What Is Global Communication Certification and Why Pursue It?

By Sue Stoney
VP, Communications, SF IABC

Are you a communicator who wants to be taken seriously in your field? Have you wondered whether your career would benefit from a plan of continuous professional development connected with a globally recognized certification program? Then you will want to know about the Communication Professional Certification program spearheaded by the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC).

What is Communication Professional Certification?

IABC, established in 1970, has been offering training and awards programs and ABC accreditation to communicators to support them in maintaining a global standard of excellence.

In 2015, IABC replaced its ABC accreditation with a new program offered to the business communication community that extends beyond the IABC membership. The new program actually consists of a series of certifications being developed by the Global Communication Certification Council (GCCC), a team of communication professionals assembled by IABC’s international executive board (IEB). The new program is in keeping with the International Standard Organization (ISO) standard 17024, built on a peer-created Global Standard and mapped to four broad career levels.

Think of a pyramid. At its base are the two “Generalist/Specialist” levels of business communication expertise – the Foundational (certification for which is expected to be available in 2019) and the next level up from that, the Communication Management Professional (CMP). CMP certification has been available to mid-level communication professionals since 2015.

The two levels above CMP, “Strategic Advisor” and “Business Leader”, are tentatively planned for 2017 and 2018, respectively.

Achieving CMP certification requires verifiable documentation of formal education/degrees, training and experience. The process also involves sitting for an exam that tests the applicant on five domains that map to the Global Standard of Excellence subscribed to by the IABC – Ethics, Research and Analysis, Strategy and Engagement, Strategic Implementation and Measurement. Candidates have two years from the date of application to pass the exam and must demonstrate that they subscribe to a code of professional ethics (IABC’s or another organization’s) and commit to keeping their skills current with ongoing training.

The IABC website provides the information you need to know to apply for CMP certification.

Who should consider certification and, more importantly, why?

Everyone who is serious about being seen as a professional business communicator should consider certification.

The materials on the subject on IABC’s site repeat the word “strategic” frequently. To be taken seriously as a professional in your field, you must learn to think strategically, not simply in the sense of being smart as you climb the career ladder, but in the sense of growing into leadership roles that require you to view what you do from an entrepreneurial perspective. The business world is looking for people who understand how actions taken today affect the bottom line today, tomorrow, and in the future.

And that bottom line extends from individual businesses to the national and global economy. To gain the ear of the CEOs, CTOs, CFOs and CMOs of the world, you must demonstrate that your expertise—business communication—is vital to moving business forward sustainably, responsibly, ethically and profitably in a world that is more connected than at any other time in human history.

No matter where you are in your career, you can benefit from certification because it is:

  • An internationally recognized credential
  • A way to identify yourself as a career professional
  • Planned professional growth folded into its annual renewal process
  • Recognition that you are a strategic thinker and business leader

I found IABC’s web page featuring the CMP graduates a compelling argument supporting the notion that the CMP certification currently available appeals to business communicators at every experience level, even those with a background that puts them at one of the higher levels of business communication experience.

With this article, I hope to start a conversation about what professional certification means to you as a business communicator. Do you see it as vital to getting a seat at the C-Suite table? In what circumstances would you consider applying for certification? Let’s explore certification together.

Sue StoneySue Stoney is a writing coach, writer, and editor and VP of Communications for the San Francisco chapter of IABC. For more than 20 years, in the corporate world and as an independent communicator, Sue has helped many people develop content and write the stories that contribute to their business bottom line. Sue is TheMessageCrafter.com.

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