accreditation may not make any different in my career prospects in the local market, but it does give me a boost in my confidence and the process itself enabled me to consolidate my thoughts and think about my future development.
I do believe that if we PR practitioners would like to have a greater influence in the boardroom, we have to demonstrate the value we can add to the decision-making process and our continued commitment to professionalism; CPD and chartership are important indicators. Online assessment provides convenience for international members to achieve the chartered status and offers a great opportunity for PR practitioners around the world to share with and learn from each other and together drive towards evidencing our professionalism.
I’m a recently chartered international member based in Hong Kong. I'm a focused marketer and communicator with more than 10 years of experience in a sizable multi-national environment, responsible for regional staff communications and content strategy for various channels.