Making a professional difference
Anne Gregory, Global Alliance Chair
My newsletter contribution in February about the importance of qualifications caused quite a stir! I wrote it while I was still angry on reading the results of the latest State of the Profession survey conducted by my own professional association, the UK Chartered Institute of Public Relations. Of 2,000 respondents, 22% thought that a qualification was the most important ‘asset’ for a professional to have as opposed to 74% who thought experience took priority.
My anger was directed at the fact that ad hoc learning through experience appears to be more valued than a systematic and comprehensive professional development. How can this be? I know that in practice someone can spend several years in one narrow job such as media relations and remain unknowledgeable about vast areas of our rich and varied profession. Years in a role does not equal professional expertise.
Indeed, this is precisely one reason why the UK Government Communications is designing a programme for its emerging leaders which takes them away from highly expert but siloed communication specialisms and forces them to learn and experience the full array of public relations work, not only in the public sector, but in the private sector too.
So, having got angry, the question arises, what are you going to do about it? I said I would write to all association leaders to see if there was an appetite for a Summit to discuss professional qualifications and the awarding of professional status – credentialing as this is often called. I am delighted to report that there has been a resounding ‘yes’. So far 16 Associations will be represented at the Summit to be held in Lugano, Switzerland, on 21 and 22 of June, including some of the largest (PRSA, IABC) and the smallest (Estonia, Kenya) and any more who wish to join us are more than welcome. We are making arrangements for a virtual presence too, for those who are not able to join us in person.
At the Summit we will look at the variety of approaches there are to credentialing among our Members, which in itself will be a valuable piece of work which we can offer to you all. Then we will move on to decide whether there is a desire to move to a global standard. Here there are a range of options. For example, this could be set by a recognised international quality standards body such as the ISO, or we could commission an independent organisation to work on this with us and for us, or it could be that we agree a global standard between ourselves. Not only that, we will need a flexible system to accommodate the differences between countries. In Brazil for example, the profession is licensed and in others all qualifications are regulated by government. To help us in our thinking we will have expert input from the ISO, other professions and communication specialisms who have alternative ways recognising credentials.
I am thrilled by this initiative. If we are to gain traction in our constant battle to be taken seriously as a profession, we have to get the basics right or we will be constantly building on insecure foundations. A principle reason why the Global Alliance was set up was to help raise professional standards. It seems that there is an appetite around the world to collaborate to do that and we are delighted to be able to facilitate that forum.
Any Member organisation wanting to take part in these discussions either in person or virtually, please send an email to our office in Lugano (firstname.lastname@example.org). For those of you who are unable to take part, I will be sending round a follow-up note asking for your views and seeking answers to some key questions. Pease do respond. The time is right to tackle this issue head on. I’m heartily fed up of our profession being regarded as second class by some and I’m sure you are too. Here is a golden opportunity to do something of significance about it.
Global Alliance Chair