The common belief in many quarters is that anyone with a background in arts, social sciences or humanities, who is blessed with good speaking and writing skills backed up with robust contacts with media practitioners can get into PR practice, either as an employee or as a consultant, without any professional certification in the field.
This belief is reinforced by professional search and placement agencies as well as government institutions who tend to think the same way. Their preference for journalists for high Public Relations positions seems to know no bounds. It sticks in the gullet.
However, anyone who desires to make a rewarding and satisfying career in Public Relations should never be tempted to think of evading professional certification in Public Relations from a recognized professional body. It is crucial to success. Here are the reasons:
- Certification grants you a professional status.
All true professions have a body of knowledge that should be mastered by intending members, a code of ethics that guide the behavior of members, a recognized (state) institution that admits those who are qualified based on the assessment of their mastery of the profession’s body of knowledge. And in all true professions, public interest is central to the way they conduct business.
In the PR profession, and in the eyes of the public, getting professionally certified in PR means that you are governed, or have accepted to be governed by a code of ethics in the way you conduct yourself. It also means you are committed to competence, integrity, and morality and to the promotion of public interest in all your dealings; thus, raising your status, as a person, to that of a professional.
- Certification gives you a license to practice Public Relations.
In countries such as Nigeria, Brazil, Peru and Panama, you cannot practise Public Relations without certification and/or membership of the professional body empowered by the laws of the land to regulate the profession. To do otherwise is to be in breach of the law. Certification clears the way for membership of a PR body and gives you a license to operate in the field.
- Certification widens the coast of employment for you.
University degrees are, like the Americans would say, a dime a dozen these days. They no longer guarantee employment. Now employers are looking for those with specialized knowledge and skills. They are looking for people who can solve real life problems. They are also looking for people with characters. Having a professional certification in PR assures them of these qualities. They know that every true professional certification process tests for these qualities in their candidates.
The process of certification also empowers you to stand on your own as an entrepreneur. With the right internship and mentorship by an established professional, it is easy for you to snob the labour market.
- Certification guarantees you progress in the field.
The days of gate crashers into the profession are always numbered. Soon, people will find that their authenticity is in question. This often happens when they take a complex PR assignment only scrupulously trained and certified professionals can handle.
The more complex PR problems you can solve, the more you grow in recognition, either as an employee or as a consultant. As an employee, your organization will try to keep you. And that means promotions and more perks of the office. And as a consultant, recognition brings more clients and more money. In whichever area of practice you find yourself, progress is assured when you are certified.
- Certification distinguishes you from the pretenders.
Anyone who has not gone through the rigours of proper training and certification in a field and yet goes ahead to practise the profession is a pretender, a quack. No matter how they try to hide it, it will show. You cannot hide your lies for so long. You show the world that you are a formidable contender in the field when you get certified. It demonstrates your strength in the field and the fact that you can be trusted to provide the services they require in Public Relations.
- Certification gives your self-confidence
I do not think that anyone who is not certified, and therefore not qualified, to practice Public Relations can look into the eyes of other professionals such as lawyers, doctors, accountants, engineers or even ordinary people and introduce him or herself as a PR professional without a tinge of guilt or without a feeling of fraudulence. Confidence can only come from mastery of your job. It does not exist in the province of quacks. Only trained and certified professionals can have it, and at the right levels, to win the confidence of others in them.
Make it an option to lead a transparent, confident and fulfilled professional life. Get certified before venturing into PR practice. It is the most honourable thing you can do for yourself, your family and society at large.