What came first? Certification or Respect?

A guest post by Priya Bates, ABC, SCMP

As a very proud Accredited Business Communicator (ABC), I remember, with great frustration, the conversation that was had with communication leaders and members about the value of accreditation. Members would say that IABC wasn’t doing enough to promote the importance of accreditation with business leaders, while with only a few thousand in the ABC ranks globally, we lacked the critical mass to truly get the attention of business leaders. The truth is that as proud as we were to go through the accreditation process and prevail; the process itself was cumbersome–taking me a year to complete and many others several years.

I watched closely as IABC did its research and laid out its argument and strategy for certification.

  • Certification would map against the success that was experienced by human resources and accountants with their global standards.
  • Certification would be delivered in a way that was more objective.
  • Certification would map against a well-thought-out career roadmap from entry into the profession to business leader. Certifications are available today for Communication Management Professionals (CMPs) at an intermediate/specialist stage of their career and Strategic Communication Management Professionals (SCMPs) that play the role of strategic advisors.
  • Certification would be delivered in a way that would eventually qualify for ISO recognition (IABC is going through that process for CMP right now).
  • The certification process would help us drive the critical mass needed to help us with the business conversation.

Watching from the outside, I thought the work done on the career roadmap was brilliant. It clearly established the requirements of those who had the right to call themselves communication professionals and then went further to define the growth of those professionals from foundational skills and knowledge to strategic skills that would help them lead organizations.

Having taken both the CMP and SCMP exams, I know this for sure: any one of those colleagues and clients who think they are communication professionals could not have passed any of those exams. If they could, in my opinion, they have the right to call themselves communication professionals.

Here is what has surprised me: The same conversation has emerged as it did with accreditation. “I want to wait until it is an expected standard in the hiring process,” or “Until it is recognized by business leaders, I don’t see why I should bother.” Others are simply scared of taking the exam and failing.

And here is where we get into the classic ‘chicken and egg’ scenario. Without critical mass, we can’t have a global conversation to drive respect. This situation is vastly different from human resources and accountants. These professionals are proud of meeting the standard and today (at least where I live in Canada) it is an expectation that everyone who dares call themselves a professional, meets or plans to meet the standard. In Canada alone, there are 27,000 Certified Human Resources Professionals (CHRP) and over 200,000 who have earned the Certified Professional Accountant (CPA) designation.

In order to drive the respect we crave, we collectively need to LEAD versus FOLLOW. If we simply wait, we’ll be having the same conversations twenty-five years from now as we did twenty-five years ago…sitting back and waiting for someone else to make it happen.

We all have a role to play to officially establish communication as a profession. I encourage you to be part of the solution and hold yourselves accountable to the global standard. Take the test. Help us drive the critical mass needed to drive the conversation.

As someone who has earned ABC, CMP and SCMP credentials, each of these accomplishments has created great pride in myself and more so in the profession that I love and believe is critical to organizational and individual success. The bottom line, at the end of the day, we need to believe in ourselves before we can convince anyone else of our value.