I’ve carried out some desk research to compare what my own professional body offers in terms of attracting university students to join whilst on campus. It figures – catch someone at this early stage, give them a great experience, and they’re more likely to join up to a full membership grade post-graduation, and then stick with you throughout their career?
I wouldn’t want to overstate this – it’s not the route through which I entered the profession – but it still seems to make an obvious sense.
Let me stress: my comparative research is desk-based only – I cruised the websites of ten professional bodies. I didn’t go on campus to see what students are being offered first hand in terms of promotional material, and I didn’t interview or survey any students. I’d suggest that my analysis does though suggest that at face value there is an issue worthy of further, more in-depth research, and some lessons that my Institute could learn from others.
This comparative group includes the same nine I used in another recent comparative exercise – including the Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM) and the Public Relations and Communications Association (PRCA), which work in similar fields to CIPR. The other seven, I previously (randomly) selected from amongst the range of other U.K. membership bodies with Royal Charters.
I developed a five point scale against which to score the offer
1 point for a heavily-reduced student-level membership fee (offering a discount of 50% or more on full membership fee); 1 further point for free membership at that grade to students on an accredited course; 1 point for relevant discounts offered to student-level members e.g. on course books
1 point for other benefits, like student networks and events, or mentoring scheme; 1 point for a compelling and thorough marketing and promotional job (e.g. including student testimonial videos)
If I’ve made any subjective judgments in my scoring with which you disagree – or if you don’t value my scoring scale – well, fair enough. I’m just trying to do a quick bit of comparative research. I care about improving my own professional body; I think we have a lot to gain by looking at the experience and approach of other membership bodies; and I like an evidence-based approach. Correct me (please!), but don’t be challenging my honest motivation and good intentions.
So here’s what I found:
CIPR – £35 per year student membership for anyone studying for an undergraduate or post graduate degree of at least 12 months, but ‘free student membership for those on CIPR recognised courses is now closed’. I’ve looked throughout the CIPR website to find a positive selling job promoting the benefits of student membership, but I’m afraid the detail is pretty paltry. Here’s what it says on the ‘membership benefits’ page:
I tried clicking through on the hyperlink on the ‘student’ column to see if that offered more, but it only took me to the ‘Charter, regulations and code of conduct’ page, which was slightly weird.
Here’s what it says in the ‘Why you should join’ tab – lots of useful info, but this is generic, with nothing targeted at students.
Just this in the ‘student’ section of the ‘membership grades’ page (and with just a click through to the application form if you click the ‘student’ hyperlink on that page, with no additional info.
There may be better promotional materials targeted at students to join, but in twenty minutes by searching the CIPR website search engine or google generally (in case there is a micro site somewhere) I honestly couldn’t find any.
I am therefore scoring CIPR at just 1/5 on my comparative measure – 1 for heavily reduced membership fee, but zero for free membership on accredited courses (which seemingly used to be offered, but has now been withdrawn), zero for student/course-specific discount benefits (e.g. on books), zero for student-specific marketing materials, and zero for additional student-specific resources (like networks or bespoke student-specific online resources).
CMI – £67. Video and copy explaining benefits clearly. Seems to offer free membership on its future leaders programme for students on an accredited course, and some half-decent online marketing collateral. 4/5 (as I couldn’t immediately see any student-specific discounts)
CII – 1/5 – does offer a student discount, but can’t find that it offers anything specific for students other than this discount
CSP – £115.68 compared to £371.40 – 4/5 scores in all regards, except free membership on accredited courses
CIH – 5/5
CIM – £65 student fee compared to £230 full member. 1/5
CIPFA – £161, half standard membership fee of £332. They do though offer student-specific benefits, such as a CIPFA Student Network, which has a representative role in CIPFA governance. 4/5
CIEH – Offers an affiliate membership rate of £54 compared to full membership of £185. There is a mention of ‘specialist support for students’ but no readily available detail thereof, so am only scoring this 1/5.
PRCA – scored 4/5, as does include either reduced membership rate of £15 per year, or else free membership if studying on an accredited university course. Only score of zero was because I couldn’t see any student-specific discounts.
Overall conclusion: two tiers amongst the 11 I looked at. CIPR and three others scored just 1/5 on my rough-and-ready scoring matrix. The other six scored 4/5 or 5/5.
The other noteworthy factor was that some of the student membership fees felt pretty high to me. This is massively subjective, as it doesn’t address value for money – but £161 a year (CIPFA) felt steep, where CIPR’s £35 felt much more affordable.
Beyond that – I offer no real conclusions beyond noting that CIPR’s online marketing and clarity of offer to its student grade members on the face of it looks like it needs some work, esp. when compared to six of the other nine I looked at.