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We’ve got to get public relations professionals back to work: we need industry-certification – by Alex Malouf

By Alex Malouf, Corporate Communications Director MEA at Schneider Electric

Back in 2008, I was lucky. I was in Saudi, and the global hit to the financial market didn’t dent the country’s economy. That wasn’t the case for my friends and colleagues in Dubai, many of whom lost jobs as sectors like real estate collapsed.

I never thought anything would be as bad as 2008 and 2009. I was wrong. 2020 has been a disaster for nearly all of us. Everyone is letting people go, both agencies and clients. And it hurts to see so many good marketing and communications unemployed. The question is how do we get experienced people back into work?

We’ve always been an open industry. There’s no single route to becoming a communications or public relations executive (have a read of this about former cabin crew joining the sector). In some respects, it’s a strength. The diversity makes us more dynamic, open to different opinions. However, there’s also no way to rate a communicator. You’ve got a CV, and that’s it. And that’s a weakness right now.

We need a way to find out the experienced professionals from those who aren’t. We need a universally accepted certification that will help people who are hiring understand what level that person is at. You have to remember that most people who hire for communications really don’t have much of an idea what we do or how we do it.

If we’re to get the best of us who are out of work back to what they’re best at, then we need to go forward as an industry and adopt a standard certification, be it that advocated by the CIPR, IABC, the PRCA or any other global association. We need people who are accredited, who have invested time in their development, and who can say, “I know my communications theory, and this is how I can prove it.”

Any funds raised from a certification could go back into the industry, to support those who are out of work (the CIPR does this with iprovision, which provides grants to members to help with care and respite costs). And it’d also prove the commitment of those communicators and public relations people in work to support those people who need our help.

A certification won’t just help people understand the difference between an experienced communicator who knows about a host of issues such as measurement, digital, ethics and the like. It’ll also help others get what the function is all about. Many of us will work tirelessly for our brands, but we’re awful at doing public relations for what we love and what we are good at. There’s not enough people out there, particularly among the C-level crowd and within human resources who actually know what communications is about. As an industry we have to spend more time educating our peers, so that they know what we do and the value of our work.

I’m going to end by saying everything has changed, and we have to change as an industry too. We’ve got to try new things, we’ve got to look at what we can do better. I want our profession to be respected, to have a seat at the table, and to be strategic. And I want those experienced people who are out of work back in work. We’ve got to look at how we can best do this, and, for me, certification is one of the better answers out there.

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