The Global Alliance has published an international competency framework for communications and public relations.

Communications and public relations have very few standards or competencies. It’s extraordinary for a business that is seeking to work at the highest level within organisations, as well as to manage reputation.

Anybody with a computer and a mobile phone can set themselves up as a communications or public relations consultant and offer tactical services such as media relations or social media management.

Written communication and time served are typically metrics of expertise in communications or public relations. This fails to recognise the contribution of public relations to an organisation and makes no sense in an industry that is moving so quickly.

Without a competency framework it’s difficult to benchmark one practitioner against another or apply a strategic approach to building educational, training or continuous professional development (CPD) programmes.

A project by the Global Alliance, the international umbrella organisation for public relations professional bodies, is making amends. Under the leadership of Professor Anne Gregory and Jean Valin it has analysed more than 30 competency, education and accreditation frameworks, or credentialing schemes, from public relations associations from around the world.

Building a framework that has global application from the Netherlands to Kenya or from China to the US is an ambitious task. It must be broad enough to cover developed and emerging markets and yet be sufficiently granular as to be meaningful. The latest version of the Global Body of Knowledge (GBOK) results from a two-year crowdsourcing and consultation exercise.

The GBOK project describes two levels of practitioner, namely entry-level and mid-career or senior level. A series of activities has been attributed to each role as set out below.

Early career or entry-level role

Two types of work were identified by the research – technical or managerial – and twelve roles typical of an entry level or early career in public relations:

  • account or client management
  • strategic planning
  • public relations program planning
  • project management
  • media relations
  • social media relations
  • issue management
  • crisis management
  • internal or employee communication
  • special event, conferences and meetings
  • community relations
  • stakeholder relations

The framework maps these roles across knowledge including areas such as research, ethics, communication models, and business literacy; and skills and abilities such as writing and visual literacy.

Mid-career or senior roles

The Global Alliance identified the following nine roles as typical of a more experienced professional and of senior professionals:

  • reputation management
  • government relations and public affairs
  • evaluation and measurement
  • definition of values and guiding principles
  • building and managing trust
  • advanced environmental scanning and trend identification
  • evaluative research
  • building and managing trust
  • issue identification

The framework maps these roles across knowledge, skills and abilities. It includes an additional area of behaviours including the application of professionalism, ethics and law.

Stephen Waddington, partner and Chief Engagement Officer, Ketchum, tracked the Global Alliance project as President and Past President of the CIPR in 2014 and 2015.

“It is an important piece of work that gives a clear benchmark for the knowledge, skills and behaviours of communications professionals at every stage of their career. It provides clear benchmarks for individual performance and training throughout the career journey,” said Waddington.

So far the GBOK project has been undertaken thanks to volunteer effort. Indeed the team deserves congratulations and significant recognition for what it has achieved in the past two years.

Professor Anne Gregory and Dr Johanna Fawkes have secured funding at the University of Huddersfield in the UK to take the project forward.

Their goal is to build a global capabilities framework based on the body of knowledge that has been collated through this project. The team has set out a timeline to present the framework at the next World Public Relations Forum in Oslo in 2018.