A new survey revealed that many communication professionals perceive that a Global Communication Certification Council (GCCC) certification adds a level of credibility in practitioners’ current work, strengthens one’s credentials for new job prospects and builds practitioner confidence. Yet the majority of those surveyed have held back on pursuing certification for a range of reasons, from practicality to lack of awareness.
Commissioned by the GCCC, the survey sought to understand the perceptions and knowledge of the Communication Management Professional (CMP) and Strategic Communication Management Professional (SCMP) certifications, among communication professionals around the world. Between March and April 2021, 247 communication professionals from 20 countries responded to the survey that included IABC members and non-members.
While most respondents resided in North America, additional respondents came from:
- New Zealand
- South Africa
- United Kingdom
- Hong Kong
- Saudi Arabia
- United Arab Emirates
More than a third of respondents (36%) have sat for either the CMP or SCMP exam, with a small number (3%) having sat exams for both credentials. As the certification programs were introduced in 2015 (CMP) and 2017 (SCMP), it is understandable that the majority of the respondents have not yet sat for an exam. However, a third of respondents who haven’t sat for the certification exam indicated that they were interested and intended to apply in the next 12 months. This group of interested respondents reported that they are simply waiting either to become eligible, for eased pandemic restrictions or for the offer of virtual examinations.
The Impact of Certification
Respondents who were already or intending to be certified suggested that “intangible” personal benefits from certification outweigh the more “tangible” financial and career promotion benefits. While some respondents have experienced career advancement through pay increases, job promotion or recruitment approaches, the overall personal development benefits have been deemed equally valuable.
“Greater recognition and respect” for themselves and the work they do as communication professionals was a common reason for undertaking certification. Certification is viewed by many as a means to enhance one’s credibility within their workplace, among their peers and in the wider industry. Given that communication professionals have been battling legitimacy issues for many years, the credentials not only offer a sense of authority but also a competitive edge. As one consultant stated, “It's valuable to me as a consultant to say I'm globally certified.”
Achieving certification demonstrates leadership and expertise in the field, which then leads to enhanced personal branding. Respondents reported that being a “certified” expert opens doors toward speaking, mentoring and influencing opportunities. One senior respondent asserted, “I have a senior role, so this was more about personal pride and recognition that I am an SCMP. My colleagues and peers recognize certification as a valuable achievement.”
Pursuing certification also helped practitioners build confidence. Some respondents indicated that the certification process — from application, exam preparation, exam and renewal — is an integral part of their commitment to continuous personal and professional development. Keeping updated with theoretical and practical knowledge is a critical component of being a certified communication professional. For some, gaining the credential meant being given the extra assurance to venture into self-employment. One respondent added that the credentials impacted their clients’ perception, too. “It's given me confidence and it gives my clients confidence that I have been benchmarked against a global standard of strategic communication excellence.”
“Given that communication professionals have been battling legitimacy issues for many years, the credentials not only offer a sense of authority but also a competitive edge.”
A Professional Investment
Certified respondents indicated that they viewed certification as a long-term investment and use their CMP and SCMP postnominals as part of their personal branding. In addition to including the postnominals in their CVs, email signatures, social media and business promotions, some respondents also mentioned including them on their business cards, Zoom calls and work proposals for client business.
Because certified professionals saw certification as a long-term proposition, 75% of the certified respondents indicated they intended to renew annually. In reality, this figure is higher — currently 82% (CMP) and 92% (SCMP). To maintain one’s certification status, professionals need to demonstrate their active engagement and contribution to the profession through research, writing, speaking engagements, structured learning and volunteer work, to name a few. Respondents indicated that renewing their certification maintains their credibility, keeps their skills and knowledge up to date, and demonstrates professionalism and relevance. As one respondent suggested, “I believe in continuous learning and improvement, and this helps me keep up to date on current developments and changes in our profession.”
Reasons for Not Pursuing Certification
The majority of respondents who have not undertaken their certification revealed varying reasons for holding back. These respondents reported that limited information about and knowledge of the value of certification, as well as practical considerations, were key factors.
Many also highlighted the need for more clarity of the career benefits of certification before they could consider investing time and money in the process. For some, financial considerations — particularly during current pandemic conditions — constrained their ability to apply and sit for the examination. Some respondents who already gained ABC, APR and/or postgraduate academic credentials did not see the need for them to undertake further certification. Moreover, the respondents’ current employment status was a factor in considering certification. Respondents who were either unemployed, about to retire or retired queried its relevance to their career prospects. Some were simply not aware enough of the certification program.
The study revealed valuable insights around the current perceptions and knowledge of the GCCC’s certification program. The study also investigated respondent experiences around examination application and preparation processes. Many certified respondents highlighted the importance of knowing IABC’s Code of Ethics and reviewing resources like the IABC Handbook of Organizational Communication, the GCCC’s practice exams and other suggested resources. It was also heartwarming to note that many of the certified respondents offered to assist those wishing to undertake the certification process through mentoring.
While there is more work to be done to increase the uptake of certification, including consideration of virtual examinations, the study highlights how communication professionals value opportunities to enhance their credibility, credentials and confidence.
The CMP and SCMP certifications were introduced in 2015 and 2017, respectively, to ensure the continuous professional development of communication professionals with a focus on ethical practice. Administered and governed by the GCCC, two tiers of certification are offered for practitioners based on their years of experience: Communication Management Professional (CMP) and Strategic Communication Management Professional (SCMP). The certification process involves sitting for a three-hour exam under the supervision of a proctor. The CMP and SCMP certifications superseded the Accredited Business Communicator (ABC) credentials offered by IABC. In August 2020, the CMP received ANSI/ISO/IEC accreditation. Accreditation on the SCMP is expected in 2021. The program is open to eligible communication professionals around the world, regardless of IABC-membership status. More information is available at gcccouncil.org.
Marianne D. Sison, PhD, FPRIA, and Sia Papageorgiou, FRSA, SCMP
Marianne D. Sison, PhD, FPRIA, is Honorary University Fellow at RMIT University, Melbourne, Australia. She is also an IABC member and former certification director at IABC Asia Pacific, and former member of the IABC International Research Committee.
Sia Papageorgiou, FRSA, SCMP, is a multi-award-winning strategic communication consultant and trainer based in Melbourne, Australia. She is the chair of the GCCC and is a former IABC regional and chapter leader. In 2021, she was named IABC Asia-Pacific’s Communicator of the Year.