I’m starting my working week as a Chartered PR Practitioner and am going to reveal my top 10 tips if you’re thinking of doing the same.

I’ll cover why I studied, what I learnt, what it means and how you can apply to get chartered.

As you can see from my grin in this pic I sent my husband shortly after finding out, I’m delighted to have reached this standard!

Huge thank you to everyone who offered me advice and guidance to help me prepare, particularly Katie Marlow and Lindsey Collumbell.

Regular readers will know I’m a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR) and frequently share their information, news and ideas.

The CIPR’s Royal Charter includes the power to grant the status of Chartered Public Relations Practitioner to individuals who meet the required standard of professional distinction.

Their website states:

“While chartered status is already the norm in older professions, it is still relatively new in public relations. However we are on the way to becoming a chartered profession and we would like you to be part of that future.

“Chartered status represents the highest standard of professional excellence and integrity. As well as reflecting your breadth of experience and achievements, it shows that you keep pace in a fast-moving profession, updating your knowledge and skills through CPD (continuing professional development).”

On Friday I attended the latest Assessment Day held at CIPR headquarters in Russell Square, London. A team of expert assessors, led by Emma Leech Found.Chart.PR, FCIPR, DipCIPR, assessed candidates on their skills, knowledge and competencies in ethics, strategy and leadership.

Congratulations to my fellow attendees, we had 100% pass rate, which isn’t the norm. More on this later.

Well done to the new Chartered Public Relations Practitioners:

  • Anthony Olabode Ayodele Chart.PR, MCIPR
  • Olivia Burrow Chart.PR, MCIPR
  • Jade Byrne Chart.PR, MCIPR
  • Justin Jackson Chart.PR, MCIPR
  • Anne-Marie Lacey Chart.PR, MCIPR
  • Rachel Miller Chart.PR, FCIPR
  • Katrine Pearson Chart.PR, MCIPR

I’m thrilled for Anne-Marie Lacey of Filament PR as she won Outstanding Young Communicator at the Excellence awards on 6 June. Well done Anne-Marie.

When is the right time to apply?

I’ve been thinking about doing the assessment for a while. I was recently honoured with the Outstanding Independent Practitioner Award at the CIPR Excellence awards and made the decision to apply for Chartered Status while preparing for my panel interview.

It felt like a natural progression from all the personal development work I have been doing this year.

Working in Comms/PR for years does not mean you will be successful.

CIPR state the pass rate is an average of 80%, I’m going to reveal what I found helpful to know beforehand.

Only you can decide if you’re ready. CIPR hold #getchartered sessions to help you know what to expect. Unfortunately I was unable to attend one, but if you’re thinking about it, do attend one as you can ask questions and meet people who have done it.

Update: Here’s a recording of the #getchartered session held at CIPR HQ in London on 26 July 2017 with Sarah Pinch and Annette Spencer:

The assessment day itself costs £400 +VAT, so is an investment not only in time and effort, but financially too.

Further reading: How to communicate your personal brand.

10 tips to help you #GetChartered 

1. Check your eligibility 

Check if you are eligible to apply for Chartered status. Review the application criteria and read the guidance for candidates.  There are a couple of routes: Academic or Experience.

2. Prepare to prepare

Do not underestimate the time it takes to prepare for this assessment. You receive the materials up to a fortnight before your assessment day.

As someone who is working full-time running their own business and also being in charge of my three other little bosses – my five-year-old daughter and two-year-old twin sons, I was worried I’d bitten off more that I could chew when I saw the scale of preparation that was needed.

It’s a lot. So you need to be prepared to prepare. In total I spent the equivalent of three whole days preparing. But this was in the evenings and fitted around my client work.

The largest chunk of time I had was a whole working day dedicated to the preparation. I know other people have found two whole days of a weekend to be enough, but my family commitments meant I knew that wouldn’t be possible.

The reality is this is hard work. I have drunk a lot of tea and barely slept over the past few weeks to try to fit everything in. But I was determined to try my hardest and give the assessment my best shot.

3. Buy stationery

Now this is no guarantee of success! But for me, preparing the material meant getting into study mode. To do that, I put my laptop away and invested in quality stationery to help me mentally and physically get organised.

I bought an A4 folder, plastic wallets and dividers.

(I’m aware you can see what some of the materials are in that pic, but I believe they change the papers, and as you can’t see the questions, it won’t give anything away).

There are a number of sections to the assessment:

  • Leadership
  • Strategy
  • Ethics
  • Two year CPD plan
  • Competences
  • Instructions for the assessment day.

I found doing my reading and research on each topic, then being able to organise them into the folder helped me keep track of what I had studied and what was to come.

These pastel coloured highlighters were a treat (am such a stationery geek!) and I found colour-coding the sections incredibly useful.

