Dead cert: We’re wrong; we do need certification to move the industry forward

Panels are always fun, especially when there’s discord (which we don’t have enough of in this region, at least in public). However, at this month’s Marcomms360 conference, there wasn’t a hint of dissent on the question of certification. Despite what we’ve seen in the US, with the hiring of a financier as the head of communications at the White House, and a number of ethical malpractice cases that have affected the industry globally, it seems we’re still not convinced about the need for a certification that says we’re proven to be able to do what we say we can do. The excuses include the fast-changing pace of the industry and its recent arrival into the region.
Well, you know what? We’re wrong. It’s not hard to find a marcomms person reeling off the reasons why the function should have a seat in the boardroom, and yet we’re still a long way off being given the same time and attention as a financial professional or a legal counsel. Would any serious business leader hire a non-chartered accountant to head finance, or a lawyer who hadn’t passed their bar exam? And yet, what means do we have to measure a person’s ability to manage reputations? A CV and an interview?
One of the reasons given for not promoting certifications is how rapidly the industry is changing, fueled in part by digital. I accept that point. But marcomms can’t just be about influencer marketing. There’s the basics of our profession, including ethics, strategy, the ability to provide context and analysis. These building blocks of the industry don’t change. And there should be a means to test these basic skills, so that employers firstly understand the skill set, as well as how the marcomms professional stacks up.
As an industry, we need to hold ourselves up to a higher level of professionalism. We should be able to have a certification that reflects differentlevels of experience, and promotes self-development. For employers, a certification helps ensure that a person being brought on board is qualified – not just by their own words and a CV, but by an industry body that represents the industry and understands how the function is developing.

While we may laugh and cringe over ‘alternative facts’ and other, more serious issues that have
beset our industry, we need to get serious about moving the industry forward and having a seat at the table. We need to admit that a certification system for the marcomms industry is needed more than ever. We need both the right people and the right talent in senior and mid-level communications roles and a development path to help the best talent find its way up the ladder. Certification is the best way to make this happen.

Alex MAlouf, Vice-chair, EMENA for the International Association of Business Communicators.

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