Starting a global conversation on global public relations standards


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

Jean Valin is Principal of Valin Strategic Communications in Ottawa, Canada. He can be found via LinkedIn and Twitter: @JeanValin1

Image: “Lorimerlite framework” by Astris1Own 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:

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22 Replies to “Starting a global conversation on global public relations standards

  1. Hello,
    My name is Marcus Vinicius Bonfim and I am PR here in São Paulo, Brazil.

    I am studying concrete ways that allow here in our country to create a professional accreditation model in public relations that serves three main purposes: first, to improve the quality of education and training in public relations (in Brazil the training takes place in universities and non we have a specific graduate still in the area) and secondly, give the market (especially the agencies and other organizations) a clear, safe way to hire professionals according to their knowledge, skills and attitudes in areas or specific segments . And finally, that this process of accreditation for skills help colleagues to create a genuine and strong identity to the market and recognition of Brazilian society, the need for work in public relations in various market segments of the country, which calls for ethics, transparency, compliance and quality.

    I have been reading the references of PRSA, CIPR, PRIA, PRCAN, PRCA and CPRS and would love to exchange more ideas and information with public relations around the world and leave my for these contacts. Congratulations for the post and reflection!

  2. Heather, good points. I also just read the compelling piece you linked to. It provoked some thoughts, I wish to share about the dangers of having one’s creativity and professionalism boxed in by technical and ignorant client expectations.

    In my view the work (as in how it is done) of a proper profession is not led by clients. But has the self-confidence and professionalism to tell them what needs to be done to achieve great outcomes and to raise the level of expectation beyond what was originally asked for. However, the PR industry seemingly does not have the balls or confidence or knowledge base or authority to raise its game to that level. So we instead opt to be seen to be keen to please.

    Hence, our industry endlessly seeks to bend our emerging PR pros into the form clients or employers say they want them; read the me-too skill and competency set listed above. We also endlessly talk about the relevance of PR degrees in the Academy to employers and to the chances of students being successful on the labour market. But if PR were a real Academic subject it would be an end in itself: not a means to an end…… And if PR were a real profession it would possess the means to own and apply its knowledge and set standards as it sees best; while holding onto its integrity and independence in the process the way brain surgeons or lawyers or auditors do. But while PR can never be a classic profession, the above check-list-driven GBOK project reduces our usefulness to being assessed by a list of banal – creativity limiting – criteria. We can do better…

  3. Heather raises some good points headed in the right direction. I add that most of the knowledge areas or skills or competencies (call them what you will) listed above represent a very partial summary of basic attributes anybody in almost any profession or trade must possess today to succeed. In other words, they have little to do with PR per se. The list is also poorly thought through. Take for instance a/ “manages information” b/”strategic management of communication”. What’s the difference: strategy versus tactics? Define the difference between “strategy” versus ‘manages”. Or is this just lazy non-thinking listing? And then we have the utterly useless “meeting facilitation ability”. I guess that covers anybody who uses Outlook at work; which is virtually everybody. Or does it mean running meetings, which again is a general managerial social skill (and not one every – or even most – PR pros need be good at). Now let’s examine Western values.

    It is asserted above that “most of the existing frameworks were written by “western-based, or western-oriented organizations”. But there’s not one example of this given so that we can fathom what is meant here. May I ask for one meaningful example that would back such a bold claim? I for one think that the problem is that Western values are being denigrated here in the West and that they should be robustly defended and spread everywhere….by PR pros in particular.

    PR is not and never will be a technocratic or bureaucratic trade reducible to a technical skills list examinable or measurable the way the above article suggests. Ours is a much more creative industry than that. Hence, I suggest, there’s something soul destroying at the heart of this academic exercise.

    1. Paul – this tension between the art and science, or management and creative, sides of public relations is definitely a challenge when looking to formalise or at least document competence. Partly that brings us back to the purpose of such an exercise which Jean suggests is not totally clear with the reference to different expectations and requirements of various GA members. For me that is a major flaw, which is why I feel that having clear – and agreed – principles, scope and purpose, would help in the development of any competency framework.