I’m a visual thinker, so mind maps and colours helped keep me motivated and inspired as I studied.

4. Understand how the day works

Details of the Assessment Day are contained in the Guidance for candidates applying for Chartership. On the morning of the Assessment Day candidates are divided into groups and over the course of the day each group will have three extended discussions which are based on, but not confined to, the materials you are sent after you register.

The discussions are led and monitored by an assessor, and they focus on three main areas – strategy, leadership and ethics. After these three extended discussions, the final session is a review of 2-year CPD plans.

I was in a group of three candidates, which I believe is smaller than they usually have, and I was fascinated to hear Justin and Katrine’s experiences.

5. Listen as much as you speak

As you are being assessed as part of a group, the assessment criteria makes it clear this is an individual and team effort. In other words, if you do not demonstrate leadership abilities such as active listening, but choose to talk across your fellow candidates, it does you no favours and can even lose you marks.

If you believe there is a dominant person in the group who is not allowing you to speak (which I didn’t have), you are encouraged to raise this or any other concerns to the assessors.

6. Do your reading and thinking

When preparing my materials for the day, there were case studies and papers to read and think about. But on the day I found it helpful to have done additional reading and thinking.

 

On the day itself you can take materials in with you. I had my A4 folder and an A4 notepad that was full of my notes. They were a comfort blanket really, but a couple of times it proved valuable having them to hand to remind me what had struck me during the preparation.

The case studies were the trigger for our conversations. I found it useful to have spent time thinking through ethics, strategy and leadership and jotting down my own examples in my notepad.

What have you experienced? How can you demonstrate your approach and how you are working strategically? What would you do differently? What worked well? I found all of these thoughts useful to help me address each topic thoroughly.

Yes it’s a lot. I warned you! But I promise it’s worth it. You may even enjoy it.

7. Know what Assessors want to hear 

You need to have understood the case studies, that’s obviously important. However, something Lindsey said to me in our phone call as part of my preparation was incredibly helpful and I’m going to share it with you.

She said to make sure you demonstrate you understand all the competences and don’t be put off if you haven’t experienced every single one.

I’m paraphrasing, but she said: “The assessors want to know that you have the ability to know what you would do in certain situations. So even if you haven’t experienced it yourself, what would your course of action be?” I found that useful as it made me think deeper into all of the issues as part of my preparation.

Assessors look for:

  • Active participation in discussion
  • Active listening to other candidates and engaging constructively with what they say
  • Evidence of thorough preparation
  • Respectful communication with others
  • Coherent, organised thinking
  • Evidence of a reflective approach to professional practice and self-development
  • Evidence of satisfactory level of abilities in the three key competences
  • Reference to concrete examples of your own practice during the discussion, as well as to the practice of others where appropriate

Further reading: You can also read more via Ella Minty’s excellent blog post on the topic – an assessors’ view..

8. Understand the Code of Conduct

The CIPR Code of Conduct is an essential part of the assessment. Assessors want to be certain you not only understand it, but know how to apply it in reality.

I’ve got a number of business ideas and thoughts I’m planning to put into action that were sparked by my preparation for last week. See the preparation as an opportunity to assess how you work and spot ways to make changes.

As an example, I am now going to incorporate the Code of Conduct into my Statement of Work and contract documents with All Things IC clients.

9. Think ahead

Use the assessment criteria to prepare your two year CPD Plan. This is your chance to think ahead and spot opportunities for the next two years. We don’t do this enough!

This task took a lot longer than I anticipated to prepare and is an important part of the assessment day.

You peer-review it at the end of the day, which gives the assessors the chance to compare notes and make their decisions about the practitioners.

10. Enjoy it!

The assessment day is totally and utterly draining. But at the same time it is thrilling and fascinating. I learnt so much throughout the whole thing – from preparing, to the day itself and now the new people I have met and heard from on the day.

It operates under Chatham House rule, which I think is smart as it allows you to be honest and give examples I have not shared before about my work in all three areas – ethics, leadership and strategy.

That freedom to think, reflect, air my views and hear from my peers was liberating and I left with a buzzing brain.

Well done again to all my fellow Chart.PR practitioners, I’m proud to use this new designation after my name and will continue to develop myself professionally to benefit not only myself, but my clients and readers too.

If you’re in doubt, make sure you’re eligible and then go for it. The glass of champagne my husband bought me at the end of Friday night tasted amazing and I know it was well-earned!

I’d love to know whether you’re thinking of applying. You can find full information including upcoming assessment dates via the CIPR website.

Upcoming dates:

Rachel

Post author: Rachel Miller Chart.PR 🙂

First published on the All Things IC blog 26 June 2017.

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