The CIPR ostrich part 2

Listening to Eric Schwartzman’s interview with Colin Farrington in the latest episode of Eric’s On The Record Online podcast, posted yesterday, I was struck by one over-riding thought.

Colin Farrington, the director general of the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR), simply does not understand the role of social media in public relations.

Yet he is willing to offer opinions on a subject about which he clearly and demonstrably knows little.

I heard a great deal of his opinion which relates to message management and control, the good ol’ traditional and closed forms of communication. And there was some comment about danger and risk for young people in blogging without care.

Yet not once did I hear Mr Farrington offer a view about how social media, and particularly blogs, enable people in organizations to engage with other people, forming genuine and, perhaps, lasting relationships of mutual benefit.

I have to admit that my expectation of what Mr Farrington might have to say in this interview was quite low as I remember his behaviour last year, both in dismissive opinion about blogs and commenting on others’ blogs.

Still, a year on, I expected to hear something a little more credible from someone speaking on behalf of the CIPR. And doing so in America to boot.

But I guess for Mr Farrington, blogging is such an uncivilized form of communication.


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Neville Hobson

Social Strategist, Communicator, Writer, and Podcaster with a curiosity for tech and how people use it. Believer in an Internet for everyone. Early adopter (and leaver) and experimenter with social media. Occasional test pilot of shiny new objects. Avid tea drinker.

  1. Amanda Chapel


    You are soooooo smart. The first 1,000 or so times you told us so, sure… I groused a bit. Hell, communications is only common sense; and who can claim to have an exclusive on common sense. But with this article, I think I finally get it. I could just be tired.

    – Amanda

  2. Eric Schwartzman


    I’m having a really tough time trying to figure out what you’re trying to say. And Neville, I actually thgought Colin did a pretty good job rationalizing his point of view, but after reading this, I’m going to have another listen and see what I think. As you know, I don’t edit my interviews because I feel it would be unfair to the interviewee and the listener to alter the record in any way, so it’s usually tought to listen totally and fully, since I’m also trying to be ready with the next question. But thanks for your reaction, and sorry to disappoint you with this one. But keep listening. I’ve got some really great guests lined up for future episodes as well.



    P.S. Happy 300th Episode!

  3. neville

    No problem with how you did the interview, Eric. And I agree, Colin did rationalize his point of view.

    But what a point of view! I expected far better, a much more credible point of view, from someone speaking for the UK’s primary PR association.

    If his views represent the current thinking at CIPR, then the profession in this country has a long journey ahead.

    Very disappointing.

  4. David Phillips

    My take on Eric’s, as always, interesting interview, was that there are two paradigms at work in PR today.

    One is based on a concept of application of mass and elite influence and the other on engagement. Colin’s contribution gave voice to the former and though still valid is losing its grip on society.

    Engagement, progressively brought about through popular travel, telephones, email niche publication/channels, and social media, competes with mass media (radio, television and hugely influential mass circulation press).

    Elite conversations (lobby, financial PR etc) also have to change because of the mediating effect of the vast amount of knowledge and content available at the click of a mouse. notably, the click that takes one to the views of millions of people interactively engaged in their online communities.

    The change in culture when social groups can emerge and morph at will as people’s value evolve through interaction is emerging and is not just because of the internet (although the internet has given it very powerful and recent impetus).

    Today, PR rides these two horses and there is a divide between the two forms of practice.

    We have to learn to work with both but the inevitable consequence is eventual, though by no means universal, dominance of engagement over mass communication.

    However, and progressively more so, engagement will be the more potent in delivering outcomes of the two across a diversity of humankind.

    This discussion is not about right and wrong, it is about an evolution we all have to understand.

    Colin, in this interview suggested the internet is a mass media communication channel and here is the challenge: it is many diverse places for diverse social engagement and multi faceted interaction.

    The thinking is different as is the necessary approach required in PR.

  5. Stuart Bruce

    Haven’t listened to the interview yet (at Le Web 3), but don’t think for one moment that Colin Farrington represents the views of CIPR. He is an EMPLOYEE. He works for the members, like me and you – if you were a member ;-)

    As a member I’d be far prefer Colin Farrington to keep his mouth shut and let elected officers be the public face of CIPR. At least if you disagree with them they have a democratic mandate.

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