      We also need to be aware of what is driving any attempts to create a (wish) list of factors that the (ideal) practitioner should possess – rather than seeing competencies as a liberating force in career development.

      I am reminded of this post from 2012 by the late advertising creative Linds Redding:

      In particular how the joy, enjoyment and freedom to be creative was eroded by increasing time and money pressures evident in the influence of computers, accountants and putting client preferences first.

      Being professional is a good thing in many ways, but being too process oriented can lose the magic that truly sets apart those who are great at what they do.

  4. As a link to this post (as well as a forthcoming one from Toni Muzi Falconi), I spotted that IIRC is seeking feedback on an Integrated Reporting Competency Framework (deadline 16 September):

    Here ‘level’ is related to one’s involvement in IR rather than any occupational criteria as clearly competence in this area potentially relates to a range of disciplinary backgrounds.

    I found it useful to see the approach being adopted clearly set out in relation to being:
    – Outcomes-based
    – integrated thinking embedded
    – Linked with governance
    – Whole business perspective

    As I’d alluded to above in earlier comments, I think any competency framework should clearly set out its principles, scope and purpose.

  5. I’d welcome others too defining principles! For me the ones that come to front of mind are as you say Anne:
    – around ethics
    – recognising the importance of the employee audience and acting on it (Amazon’s current woes are instructive)
    – compiling a risk register (not sure however that this is a principle)
    – professional integrity
    – and a personal one, don’t work for an organisation with whom you are out of sympathy

  6. Anne’s practical ‘whatever is most helpful to us and others’ is welcome: if things become too complicated they become unhelpful. Can we look again at defining principles?

    1. Hi Pamela, yes of course we can look at principles – ethics codes are sensibly done this way. I nearly said in my last post that we could have a look at purpose and principles (the why and the how), but folk also want to know the ‘what’. However, principles are always valuable…can you give us an idea of what you had in mind?

  7. I must go on holiday more often and promise myself not to go on-line while away! What a great debate. This is exactly what is needed to move thinking along, thank you all.

    It was the Global Alliance’s members who were asking for some sort of framework that would help define, develop and distinguish our profession (another debate there I know) for a variety of reasons. Some member countries require professions/occupations to be registered and such a framework, or something similar is needed for this. Others want to have a benchmark for their own qualifications and as a measure for academic programmes that they recognise. Some want to develop their professional development offering to equip members for the future.

    It’s interesting that Jean and the team found so many competency frameworks that were partial and most out of date and backward looking. So what’s to be done? Nothing? It might be old fashioned, but professions do have to define themselves if they want to continue to exist and indeed this debate goes much wider than public relations: there is a big debate now about whether professions as we know them will survive.

    So, we could do nothing and let events take their course, or we can make an attempt to define a modern, global, relevant and I believe, increasingly important profession that actually helps define the very nature of organisations and society. A key issue is whether we try to do it exhaustively by minute description, or whether we make broad statements of purpose with few defining areas of expertise. The right answer is, whatever is most helpful to us and to others.

    Another question, as rightly stated is on levels. I have a personal view on this which is that experience as defined by years of activity is dangerous — it is perfectly possible to have 10 years experience of doing the same thing and never developing to any significant extent. The reality is that experience and expertise is ‘lumpy’, we are all novices at some things, but can be highly expert at others. Maybe one approach is to have a points-based system that recognises this and the number of points you have determines your level. This caters for both the great generalist and the deep expert.

    It is absolutely right to recognise the modern way of working – flat, flexible, feet of foot and increasingly with nebulous boundaries. So how can we capture that well?

    There is another approach, which is to say let’s scrap all the past capabilities frameworks and focus completely on competencies (or behaviours) since they are knowledge and skills in action which are focused on achieving organisational objectives. But what then about our wider social purpose outside organisational boundaries?

    I’m loving this debate…how bold dare we be while still being helpful and building our profession?

