Have you observed that everyone who works in the PR field lays claim to being a PR professional? Even journalists, marketers, social media and IT guys who work in PR agencies or PR departments of organizations see themselves as PR professionals. Little wonder Public Relations is seen as a low entry job, deserving little or no attention, recognition and respect other professions receive from executives of organizations.

It is high time true professionals woke up to this challenge and see it as their duty to educate those they work with and the society at large about who a true PR professional is. The world needs to know that there’s a whole lot of difference between working in the PR field or doing a PR job and being a PR professional. We need to recognize that when these pseudo professionals do a bad job for people the reputation of our profession gets the dent, and we are all the worse for it.

Reasons For The False Claim

Behind the false claim is ignorance of what it means to be a professional and who a true PR professional should be. To them, describing themselves as such is just a fancy way of saying that they work in PR field.

Another good reason is the prestige that goes with being a professional in the true sense of the word. Society places a high premium on professionalism. Doctors, accountants, lawyers, architects and engineers are highly respected in the society in every clime. They are seen as individuals who pay high regards to ethical standards in their work, who possess special knowledge and skills and who are always prepared to serve the interest of the public. It is therefore not surprising that everyone who has the slightest opportunity to work in a professional field like Public Relations wants to bask in that glow. But the questions I keep asking myself without answers are:  why those who work in medical institutions don’t all call themselves doctors? And why  people working in engineering firms describe themselves by the specific jobs they do and not as engineers?  I think PR professionals need to do more to protect their turf.

The Jobs And The Profession

The online dictionary, merriamwebster.com tells me that a job is a regular remunerative position. In other words, it is a piece of work that you do and get paid for. The same dictionary defines a profession as a calling requiring specialized knowledge and often a long and extensive preparation. It also defines it as the whole body of persons engaged in a calling. Putting it together, a profession is a body of persons, who possess specialized knowledge and skills in a particular field, having gone through extensive education and training over a long period of time.

What Makes A PR Professional

It is outrageous to think that you become a PR professional just by working in the PR field. That you can write, produce videos, design websites and carryout media relations and other PR activities are not enough to make you a PR professional. You need to do a lot more to be worth that description.

The first step to take is to master the body of knowledge of the field. In its Wheel of Public Relations Education, International Public Relations Association (IPRA) captures the subjects you are required to understand in three concentric cycles. The innermost cycle contains the Theory and Practice of Public Relations, which covers the application of PR in government, commercial and non-commercial organizations. The next cycle is made up of communication subjects; such as, Theory and Process of Communication, Writing for the Media, Editing and Graphics of Communication. Others are Media Analysis, Research, Advertising, Media Law and Ethics. And at the outer cycle, you find Statistics, Languages, Social Services, Personnel Management and Public Administration. Others are: Management Science, Government Organization, Political Science, Economics, Business Administration, Organizational Structure and Behaviour.

Even though the IPRA Wheel of Public Relations was issued as far back as 1984, it has not lost its sheen. New prescriptions and standards have emerged to fill its age gaps. In 2006, The Commission for Public Relations Education issued a new curriculum guideline known as The Professional Bond to address PR’s educational needs of the 21st century. Some others followed. And in 2018, Global Alliance for Public Relations and communication management, the global voice of the profession,  released the global Capabilities Framework  to assist Public Relations professionals around the world assess their capabilities in three domains and rise up to the required standards.

The domains are: Communication Capabilities, which involve the ability to align communication strategies with organizational purpose and value; Organizational Capabilities, which is the ability to facilitate relationships and build trust with internal and external stakeholders and communities; and Professional Capabilities, which involve the ability to provide valued counsel to top management of an organization and be seen as a trusted advisor.

The next logical step is to fulfill all membership requirements and become a member of a professional body, ensuring that you adhere to the code of ethics of the body while remaining committed to lifelong learning.

Most of all, a PR professional should possess academic qualifications in any field as captured in the IPRA Wheel of PR Education. But a professional qualification in Public Relations is a must, especially for those whose academic qualifications are outside communication field. It is also a must to obtain a licence from a professional body recognized by the state to practice

Becoming a PR professional takes time, hard work and discipline. It is not a task for the lily-livered and the intellectually lazy, but for those with the will to succeed. You can do it if you are determined; as no obstacle can survive the assault of a determined mind.