We have received an invitation from Professor Anne Gregory and Jean Valin for all readers and contributors to PRConversations to get involved in a global project defining the capabilities of proficient public relations practitioners. It’s the Global Body of Knowledge project, or GBOK for short – and your wisdom and knowledge is being sought to get this right. Anne and Jean write:
Over the last couple of years a number of professional associations, including the Public Relations Society of America, the Swiss Public Relations Association, Public Relations Institute of Australia and IABC have been reviewing their credentials, that is their public relations qualifications.
These professional qualifications are not to be confused with academic qualifications such as the various degree programmes on offer around the world. Credentials are offered by professional bodies to ensure their members or aspiring members reach a certain standard of competence, and for the practitioner, they are a mark of their professionalism. Some of the more well-known credentials are the Accredited in Public Relations (APR) offered by a number of associations around the world and Chartered Practitioner credential offered by the UK Chartered Institute of Public Relations.
In 2014 Anne Gregory, who was then Chair of the Global Alliance which is the confederation of professional associations around the world, called a Credentials Summit to discuss whether there was an appetite to move towards a common standard for credentials. After all, we now live in a global world where we need to share good practice, recognise basic standards of competence and demonstrate that like other professions we have a body of knowledge that stakes out our territory. Recruiters have told us that the cost of a bad hiring decision is 2.5 times salary cost so getting the standard right has very practical and bottom line benefits.
Over 20 associations, representing every continent, attended the Credentials Summit and as a result the Global Alliance was commissioned to undertake research, drawing together all the existing capability frameworks, academic writing and professional body information into a Global Body of Knowledge. This according to the International Standards Organisation (ISO), is the first step needed to put together a recognised Global Standard which can be used by professional bodies to design credentials and by academics to guide curriculum design.
A working party led by former GA Chair Jean Valin has completed this massive piece of ground work and has produced a base document that contains the results of analysing 968 pages of documentation reflecting current thinking on the knowledge, skills, abilities and behaviours (KSABs) of practitioners at entry and mid-level. Work remains to be done on the senior practitioner level.
To give a flavour of what the research has uncovered, the initial work has identified 7 key knowledge areas for entry level practitioners these include:
- research, planning, implementation, evaluation
- ethics and law
- crisis communication
- communication models and theories
- history and current events
- business literacy
- media, social channels and use of technology.
There are also skills, attributes and behaviours at entry level.
Interestingly, for mid-level practitioners, the knowledge areas are broadly similar, what differentiates them is the degree of understanding and the fact that they may supervise others who have this knowledge – so they need to be even more informed than more junior staff. As might be expected, more business KSABs are needed the more senior you get.
The Abilities and Personal Attributes regarded as being important for these mid-level practitioners are:
- critical listening
- global awareness and tracks global news and issues
- manages information
- contextual awareness
- leadership qualities
- innovation and flexibility
- problem-solving, critical thinking and adaptability
- strategic management of communication
- technological and visual literacy
- applying cross-cultural and diversity considerations
- meeting facilitation ability
You’ll have spotted the issues in the work done so far and therefore that is what we are asking your help with.
First it’s based on past and current capability work, so it’s essentially backward looking. We need to future-proof GBOK.
Second, most of the existing frameworks were written by western-based, or western-oriented organisations. For example, much of the history of public relations that is in text books is very western. We need to take out any cultural bias so GBOK is truly neutral and applicable around the world.
Please look at the work to date at GBOK and send in your comments.
As well as commenting on and updating the content of the GBOK, let us know what you think of the appropriateness of the language used. For example, are Skills and Abilities too similar as headings in the KSAB framework?
This is too important for us not to have a big and robust conversation.
Any comments on this post are welcome too.
Anne Gregory is Professor of Corporate Communications, Strategy, Marketing and Economics at the University of Huddersfield, England. She can be found via Twitter: @GregsAnne
Image: “Lorimerlite framework” by Astris1 – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons. For more information on Lorimerlite structures that are designed to withstand compressive loads with the least amount of structural material, see: http://www.aodlorimer.com