  8. Firstly, it is good to see a focus on professional qualifications that “are not to be confused with academic qualifications such as the various degree programmes on offer around the world”. PR practitioners studying a professional body qualification in the UK tell me that they choose a professional qualification rather than a university degree as they perceive some masters level degree courses to be too removed from everyday practice to be useful to them. I don’t want to debate the rights or wrongs of this here, it’s simply to observe that practitioners expect professional qualifications to be focused on practice. I therefore welcome the differentiation between professional courses and degree programmes in this GA GBOK project.

    The amount of data collected for the GBOK is impressive. However, the potential downside of the challenge is that the resulting bullet points produced for knowledge, skills, abilities and behaviours is a very long list indeed. At entry level, by my calculation, there are 54 essential requirements including “Management of Communication” a term that is really too broad to be meaningful. Additionally, entry level practitioners are required to have the “ability to apply theoretical and applied primary and secondary research, formal and informal, qualitative and quantitative methods”. This, in itself, is a very big ask of an entry level practitioner and the difference between applying “theoretical” and “applied” research is not immediately clear.

    There are also 25 “necessary” skills and abilities et entry level, including “the ability to interpret and react quickly at the onset of a crisis”, something that seems to elude many senior practitioners. If someone at entry level had all 79 skills and abilities, plus the 10 general behaviours (B1-10) I think they would be an exceptional and pretty experienced person, not someone starting out in their career.

    I wonder if the list has been evaluated by employers, both in-house an agency? It is important to involve them in this process, not least because they often pay the fees for students studying professional qualifications.


    1. @Kevin. Thank you for expressing the obvious concern we noted as we built the list. The urge is always to add, rarely subtract. I share that concern and I think now that our ‘pendulum’ has swung thus far, we might consider a radical edit or a simplified scheme..

      The plan is to ask (more formally) for employer input with a survey in a few months. We did convene a summit recently and heard from a lot of employers about KSAS. This was done for the Commission on PR education. Their input is reflected in the GBOK bit, but we need more than just a few employers to offer comments.

      @Heather, re levels, I get your point but we are trying to follow the structure of existing credentials I do agree that new workplaces are less structured…the reality, though, is that we have recent undergraduates looking for work in PR and some have all those skills others don’t and educators are asking for guidance on what the workplace requirements are today.

      Re life-long learning, I agree it is an ethos. We tried to capture this within the V section, which would be mandatory in our proposal. Perhaps that is not the best fit for something at the principle level.

  9. @Judy,
    We analysed what our members wanted us to compare to the benchmark. Basically anything issued or used by GA members to describe a standard of practice. One of these was the ECOPSI framework, which had some functional lines of practice and specific skills to perform.

    Others were education frameworks, credential exams grids and scholarly research, which summed up job analysis and competencies needed for version types of positions.

    We also considered how other professions described their competency framework. I would be happy to review and consider any other such documents you can point us to review with our team.

    @Pamela. Thank you for your suggestions. We will consider beefing up those areas that already touch on internal communications, as well as advising, coaching management.

  10. Standards are perhaps to be applauded but I do share Toni Muzi Falconi’s reservations about them. Frameworks/parameters yes, but universally applicable standards? Possibly as an aspiration but not, I suggest, as an absolute across the globe. I have two other observations:

    1 Can more be made of the importance of internal communication?
    2 Can something around coaching senior management, i.e. going beyond influencing skills, be included?

  11. Jean and Anne, have you considered examining the (global) standards “vertically” (by role/department/industry), rather than horizontally by education and experience?

    That might be helpful both from an organizational point of view (internal or financial communications for example), as well as for less-conventional/primarily self-learners such as Heather Yaxley.

    Or could it be done both ways, forming a self-selecting “grid?”

    1. Judy – I’m not sure if you were suggesting that a framework should primarily support ‘conventional’ learning (whatever that means). But of course, PR practice has tended to rely on on-the-job training involving both social learning (drawing since the 1970s on Vygotsky’s earlier work) and autodidactism (self-education). Likewise, formal PR education emphasises self-learning even when use of Powerpoint replaces the old-school ‘chalk and talk’ approach, and online access replaces reading books and printed journals in physical libraries..

