Update on Accreditation from IABC Headquarters

Dear IABC members,

I wrote to all members on 2 December seeking help with recruiting applicants for the new IABC Global Communication Certification Council. I’m pleased to report there are now nearly 40 applicants, including some senior, well-respected IABC members. The application deadline is 10 January and we expect to receive even more applications between now and then.

In that note to members, I also promised an update on IABC’s progress toward launching a certification program. Today, I’m sharing additional information with you, including context on specific elements of the new certification program.

International Standards Organization (ISO)

You may have heard that IABC is seeking to create a certification program that meets  ISO standards. In other professions, ISO certification is in high demand globally. Securing an ISO standard for the communication profession can accomplish the same thing it has for other professions. ISO certification will further elevate the value of communication practitioners and our profession as a whole.

One of the main reasons people join IABC is to advance their careers. A standard, globally recognized certification will offer communication professionals a greater opportunity to achieve recognition and advance in their careers. Many other professions, including project and risk managers, human resources professionals, accountants, lawyers and doctors, already offer ISO certification. The accomplishments of IABC members who helped to grow our association and our profession over the past four decades have led us to this point when our profession is ready for ISO certification.

ISO certification is not something that can be applied for immediately. The program must be launched and managed for a couple of years and show good progress before we may apply. This means some people will become certified through IABC before the association attains the ISO designation. However, anyone who has achieved IABC certification and re-certifies when required will receive the ISO designation when IABC achieves it.

Career Road Map

You may have also heard of an IABC “Career Road Map” team. They are a group of senior-level IABC members who have been defining all the elements of a communication professional’s career. This includes developing such things as the Global Principles for our profession, a career assessment tool (a virtual career road map), certification, lifelong professional development, and awards and recognition programs.

The Career Road Map views our careers in four primary stages, including Foundation (new professionals entering the workforce); Generalist/Specialist (where work experience provides opportunities for a more strategic approach); Strategic Adviser (expanding expertise and increased responsibilities, including resource management); and Business Leader (professionals serving at a senior peer level, providing counsel, and helping to set organizational direction at a strategic level).

The “sweet spots” for our association are in the Generalist/Specialist and Strategic Adviser paths, and this will be the focus of our new certification program.

Two certification levels

There will be two certification levels available to IABC members and communication professionals worldwide. We wish to support the greater good of the profession, which means making our certification available to anyone who wishes to pursue it.

The two certification levels were selected based on both qualitative and quantitative research. And, as I mentioned before, they will be aligned with the Generalist/Specialist and Strategic Adviser levels of the Career Road Map.

To create an ISO-certified program, IABC must demonstrate that all candidates within the program have met a common standard, through a consistent application and testing process and a defendable, objective evaluation of professional knowledge and skills. IABC will launch one certification level at a time. Next steps, as required by the ISO, include:

  • Building a blueprint for the first-level certification.
  • Conducting a job task analysis.
  • Vetting the blueprint with communication professionals inside and outside of IABC.
  • Developing exam questions with the help of subject matter experts.
  • Piloting an exam.

To maintain certification, professionals must re-certify every few years to demonstrate they have continued to develop professionally by upgrading their skills, sharing their knowledge and the like. Details of what re-certification may entail will be communicated as those elements come together in the next several months.

To be successful, ISO-certified credentialing programs must comply with the policies, guidelines and rules of the ISO and its U.S. counterpart, the American National Standards Institute (ANSI). We will not achieve ISO certification without adhering to the requirements of these two organizations.

Accreditation and certification: Two different programs

IABC’s accreditation program is not the same as the certification program that is now in development. Because they are different programs, IABC will not “grandfather” accredited members into the new certification program at either level.

In addition, testing at both levels of the certification program will be different than the former accreditation exam process. In the new certification program, there will be no essay questions and no peer review process.

A more detailed presentation about the certification program was made recently to the IABC Council of Regions. I invite you to listen to the presentation and the dialogue. In addition, you will find a set of frequently asked questions and answers about certification on the IABC website.

If you have additional comments or questions, please send them to recognition@iabc.com. A staff member will respond to you as soon as possible.

Engaging accredited members in IABC’s future

The certification program transition provides an opportunity for IABC to improve the way it engages with its accredited members, and to take specific steps to ensure accredited members are a significant force in helping shape and lead IABC going forward.

Specific actions will continue for as long as there are members who hold the title Accredited Business Communicator (ABC):

  • ABCs will retain their designations as long as they are IABC members.
  • The Rae Hamlin Award for outstanding service by an ABC will continue to be awarded annually.
  • Information and recognition of the ABC designation will continue to be promoted on the IABC website and through other channels.
  • ABCs will be actively pursued for leadership positions within the association, and consulted on important issues, especially in relation to IABC’s professional development programs.
  • ABCs will be asked to help develop content for new courses, facilitate learning, and serve as facilitators in IABC’s new academy for lifelong professional development.
  • ABCs will be invited to assist in certification exam development by writing and evaluating exam questions.
  • ABCs have been asked, and will be asked in the future, to apply for positions on the Global Communication Certification Council, and ABCs will be asked to participate in various council subcommittees.
  • ABCs will be asked to serve as mentors for chapter boards and certification candidates.

A set of these and other recommendations is in development now. IABC staff will set up a webinar in January (schedules permitting) for us to share additional ideas with you, and also to solicit additional ideas for ensuring we keep ABCs engaged in key IABC roles for the long term.

Thank you for taking the time to read and learn more about the new certification program. I encourage you to listen to the recorded session with the Council of Regions, as it provides additional background information and details.

Also, I have asked staff to ensure we communicate ongoing certification program updates with all IABC members going forward. It is our goal to share program updates frequently.

We all know that strategic communication is a key business driver. As you gain additional understanding about certification, I ask for your support in helping IABC deliver an ISO-backed program that will provide communication professionals with the recognition they desire and deserve from employers and clients around the world.

I also ask for your additional ideas and support for keeping IABC members engaged in our association. Watch for more information coming in January about the webinar to discuss those ideas and the timeframes for implementation.

Robin McCasland
IABC Chair

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