Has CIPR finally lost the plot by honouring Boris Johnson?

I’m seriously wondering if the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR) has finally lost the plot. I can’t believe it is honouring Boris Johnson MP by awarding him the CIPR President’s Medal.

One of the main reasons that I continue my CIPR membership is because I think it is essential that public relations professionals abide by a code of ethics. The CIPR Code of Conduct says:

Fundamental to good public relations practice are:


  • Honest and responsible regard for the public interest;

How can a man who refers to black people as “piccaninnies” and talks about “water melon smiles” even be considered for an honour by CIPR if it is truly committed to ethical communications that reflect the diversity of the UK? This wasn’t a simple slip of the tongue, but actually appeared in a by-lined article that presumably Boris thought about before writing. How can he be considered to have “integrity” and “regard for the public interest” if can write things like that?

Just for the avoidance of doubt I want to make it crystal clear this isn’t a political statement because Boris is a Conservative MP as I can think of several Tory politicians who are genuinely good communicators and deserving of the honour – not least David Cameron or George Osbourne.

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12 Replies to “Has CIPR finally lost the plot by honouring Boris Johnson?

  1. One thought to cheer you up: I don't suppose Boris Johnson will feel too happy either – as a proud and outspoken journalist – to receive an honour from the CIPR.

    And don't expect any gaffes from him soon: there's a mayoral election coming up.

  2. I am a CIPR member and I too think they may well have lost the plot.

    In addition to your own concerns I can think of few people who are as PR-dumb as Boris Johnson.

    I'd be interested to see how this CIPR move goes down in Liverpool.

  3. Well you might not want to get political Stuart (I can't say I believe you totally but will give you the benefit of the doubt) – but the former President of the CiPR obviously does.

    Because Lionel Zetter has in the past (deep breath) worked at Conservative Central Office, in the House of Commons, has been an Association Chairman, a Ward Chairman, and a general election agent, stood for the council, the GLA and Westminster.

    In short, I think I might have a clue why Boris got this and Ken didn't.


  4. Would have to agree, Stuart. I would love to see the rationale from the CIPR. I'm open to see a good justification from the CIPR (in fact would like to see one given I'm in the process of renewing membership). Very odd move and not wholly unsurprising frankly.

  5. Its a sop ahead of the mayoral elections, of course it is – Ross Brown has made that point already.

    In terms communication skills alone Boris rates highly, equally confident addressing the House, a Have I Got New for You Audience, editing a magazine or speaking to a room full of local constituents. And for all his screw-ups he always faces up to trouble head-on.

    Cameron and Osbourne, Livingstone, or the Labour front bench, don't even come close to him.

    The May election is going to be one of the mosts interesting political campaigns in recent time. Can't wait.

  6. Stuart
    Totally agree with you. I've long thought the CIPR President's Medal is a tad self indulgent, and the lack of common sense in awarding the prize to Boris confirms that. Frankly it doesn't matter if Boris can play the part on Have I got News For You. Being able to communicate means more than just playing the clown.

  7. I had to laugh out loud when I heard about this. Boris is more famous (or should that be infamous) for his gaffes and quips than any political achievement, let alone any significant PR achievement.

    If he managed to get the people of Liverpool back on side, perhaps then he would be considered worthy of an honour as a PR maestro, genius perhaps.

    Then again what is it they say about flying pigs?

  8. Stuart, I think you’re absolutely right. As a CIPR member I think the decision to award Boris a CIPR Presidents Medal is ludicrous. Giving this award to a man who is as subtle as a brick and has also openly criticised the P.R profession on many occasions is simply crazy.

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