      Undoubtedly online technology means practitioners are active in their learning approaches and career expectations (i.e. working their way up slowly isn’t a Millennial expectation so we’re told). Regardless of how we learn, competencies build on earlier learning and experiences, and CPD encourages this ethos.

      I’m sure that Jean and Anne are aware of matrix or grid models for competency frameworks (CIPR used to have some including for IC) so I won’t speak for them. But my understanding is that a framework should be fairly open to allow for organisations and sectors to develop more specific job specifications, recruitment and training programmes. There is a huge body of knowledge on all this in the HR and organisational career literature and practice (and I know from some of her published papers that Anne has looked at much of it).

  12. My very dear friend Jean is well aware that I have a bias against any document that claims to define ‘standards’ of anything.

    On the other hand I applaud his (obsessive?) efforts to move forward the pendulum of the status of our profession by involving the Global Alliance and its Associations.

    Professional associations are probably necessary (not as sure of this today as I was when the GA was founded), yet their leaderships tend to have an ingrained need to justify their existence by reinforcing relationships with the more conservative and usually less attractive members.

    Standards (and codes for that matter..) thus tend to become their very legitimacy.

    There are of course exceptions, but they usually do not last more than one presidency… and come and go.

    Having said this, I also tend to agree with most of Heather’s critical points.

    The discussion in itself is certainly more stimulating and thought provoking than the very document it discusses and therefore I hope many more will want to contribute.

    The Global Alliance’s real, innovative and authentic legacy over the years rests more on the discussions and provokations sent through the vibes of our professional community around all corners of the world, than through the actual worthiness of its however good and ground breaking documents.

    In a recent blog post tweeted by prconversations. under the title Staying with discomfort, Euan Sample wrote that:

    ‘Institutions, corporations, and the old order generally, are struggling to keep up with the levels of disruption and change that we are seeing. Old stories no longer makes sense and we are groping forwards for new ways to understand and manage our world.

    There is much theorising being done about “the future of work”, or “new society”. But there is a real risk of leaping too soon for the comfort of a new “solution”. A formula that appears to take the pain away, that seems to explain everything. My sense is that we have too much to learn to be doing that so soon. We need to peel away more layers, pick at more sores, dig deeper into why things don’t feel right. We have had decades of the capitalist, corporatist, “buy stuff till you die” story and we now have the opportunity to collectively work out a new, more inspiring one. This is a much bigger opportunity than many realise and will take longer than we expect. Staying interested in why things feel wrong, why they fall apart, what our role in all of this is, is a once in several generations opportunity. We should make the most of it..

    My intepretation of this is ‘continuons le debat’.

    1. Thanks Toni. Interestingly what has happened in the career studies literature in the 5 or so years that I’ve been investigating it reflects this “status quo to all change to wait a minute” approach and that’s been very interesting.

      From the 20th century bureaucratic, organisationally led career model, there was a shift from the late 1990s towards ideas of boundaryless, protean and similar more individually centric models around self-efficacy and social construction rather than the matching, lifestage and career ladder concepts.

      The most recent thinking starts to row back and say that organization careers aren’t dead and the emphasis on individually-led careers favours those with the social capital and self-efficacy to look after themselves. Plus adding in the societal dimension (including impact of a global recession) requires ongoing consideration of how people can engage in meaningful work, and ensure organizational and political forces, aren’t using trends to dismantle the fabric of careers that deliver benefits to wider society.

      The potential impact of automated technology and the Uberisation of work require critical examination – within any context of the future of public relations standards. My belief is that we are in the middle of the evolution and revolution of public relations practice.

      Semple has a good point about taking the opportunity to collectively work out new narratives around what competencies (and more) employers need from PR practitioners, and what PR practitioners need from professional bodies.

  13. Jean – I don’t think that I conveyed my thinking well based on your response, so I’ll try to be a bit clearer.

    Regarding levels – I dislike the entire concept of levels as this approach is increasingly meaningless when work, jobs and careers are less hierarchical than in the bureaucratic 20th century model (which was traditionally seen in agency titles of account executive, account manager and account director)
    I appreciate that the historic work you analysed breaks down into entry and mid – but what do these actually mean? Is someone at ‘entry level’ according to how long they’ve worked in PR, or the experience they’ve gained (eg number of jobs or if they are managing people) or their job role or career lifestages or what?

