Portrait of Cornelius

Of small steps and giant leaps – Moving towards a Global Competency Framework

When you tell co-workers that you are a Public Relations professional, what are you actually saying about yourself?

That you subscribe to the tenets that make up a profession such as being ethical, have a certain standard of training and adhere to professional standards of practice? That you are an experienced practitioner, who provides strategic communications advice?

But, would you say you belong to a profession, which plays a major role in society, politics and commerce worldwide?

Perhaps it is understandable that we do not often think in those latter terms as we have a parochial and practical view of Public Relations.

An attempt to develop a Chartered PR grade has not captured the imagination of many practitioners. While the PRCA has recently said that talk of a PR profession belongs to the 1950s and we should concentrate on being professionals.

Yet it is important that the industry/profession improves Public Relation’s standing and that of individual PR professionals. So, how do we encourage people to sign up to a scheme promoting expertise and proficiency that, up to now, they have done without? Can we be professionals without the supportive framework of a profession?

Perhaps, what is needed is an approach that promotes both professionalism and is integral to a person’s career progression.

Next year, the World PR Forum is to be held in Toronto. The theme “Communication across cultures” chosen to reflect the global nature of Public Relations. What caught my attention was a discussion at the Conference on the Global Alliance’s ambitious review of PR credentials across the world.

Jean Valin, FCPRS, who leads the project said:

“What has been missing so far was a global competencies framework leading to the double down of credential framework and curriculum standards. Since the ‘Global Body Of Knowledge’ project focuses on learning outcomes, we can achieve both goals.”

The Global Alliance has worked for many years to put in place the pillars to support PR’s move towards professionalism. This project has seen the Global Alliance analysing 30 existing competency, educational and accreditation frameworks from around the world leading to a draft list of criteria which has been shared with professional PR associations worldwide for consultation.

There is still way to go both to ensure that it is truly Global rather than western oriented and to make it as future-prof as possible. But having arrived at this interim stage, they are now a step closer to internationally agreed competency criteria focused at two professional levels: entry and mid-career, leading to universally recognised PR qualifications.

Some may say this is just more academic concept getting in the way of people doing their work. In fact, it is the opposite.

Imagine this. If you are an experienced practitioner, who can prove that he/she has met the required standards you will be able to practice anywhere in the world. Your skills and expertise will be recognised anywhere in the world, as would your PR qualifications, opening up PR as an international career choice to practitioners from across the world.

Maybe you are just beginning you are a prospective PR Student and concerned which college or university will give you the best start in your career.

If accepted, there will be one set of competency benchmarks for the global PR industry, flexible enough to be adapted to individual countries, leading eventually to recognition of PR qualifications that embrace the competencies. Talent shouldn’t be landlocked and Public Relations should not be restricted by borders either.

As former Global Alliance chair, Professor Anne Gregory, said when launching the project:

“The time is now right for a global conversation that looks at our profession’s body of skills, knowledge, attributes and behaviours, determines the common strands that apply to us all, but also allows for national or cultural adaptation.

“We will explore how we can involve employers in the process so that they recognise and understand agreed schemes and actively ask for people holding those credentials when recruiting.

“This is a significant project that will lay the foundations for professional recognition of public relations and communication management across the world.”

It is easy to underestimate the importance of this major step for the PR profession. It would set global standards for CPD and provide employers and recruiters with a definitive statement on what practitioners of professional standing should know.

From a selfish professional perspective, adopting such a standard might also help rid our profession from both the untrained unskilled practitioner who labels themselves as a PR Practitioner but hasn’t invested in the training or has adopted neither the code of conduct or ethics.

The grandly titled ‘Global Body of Knowledge Project’ is currently with the various member organisations of the Global Alliance for Consultation. They are to respond by the end of September – employers will be consulted in due course before a proposal will be made at the PR Conference in Toronto to accept the finalised version as a global standard.

Often our industry is wracked with low confidence, lower aspirations, and an inability to express the importance of the role and self-doubts when it should be promoting itself.

A new global standard of professionalism might help change this.

If you are interested in reading the draft list and sharing any observations, please click here.

Cornelius Alexander

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