Getting Chartered Q&A from CIPR Inside – your questions answered

By CIPR Inside 

June 8, 2020 

More internal comms and PR professionals are getting Chartered. In the latest and the first online assessment four more practitioners took the plunge and passed. The CIPR Inside committee has a few members who are Chartered and together, thought it would be helpful to run an open session online for any members to ask questions about getting Chartered and the process. So we held an online Q&A on Thursday 4 June, and about 25 people joined us for an hour. Advita Patel, Dan Holden, Fiona Hatton, Martin Flegg and Katie Marlow were the hosts from the committee.

These are just our answers to some of the questions raised in that online session and not an exhaustive guide to the process. Make sure you read all the information provided online from CIPR before making your commitment to Chartership and read the handbook that sets out the preparation, the process and the assessment day for you. 

You can find full information on Chartership on the CIPR website.

Here’s a round-up of the questions asked and the answers we gave collectively as part of that conversation:

1. Are IC practitioners at a disadvantage, because we don’t practice all of the public relations activities?
Definitely not. Anyone with any communication experience should be able to pass the Chartered Assessment day. What sets you apart is your ability to evidence and talk about experience across the three competencies of ethics, leadership and strategy. We’re all internal comms specialists on the Q&A panel and have passed the assessment. 

2. Do we need to brush up on our PR knowledge  - my training was 20 years ago and practical media experience over 15 years ago? 
The assessment doesn’t challenge your practical ability, the tactics you’ve used or the work you’ve done. It’s about you showing your experience, your ability to think strategically in a given situation. The Chartership pack you receive two weeks before your assessment day includes case studies and features to read and think around. These may be drawn from any aspect of public relations practice. Your ability to put yourself in the shoes of the decision makers in that situation, think about what you would have done, how you would have shown leadership and strategic thinking will be the measure of your success. You’ll rarely have been in the exact scenario in the case. What your assessors will be looking for is your ability to understand the challenges of that situation, consider how you would act in it, and critically how you share your own experiences and where you can draw parallels and similarities.

3. Should you have a PR or communication qualification to be able to do the Chartered Assessment?

No, the assessment is based upon your practical knowledge and experience. While many find an academic or professional qualification has helped them in their career progression and development, it’s not a criteria to do your Chartered Assessment. Being committed to your own professional development is vital though so be prepared to demonstrate that either through your CPD record or other proof of learning and development.

4. What advice do you suggest to young aspiring practitioners who wish to go through the assessment at a later point?
Keep a track of the different scenarios you face in your work and how you manage them. Watch and learn from others as much as possible. Take up and volunteer for opportunities that stretch your skills and knowledge, whether through work or volunteering. Keep working on your professional development and log your learning. Remember that the competencies for Chartership are ethics, leadership and strategy and use these as a lens to view your work and how you develop yourself through your career.
There is no defined length of career or job grade that you’ve attained or other arbitrary factor that will tell you when you are ready. It’s not ‘just for managers or directors’. Any practitioner with a good level and range of experience under their belt from different roles and who is able to demonstrate leadership, strategic thinking and practice, and ethical decision making, should be able to pass the assessment. 
The CIPR states clearly that you need to have shown a commitment to your own professional development to undertake the Chartered Assessment: “If you are an MCIPR or FCIPR grade member and are registered on the CIPR CPD ladder, you can apply to become a Chartered PR Practitioner. We will need evidence of your commitment to life-long learning, which can include CIPR CPD, CIPR Qualifications/Training, or other evidence of recent professional development in public relations.”

5. What preparation is needed?
Once you’ve signed up and paid for your Chartered Assessment day, you’ll be sent a pack two weeks before your assessment date. It will be sent by email and includes everything you need to prepare and plan for the day. The pack of PDF files will include case studies and a clear outline of how the day will work. You will need to prepare your two year CPD plan which sets out what you want to learn and develop, your remarks around the case studies and your own experience in support of the three competencies (ethics, leadership and strategy) and benchmark yourself against these three competencies
We all approach our preparation differently. But a simple method is to read through the full pack, set aside time in your calendar to work on your preparation, go through the questions you’re given and draft out answers and your own thoughts and examples around the case studies. Build your points so that they are easy to reference on the day. You can have notes with you on the day. Depending on your style and availability, your time to prepare will vary. Some of us may need a few hours, others a day or even two. Whatever works for you, make sure you do not scrimp on your preparation and thinking time. 
The preparation is a little like you would for a job interview, you want to show your best. But remember, on the day you’re not competing with the others for ‘a prize at the end’. It’s a conversation between you all. How you listen, share and contribute are all important and add to your assessment. You bond during the process and it’s a fantastic shared experience at the end of the assessment, when hopefully you all pass the assessment in your group.

6. Can you talk about the pre work? you mentioned a CV being of help?

It’s really useful to reflect on your past experience in your preparation. Hence your CV or LinkedIn profile helpful to prompt you. Think back through your previous roles and different scenarios you faced then. How did you manage the situation, what skills did you use to help you navigate a certain scenario etc.

