There was an interesting article that appeared in my timelines today from Stephen Waddington former president of the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR). He identifies five defining characteristics of a profession. He claims these are barrier to entry, community of practice, body of knowledge, ethical framework and continuous professional development. (http://www.thedrum.com/opinion/2016/04/07/so-you-think-you-re-marketing-or-public-relations-professional-think-again)
If you do some quick research there are many claims of what a profession is. It is everything from ‘a paid occupation’ involving prolonged training and formal qualification, to any type of work that needs a particular skill. In a particularly interesting definition it is said to be ‘a career for someone that wants to be part of society, who becomes competent in their chosen sector through training…continuous professional development.. and commits to behaving ethically’.
There are some key elements that appear to have some general agreement around including the need for training or qualifications and also for a continued learning. But what really makes a profession and can we claim to be communication professionals?
I absolutely think that there has to be some element of training and development that continues beyond any early activity to gain a foothold into the industry. It means people need to be identifying ways to continue learning and ultimately be working towards a significant qualification whatever that might be. Continuous professional development is so important and it is frustrating how many communicators don’t prioritise this.
A profession absolutely has to have clear standards of ethical behaviour. There has to be a code of ethics, or conduct that identifies what is acceptable and puts in place a clear process by which individuals can be challenged fairly, appropriately and properly. We see it with professions including lawyers, bankers and doctors. It doesn’t mean to say there will be no transgression but it does mean that it can, and should, be swiftly dealt with.
I do think we are already making use of academic research, particularly as it has become available with the arrival of social media and the changes to communication. More can be done but I don’t think we should get hung up on theoretical principles at the expense of being able to demonstrate results. Most professions can evaluate the contribution they make, for the doctor it is a healthy patient, for the accountant it has having financial stability and for communicators it needs to be in improving people’s lives.
I feel confident to say I am a communication professional and it is something I am very proud of. I will work to maintain it now and in the future.