    Rather than trying to define some arbitrary levels, surely if we are adopting a lifelong learning and CPD approach as a philosophy for the framework, we have to recognise that knowledge isn’t determined at levels or ‘added to’ as seems to be implied. Indeed, people aren’t blank sheets of paper when they enter PR (whether in their first job or with experience in other areas first) and bring knowledge, attitudes, skills etc with them – and gain them through life. Arguably that’s one issue with discussion around maternity/paternity or other career ‘breaks’ which are treat as time missing in a career but quite possibly reflect huge gaining of skills.

    I am also not saying that life long learning should be in any section – my argument is that it is a philosophy that should be guiding the entire project.

    Personally I would think it is a huge mistake to be operating on a micro-level of updatable competencies. For example, what’s important – whether someone can use Twitter competently, or that they’ve the skills to be able to use any emerging technology competently? Surely being able to understand underlying principles and knowing how to develop competencies through whatever methods are available makes for better professionals?

    I wholeheartedly support the ‘forward looking’ ethos – but my point on looking outside is not about adding in non-PR competencies but learning from other disciplines in putting the GBOK project together. Looking backwards is one aspect but we need to take a good look around with critical insight.

    This becomes even more relevant as occupational boundaries will become even more porous in the future and we need to show how the competencies gained in PR are valid for working as CEOs, entrepreneurs, managers/leaders of other disciplines and so on. Plus how those coming into PR with various background can connect their portfolio of competencies to what is required in the field.

    The future is also undoubtedly going to need PR people from a whole range of backgrounds and limiting our perspective to liberal arts omits the huge importance of science, mathematics, technology, engineering. And, we ignore the impact and ability to be competent in the areas of automated technology at our peril.

  14. Hello Heather. Thank you for getting the conversation started.
    I will try to address your points as best i can.

    On the issue of levels. We settled on two to reflect the two levels of credentials we observed in our analysis of the situation: entry-level and mid-career.
    In the 31 frameworks we analyzed, we did not observe the agency-model although one could map it out if you were looking for it. We did a content analysis against the Universal Accreditation Board’s KSA list which was the only comprehensive list available at the two levels.
    We tested the idea of a ‘no level’ with our proposed K section which we say could and should apply to all levels of practice- robots notwithstanding!

    Interestingly, I heard push-back on this just this week from one GA member organization who think knowledge should be scaled and scaleable with clear differentiators for entry and mid-career. Personally, I think we should expect even entry-level to know about the entire spectrum. That may be aspirational.
    I agree with you that today people learn from a variety of sources and approaches.

    I completely agree that the notion of life-long learning should be there and we captured it in our B (behaviours) section. It would also be our intention to revisit the GBOK every few years to keep it current and evolve with the practice.

    On your second thought, I can tell you that one of the 31 framework documents we examined was a job task analysis done for IABC in preparation, and in support of, its new certification scheme. The document did have a mix of outcomes and inputs. We did our best to write the GBOK with outcomes in mind but we aren’t there yet. It still needs editing and refinement.

    It also needs broad circulation and comments and specific suggestions for improvements.

    The 1.0 version we drafted for GA leaders consideration was based on the detailed content analysis we performed on the 31 frameworks. It tried to stay close to the ‘strong matches’ we found in 95% of the statements found in the benchmark. The version we put out for consultation (our 2.0 version) is starting to stray from the benchmark and that is a good thing. It incorporates comments heard and made at the GA AGM. We do need to be forward looking and not be reflective of the past only.

    The frameworks we examined were those supplied to us by GA member organizations ( accreditation, education frameworks and some scholarly work done in competencies (ECOPSI and other research done by Terry Flynn for example).