7. Were you in touch with other Chartered Practitioners before you went through the assessment yourself?
The committee members on the Q&A session who had already done the Chartered Assessment had all found it really useful to have conversations with other practitioners before their assessment days. 
Taking the assessment is a bold decision, it says you are taking your career and work seriously. So just like any other significant investment it’s really helpful to speak to those who’ve done it before. We all want there to be more Chartered practitioners, to raise standards across our industry so that employers and clients see that this is a standard to strive for. 
We all want you to pass, so we’re more than happy to have a chat about your assessment, listen to your ideas and listen to your concerns, and guide you through the preparation with a bit of advice. We can’t take the assessment for you, that’s all your work. But whoever you speak to before you go through your assessment, it will help you to clarify your thinking, perhaps see a different perspective and give you a chance to test your ideas before the day. Contact a friendly practitioner you know or feel free to get in touch with the committee.

8. Is the pack emailed to us?

Yes, two weeks before your assessment day.

9. What’s it like doing the assessment online, and how is it different to the face to face group sessions?
The first online assessment day was on 30 April 2020. There were four practitioners taking part. Dan Holden who was on this remote assessment day, explained that the session ran from 10am until about 4pm, with breaks in between each of the three competencies and an hour built in for lunch. This meant that while the sessions were intense, you had ample time to reset, get a cuppa and some lunch before going back to the next session. 
The face to face sessions tend to be a slightly longer day, with a group of about five, and 75 minutes or so given for each of the three competencies (ethics, leadership and strategy), and the CPD planning session. Then of course you have a lunch and coffee breaks built into the day too.
The full agenda of the day will be sent to you in your pack, for online or face to face sessions when they can be restarted.
Both online and face to face assessments are built on conversations together. It’s important that you participate and respect each other’s views and input. Often the synergy develops and you pick up on each other’s points and add your own. This of course can be more difficult online, even though we’re all getting more used to this now. But the assessors are expert at ensuring everyone has a chance to speak and reading the room in person or online, so they will step in and invite the quieter participants to speak and help manage those who need it too.

10. What is the pass rate for assessment days?

The pass rate has been a steady 80% since the chartership process was redesigned from an academic paper and interview to this panel and key competency assessment day. The handbook is a vital tool to help you prepare and pass. Check the CIPR website for the information that you need, including what the assessors are looking out for, so that can help you avoid any pitfalls.

CIPR allows anyone who fails to take a second assessment within 12 months of their first assessment without an additional fee incurred. You will receive feedback and know where you need to build your knowledge and confidence for your subsequent assessment.

11. Is there a min or a max number of people on the day?
There are normally about four-six people in an assessment group for face-to-face assessments. The maximum number for online dates is eight people – two groups of four. 

12. How many people are Chartered currently?

Approximately 330. A full list can be found here on the PR register on the CIPR website. Just select CP to see all the Chartered Practitioners. 

13. In terms of CPD plan, do we need to have a focus area, for example internal comms, or in general development?
The CPD plan is all about you, your ambition and plans for your own development. You do not need to have a focus area, or specialism to follow. But it’s important that it gives you direction and helps you to achieve your aims. It’s important to know that by getting Chartered you are making a commitment to your own professionalism and your development is a part of that. If you fail to keep up your CPD you will lose your Chartership. 

14. Are the assessors always the same?
No, there is a list of assessors and they vary from group to group. You will be told who your assessors are and asked to confirm if you have any conflicts of interest. The assessors do the same when they see know who is in their group.

15. Will CIPR continue to host the assessments online after the pandemic?
The CIPR is reviewing the take up and success of online assessments. Keep a watch out on the CIPR website for information on this and other online courses. The sessions are proving to be a good option for some people and take up appears to be good so far.

16. What are the benefits of being Chartered from your perspectives?
All of the committee members on the Q&A session agreed that the route of Chartership is something they all did for themselves. For different reasons perhaps. But nonetheless they all chose to take the assessment for themselves. But the common benefits that the group felt were:
Increased confidence at work. To speak up, be confident in your advice and stand by it even when challenged by other professionals when you are sure your advice is correct
The confidence to go for higher level work and price your work higher as consultants
The confidence to go for more senior roles
Earns respect from others who understand the value of Chartership, especially from those professions who also have professional Chartership such as engineering or accountancy
It gives you a mark of credibility and demonstrates to others that you take your work seriously

17. Any tips on explaining the process and why it’s an aspiration to bosses who aren’t CIPR members?
Becoming Chartered is something that stays with you as an individual wherever you work. If you are finding it difficult to access training budgets or approval for your development, perhaps find ways to compromise such as suggest your employer gives you the time off (not taken as holiday) to prepare for and take the assessment. The group on the Q&A had all paid for the Chartered Assessment themselves because they had made a decision to do it for themselves. 
Of course, employers with Chartered practitioners will benefit from having an employee well qualified to do the work, and able to confidently provide senior level advice and guidance. This may be especially important as the world goes through the most challenging of times and every piece of organisational communication is scrutinised against a backdrop of huge disruption and uncertainty. Organisations of all shapes and sizes need to get their communication right, show their leadership and stand by their ethics as we work through this time and beyond. Having Chartered communications practitioners in your team sets a standard in the workplace, demonstrating that it takes professionalism and development seriously. 

18. Do you help/influence the CIPR with strategy and professional development being Chart.PRs?
Not directly because you are Chartered, but often going through the process spurs members to get more involved and volunteer their support and knowledge in various ways within CIPR. If you’re interested in finding ways to get more involved, please contact [email protected].
We hope that you found this round up useful. As a committee we run a range of events to meet the needs of our community. Follow our Eventbrite page to get alerts of new events.