The whole picture

The dangers of drawing conclusions from incomplete data, as shown by the CIPR’s State of the Profession survey.

Disclaimer. Before I start on this missive I should remind people that I’m currently a member of the CIPR’s Council and the Professional Development and Membership Standing Committee. I wasn’t last year though, and have had no hand in the State of the Profession survey.

There is a huge and welcome body of data collected in the annual State of the Profession survey run by the CIPR. I’m always happy to take part and always interested in seeing the results, as many people are.

Sadly, I couldn’t take part this year as I wasn’t employed at the time, so my opinions don’t count. We’ve had words, and I hope to see changes in the next survey to take into account that unemployed PR professionals can also be state educated, not white and have mental health issues (what, you didn’t know?) and other insights to share.

Start here

To understand what’s coming it helps to have read the CIPR’s State of the Profession report. You should be reading it anyway…

I also suggest you read the thoughts of Advita, Stuart, Sarah and Dan on the headline outcomes and issues highlighted in the report. And any of the curated links they point to.

But I have other problems with the survey itself, which I wrote about last year. Clearly, only one person read my thoughts on this subject last year so I’m going to have to mention them again.

Follow the data

Let’s move to page 10 of the report. The age breakdown of respondents is:

  • 16 to 24: 4%
  • 25 to 34: 31%
  • 35 to 44: 31%
  • 45 to 54: 23%
  • 55 to 64: 10%
  • Over 64: 1%

So, 35% of respondents are under 35 (handy). Skip forward to page 20, and we can see that the average earnings of people in these age ranges is ( ( £25,257 + £40,178 ) / 2 ) = £32,717.

Skip back to page 11, and we can see that 45% of respondents have a ‘professional’ qualification in public relations. Let’s be generous (I didn’t see the question, remember?) and assume that means Accredited or Chartered Status and any of the CIPR’s Diplomas and Certificates (and anyone else’s).

Which is why this tweet really, really bugs me:

1. Prove it

When I worked in the public sector I was on a mandated pay scale, along with two PR-facing colleagues. I was Chartered, they weren’t. We were all at the top of scale and paid the same amount. I’m guessing it’s the same in the NHS and similar bodies.

Put it this way: I’ve yet to see a job advert – and I’ve seen lots – that says you’ll be paid an annual bonus or similar stipend for being a Chartered PR Practitioner, or for having any qualification at all. Several of them have asked for equivalent experience – but still with no extra money involved.

2. Who’s Chartered?

Here’s a list of Chartered PR Practitioners on the CIPR website. It a long and thankfully growing list.

I don’t know everyone on that list but I bet most of them are not under 35. And of the ones I do know, quite a few are Directors, Heads of, business owners and similar. High earners then, even if they weren’t Chartered.

There’s still no definitive proof that having *any* qualification earns practitioners more money.

Sample size

Now: I’m having a go here at the State of the Profession survey for drawing conclusions from unproven assumptions but it could happen to any organisation at any time.

As PR professionals we want that seat at the top table, providing strategic communications advice. Part of that is understanding how data in reports such as these can be misinterpreted, reported as fact and lead to possible opprobrium.

A good communications person, as I’ve said often before, needs to have a range of skills that aren’t strictly comms-related. You don’t need to be an expert in SPSS or Minitab, or even know how a pivot table works (I don’t), but if you’re going to make claims about your data your first question should be “Can you prove what’s being claimed?” If not, don’t go there.

Discussions on how we move to a more Chartered profession left for another time and forum.

Image at the top from the CIPR State of the Profession 2019 report.

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