The Chartered Institute of Public Relations is the leading professional body for public relations practitioners. 

The CIPR advances professionalism in public relations by making its members accountable to their employers and the public through a code of conduct and searchable public register, setting standards through training, qualifications, awards and the production of best practice and skills guidance, facilitating Continuing Professional Development (CPD), and awarding Chartered Public Relations Practitioner status (Chart.PR).

It now seeks advisers from outside the profession who will serve as conciliators and as members of the Professional Standards Panel and Appeals Panel in order to resolve complaints about members’ professional conduct.

About the role

Job Title: Lay Members for Professional Standards Panel and Appeals Panel
Location: Meetings are held in London 
Remuneration: £250 per day plus travel 

CIPR are looking for Lay members to serve on their Professional Standards Panel and their Appeals Panel.

Professional standards
One of the Institute’s functions, as laid down in its Charter, is to define, encourage and uphold standards of professional practice.  Members are expected to abide by the Code of Conduct and to ensure, as far as they can, that colleagues who are not members do so too.

Compliance procedure
Anyone (member or not) may complain to the Institute about the professional conduct of a member.  The Institute establishes whether the complaint falls within its jurisdiction and attempts first of all to resolve it through informal conciliation.  If that does not work, formal hearings are instituted by the Professional Standards Panel and, if necessary, the Appeals Panel.  Members who have breached the Code of Conduct may be reprimanded, required to return fees they have received for disputed work, and in extreme cases be expelled from membership.

Scale of complaints
The Institute currently receives only some half dozen complaints a year, and most of them are resolved by conciliation.  The Professional Standards Panel may meet between once and (exceptionally) four or five times a year; the Appeals Panel has needed to meet only two or three times in a decade.

External expertise
The compliance procedure must be seen, by members of the Institute and others, to be fair and transparent.  Appointing experts from outside the profession is a reassurance that professional standards are maintained with rigour and objectivity. 

Appointment is for three years, renewable for a further three years.  A fee and expenses are payable.

The work

A) Conciliation

Conciliation is the first step in resolving any dispute.  It is informal and confidential: within broad limits, the process may be run as the conciliators see best in each case, subject to natural justice.  If agreement is reached, the details of the case are not made public.

Normally, three conciliators are nominated from the membership of the Professional Standards Panel.  They would meet both parties to negotiate common ground. 

Conciliators are barred from taking part in any subsequent formal hearing of the complaint.  Unless further evidence or consideration is called for, conciliation takes no more than one day.

B) Professional Standards Panel
If conciliation does not work, the complaint is heard in the first instance by the Professional Standards Panel, which decides whether a prima facie breach of the Code of Conduct has taken place.  The PSP may resolve the case by applying a sanction to the respondent (ie the member who is the subject of the complaint), or decide that there is not a case to answer. 

Sanctions may comprise advice on improving professional practice, a reprimand, a requirement to return fees paid by the complainant for disputed work, and payment of the Institute’s own costs in managing this case.

Unless further evidence or consideration is called for, a PSP hearing takes no more than one day.

C) Appeals Panel
The grounds for an appeal against a decision by the PSP are limited:

  • there were flaws in the way the complaint was handled; or
  • new evidence has come to light which could not have been known at the PSP hearing.

The Appeals Panel may work in two stages (a pre-hearing, to clarify the issues, and a hearing).  It decides either that sanctions be applied to the respondent, which may include cancelling his/her membership, or that there is no case to answer.

Unless further evidence or consideration is called for, an appeal hearing takes no more than one day.

The Institute seeks expressions of interest from senior people who

  • are not, and have not been, public relations practitioners;
  • have recent practical experience of applying codes of professional conduct within their own profession.

Knowledge of the public relations profession is not required.  Advisers will be briefed on issues specific to PR, and on the workings of the Institute’s compliance procedure, by specialist staff.

Practical experience of conciliation (as opposed to disciplinary procedures) will be particularly useful.

Complaints registered with the Institute may concern senior practitioners.  Conciliators and members of compliance committees should therefore have at least equal standing.  They are likely to be highly experienced general managers, or directors concerned with compliance, or the equivalent.  We are seeking advisers from a range of businesses and professions.

If retired, advisers should either still have an active role in assuring compliance (for instance as a member of a professional standards committee) or have had such a role within the last two years.

Advisers must be able to show reasonable flexibility and commitment over the time they can make available to the Institute.  The frequency and duration of cases are unpredictable, and we understand that not all advisers will be available to consider every case.  However, once assigned to a case, they should expect to see it through (otherwise meetings may fail because they are not quorate).

The work requires an ability to

  • absorb written submissions that may be detailed and lengthy;
  • gain the confidence of disputants in order to effect a conciliation;
  • negotiate with tact and imagination;
  • abide by detailed rules of procedure in the case of formal hearings;
  • act in concert with other advisers;
  • maintain absolute confidentiality.

Advisers must never have been adjudged at fault in an issue of professional conduct.

Individuals may nominate themselves for the position of adviser, or be nominated (with their consent) by third parties.

How to apply

If you are interested in applying for these positions please submit a written expression of interest, in the form of a letter and accompanying CV, to [email protected]

Closing date: Saturday 1 September
Interviews are likely to take place either in person or via Skype