“The Editor of AdAsia suggested to me this series of features on the advertising and media bodies as he felt it would not only help inform the readers of his magazine but also give me an insight into the industry in which I will eventually find a career. Four of the bodies contacted were more than willing to co-operate, one chose not be featured for reasons best known to themselves. Perhaps they get too little credit for the amount of work they put in. In this, my first in the series, I investigate the Institute of Public Relations” – JL
“The perceived image of Public Relations. When you have low budgets then use PR, when you have no other route to turn to then use PR as a last resort, or alternatively there are some people who ask what is PR? PR is just shaking hand, smiling, making sure people are happy. I don’t think that is the definition of PR but that is the image people have had of PR over the years, it is very ingrained.” The very words, of Institute of Public Relations Singapore President, Mr. Gregory Tan when asked what he dislikes most about the industry. So what exactly has he and the IPRS done to correct the perceived image?
The IPRSwas formed in 1970 with humble beginnings of 30 members whose mutual aims were to bring Singapore’s PR to greater professional heights. IPRS was officially registered on 29 December 1970 where its members held their very first board meeting in March 1971.
IPRS serves to set industry standards and increase public awareness of the PR profession. It launched an accreditation scheme in July 2001 to recognize PR professionals in terms of their experience and competence under a code of ethics, complete with a formal certification process. Successful applicants of the accreditation process are authorised to use the “AMIPRS” designation, which IPRS is implementing to make a requirement when employers hire a PR professional.
The secretariat serves as the central administrative body of the institute with 5 full-time executives who provide administrative services and implement strategies planned by the council members. In addition, it is also the secretariat of the Federation of ASEAN PR Organisation, positioning IPRS as a regional institute.
Membership with the IPRS currently stands at 580, 17 of which are corporate company members. The memberships are classified mainly under 5 categories; associate, affiliate, full, accredited and fellow member upon invitation. Full members pay a one-time down payment of $250, associate members pay $150 and affiliate members at $100. Subsequent annual subscription fees for each category vary according to the specific quarter of the year.
Education is one of the IPRS’s main priorities. The institute used to run only basic courses in PR skills. It ran Certificate in Public Relations (now renamed Certificate in Public Relations and Mass Communications) for the last 25 years but has since increased it to Diploma in PR as well as a degree program from Charles Sturt University in PR and Organizational Communication. IPRS is also linked with NTU where member graduates are given first priority in their graduate diploma scheme, which leads on to their Masters. IPRS recently entered China, introducing their diploma and degree program training courses to Guangzhou Public Relations Association where a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) has been signed. IRPS, together with Forte-IRI, an education provider will launch a Master in Arts in Strategic Communication and Public Relations by the second quarter of the year.
Kick-starting the first quarter of this year are the Prism awards now into the seventh year. The IPRS expects a turnout of 300 PR practitioners at the Fullerton hotel when the event is held this month.
Relying solely on fees from membership and education courses for income, IPRS has experienced setbacks along the way. “I think in all associations and non-profit organizations, one of the major problems all of us share is the apathetic response from the members and members of the profession. Apathetic response in a sense of people not coming forward to share views to partake in responsibilities,” he added, “Council members are all on voluntary basis, none of us are being paid.”
Mr Tan’s presidency ends in March 2002 where he will step down but continue to provide advice and expertise to the future councils. “I only wish and hope the subsequent councils will keep the ball rolling and keep the momentum going because this is essential in the new economy.”
Although it may be challenging, perceptions can be changed. It is the task of the IPRS to improve the standing of the profession through greater awareness, research and education of the practitioners.
Article published in AdAsia Feb 2002