Posted by an Honored Guest
It’s that time of year again, i.e. September is the time to renew your PR Practitioner’s License.
Far fetched? Maybe not. Certainly seems to be a growing movement. Just yesterday the board of directors of The Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) established a task force to explore certification. According to PRSA Chair and CEO Rhoda Weiss, the organization is looking: “to explore professional credentials that could be validated by a outside certification process” with the goal of “a competitive marketplace advantage.”
Of note: Weiss opened her statement saying, “The issue of certification has been discussed, dissected and debated for years.” Indeed, it has. So what’s the hubub now? Hello!! They’re not doin’ it to make friends! The point is that it’s gettin’ pretty wacky out there and if they don’t take hold of the reins, the government will. That would NOT be good.
But according to Toni Muzi Falconi, who’s presently teaching Global Relations at NYU’s Master Program in Public Relations, the pressure seems to be coming from our global partners... as well as, interestingly, the junior ranks. In a class that he is teaching presently, he was surprised to learn that over 60 percent of his students (young up-and-coming professionals from agencies, profit and non-profit organizations) selected “licensing” for their final paper.
We’re thrilled to have Sig. Toni Muzi Falconi weigh in on the topic here today. His words are backed by SERIOUS credentials. Presently, he’s a Senior Counselor at the Italian change-knowledge management consultancy, Methodos. He is the former press attaché and public relations manager of 3M Company in Italy; he’s the former economic and financial editor of the newsweekly L’Espresso, he’s the former editor in chief of the monthly Photo 13 Italiana; he’s the former Director of Communication of Fabbri Editori, then Italy’s largest publisher; and he’s the former head of SCR, Italy’s largest and most prominent public affairs and public relations consultancy. Falconi held the undergraduate chair of Public Relations Theory at IULM University of Milano from 1999 to 2002. He’s taught PR on the postgraduate level at the University of Udine in Gorizia, the University of Bologna in Forli , as well as at IULM University in Milano. Mr. Muzi Falconi is the former President of Ferpi, the Italian Federation of Public Relations. He is also the former Chairman of the Global Alliance for Public Relations and Communication Management.
The guy knows what he’s talkin’ about. Without further ado... Mr. Muzi Falconi:
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Mr. Falconi, thanks for a thoughtful and highly articulate argument in support of government oversight.
That said, I have a hard time finding any evidence that such would (a) be achievable and enforceable; and (b) once achieved and enforced actually enhance the protection of the public interest.
In short, I can't find much evidence that this would do much good nor has the public interest "problem" been well defined.
Has APR -- as well intentioned as it is -- done any good in protecting the public interest or raising professional standards? Is there any evidence to that effect? Where would you find it? (BTW, I don't have one.)
Take a quick look at our contemporaries in the U.S.
Lawyers and lobbyists. I think anyone would be hard pressed to claim that regulation of that industry has done much to "clean things up." It does make it easier to put some of them in jail when their caught doing naughty things. (Jailing PR executives for spinning stories, now there's a thought.)
Advertisers and marketers. If us, why not them? No advertising from anyone who isn't government approved. Throw in direct mail and call centers while you're at it. How about campaign advisers? Personal "agents"?
It can all get quite messy very quickly.
While I commend the idealism of the initiative (and of your students) I don't see how this could ever work, much less work for the public benefit.
thank you for your relevant thoughts. you make me appear as an idealist, which I certainly am...although, like many, I would avoid being cured by a non registered doctor or lawyer. you cite advertisers and marketers and you are correct... once you accept that public relations is, today, an offshoot from those disciplines (do you? I do not). but you are certainly aware that both advertising as well as marketing are strongly regulated in every country, much more so than pr.
as for the concept of the public interest let's put it this way: when you perform public relations on behalf of an organization you are confronted with three types of interests: the organization's interest, the stakeholder interests (plural and conflicting) and the public interest (in democracies normally represented by norms, laws and regulations). Your added value of lies in the ability to identify, understand and interpret these three classes of interests and suggest to your employer the best ways to reconcile the first two classes with the third, otherwise you are in trouble, as all too often happens.
finally, the fact that other schemes have not worked sofar for pr only demonstrate the need for more forceful solutions which would give voters, consumers and other publics some comfort to believe that someone out here is overseeing how their behaviours are being influenced by professionals who are mostly unknown, unseen, unidentified and uncontrolled if not by the very interests they pursue (clients or employers) or by themselves (unrecognized professional associations)....
Points well taken. I'm glad I make you out to be an idealist since you are. I am too. My wife would say hopelessly idealistic. I'll even confess to being a liberal Democrat. I have no argument with the proper role of government, NGOs, associations or other organizations to protect the public interest and maintain or improve public service.
I just don't see how it works in the world of art -- something into which most all forms of communication fall. One can test physicians on medicine, lawyers on legal precedent and procedure. But the issue (I think) with public relations is that there are few determinative procedures to test. There are dozens of successful and creative ways to approach most communications challenges -- from product launches to crisis to change communications. How do you license that?
Or to use Amanda's analogy to hookers in Nevada. Licensing doesn't translate into good sex. The fact that they're licensed only means that you've got less chance of getting a disease or going to jail.
I'm not sure what licensing would really accomplish. PRSA has been trying it, in effect, for years with their APR certification which, like PRSA itself unfortunately, is pretty much a waste of time.
Many P.R. agencies also do a bad job of educating young people. They permit sloppy writing and extremely poor pitching practices. Without proper training, certification by PRSA or the government won't mean much.
Being in communications means we rely heavily, at least in the U.S., on freedom of speech as fundamental to the work we do. Can you "regulate" that? Can we license someone to essentially be legally able to speak out on behalf of a client?
A lot of practitioners argue that PR isn't just the job of the PR staff within a company....it extends to other divisions such as customer service.
PR consultants, by and large, do not work to better the public. They work to further client goals and objectives.
Columbus, OH -- August 16, 2007 -- CoolBiz PR Pros Intl., the leader in fabricating PR for flexible, scalable businesses so they can tout their cutting-edge solutions, today announced that Jennifer "Bunny" Spinmaster has been accredited by the accrediting association for PR professionals. With this important milestone, Ms. Spinmaster can legally provide creative work regarding the mission critical solutions from her market leading clients.
"Our clients don’t just sell products," observed Ms. Spinmaster. "They deliver solutions. With my newly acquired accreditation paperwork, I can now use Microsoft Word's Find And Replace feature really well. As my mentor here at the agency (who started CoolBiz in the 1970s) can attest, I too can transform mere products into cutting edge solutions with Microsoft Find and Replace. And as my boyfriend says: 'Hey Bunny, now you're legal!'”
Bad Idea. There's this thing called the First Amendment.
You miss the point. Think of it in terms of hookers being licensed in Nevada. Sure you can get any 'ole corner street whore for less, but the licensed whores are regularly tested and surely worth the premium.
amanda, plenty of unlicensed hookers around, many of which don't even say they are hookers, let alone part timers. the same is for public relators: out of an estimated 3 million in the world today (but there will be 1 ml pr graduates in China by 2012...) only 250 thousand belong to some professional association while probably twice as many perform public relations without even realizing or recognizing they do.
invoking the first amendment is an alibi...free speech is a sacred principle and, like all sacred principles (otherwise they wouldn't be sacred...), it should not necessarily and abstractly apply to professionals who for the most part of their professional time assist organizations in developing relationships with their stakeholders and, mostly undetectably, influence the latter's opinions, consumptions, behaviours, investments?