    It will be a challenge for us to include non-PR competencies beyond what we currently have listed in KSAs ( e.g. business literacy skills and personal attributes such as curiosity and an appetite for global thinking)

    Our colleagues who will, in future, run credentials programs using GBOK as a base will want to stay in territories they are competent to measure. Similarly academe who will want to see in GBOK a learning outcomes document for undergraduate (entry-level) and post graduate (mid-career) may want to have a blueprint they can implement within their own academic structures.
    The work we have considered to date continues to show a need for liberal arts background and competencies as well as business skills and savvy and public relations KSAs both the theoretical and practical aspects.
    Our profession requires a lot of hybrid training and thinking.

    The challenge with GBOK is to get all GA member organizations to embrace it as a way to make the profession stronger while offering them ways to implement it that are connected to the reality of a practice that is still evolving in different parts of the world.

    One of the ways we though we could achieve that is to make certain KSAs and all of the Bs mandatory or ‘foundation’ elements as well call them. Other KSA elements would be weighted by each member organization to reflect the state of practice in their country.

    Still lots of work ahead. And we haven’t yet heard from employers to see if that is what they need.

  15. I’ll start the conversation. I think this is interesting and fundamental, but I’d like to see it developed to allow for the changes in the working environment and the multiplicity of practical experiences and requirements within the PR field. To begin, I have three immediate thoughts.

    The first is around the idea of hierarchy – and particularly splitting any EBOK into three ‘levels’. I presume this reflects the traditional PR agency model of account exec, manager and director. However, that is challenged by several things not least new/flatter structures, specialisms and so on as the world of work has changed. It also raises the question of how you define each ‘level’. Time served seems a crude (and again old-fashioned/out-dated) measure, for example. A restrictively structural approach seems to go against ideas of life-long learning and professional development as a continuous ‘kaizen’ ethos. So can we develop a framework that allows for the continuity, variety and individuality of contemporary work/careers across the global practice in all sorts of organizations and as independent practitioners?

    My second thought is around the use of credentials and standards. There appears to be an implication of using these as a measure of assessment of practice (or indeed, of rating people eg in recruitment). Yet, the methods to date to identify competencies seems to rely on opinion, rather than any ethnographic or other real world study; and similarly the methods to determine level of competence seem to be questions and essays (in case of APR and CIPR chartered practitioner) so again not ‘testing’ in real world environments. Which raises the questions about what would be measured since we may be hard pressed to find more than some macro-level similarities between what people do in their jobs, let alone deciding the ‘best practice’ in doing this. We also have to be mindful that our understanding of the value of ‘knowledge’ is being challenged by the rise of the robots as increasing automation means much of what we know is less important than the ability to know things, and even more essentially to add value beyond what automated technology can reveal as a knowledge base much faster and generally more accurately than humans can. We have to guide against focusing on input rather than outcome. That is, are we interested in what people do to be assessed as ‘competent’ or in the ways in which competency translates into effectiveness – or indeed, into the self-efficacy to show initiative and go beyond existing competence?

    My final reflection would be to urge the process of developing a global standards framework to stretch outside the boundaries of public relations and look at other areas where the issues that will be raised and discussed by ourselves have been considered over longer periods and from different perspectives. I’m not sure to what extent all the previous efforts that Jean and his colleagues have reviewed have connected with the competency body of knowledge, but it is fruitful soil.

    For example, I find this definition of competency illuminating: The ability to successfully meet complex demands in a particular context through the mobilization of psychosocial prerequisites (including both cognitive and noncognitive aspects)” (Rychen and Salganik, 2003, p. 43)

    And, I find merit in this quote from Delors and Draxler (2001, pp.2150216):

    “There is a contradiction, which we see as only apparent, between the utilitarian, that is to say economically useful view of competencies on the one hand, and on the other, the view of competencies as being liberating forces enabling individuals to take charge of their own lives. That is where, it seems to us, it is more a question of time frames than of real conflict. Mere training for tasks can product short-term results in terms of productivity, but evidence shows that, in the long-run, economies are better service by a broadly educated population.”

    I’d really hope EBOK can be a liberating force rather than one that reflects a more judgemental or constrictive approach.

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