Do some capital letters on your business card make you an expert? Does their absence make you incompetent?
The obvious answer is no. So what possible reason is there to pursue a law degree, earn an accounting designation, earn your professional assocation certification, or for that matter, any other official recognition of accomplishment or learning?
At least two reasons that I can think of:
- Gaining credibility; and
- Tempering your skills and experience in the fires of the accreditation process.
Professional associations weren't created in isolation. They were formed by people who had something to gain from working with others to gain skills, share knowledge and raise the profile of their profession.
Accounting has one of the more rigorous accreditation processes, and they've managed to parlay that into credibility in business circles. You'll notice that they focus a lot of attention on improving mangement skills, which doesn't seem to be a focus for business communicators. Maybe that's why they've been so successful. Yet, even with all that rigour, you still see at least three different kinds of accounting designations, and anyone can do accounting without accreditation as long as they don't claim to be accredited. They're called bookkeepers and a number of other names, and they do damn good work.
Anything that pushes you to re-examine your methods and prove that the way you do things works is a good thing. Yes, such processes can stifle creativity. If you are approaching public relations projects with some radical new approaches, you may find the people who run the accreditation process don't understand the value of what you're doing, or question your methods. Welcome to the downside of innovation.
Is accreditation the only way to show the world you are qualified? Nope.
Is it worth pursuing? Only if you think the effort will bring real value to you or increased perceived value to your reputation.
Todd Defren argues that because a person with no accreditation can practise public relations with excellence, there's no need to make accreditation mandatory.
Stuart Bruce weighs in, saying accreditation is valuable to the PR profession's credibility.
(It's not too late to join the International Association of Nobodies.)
I responded to Stuart in his comments section:
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