Magazine article Communication World

The Evolution of Accreditation: Communicators and Their Employers Are Increasingly Recognizing the Value of an ABC

Magazine article Communication World

The Evolution of Accreditation: Communicators and Their Employers Are Increasingly Recognizing the Value of an ABC

Article excerpt

It's no coincidence that business communication has evolved over the past 35 years as the accredited business communicator designation, or ABC, has become a professional global standard that enhances communicators' credibility. IABC's accreditation process is both a professional development program and a way to recognize those who effectively manage the communication function with a deep understanding of professional ethics, strategic planning and measurement. However, those standards have progressed over time, says IABC Fellow Bobbie Resnick, ABC, MC, semiretired principal of Roberta Resnick & Associates in Toronto.

"We didn't call ourselves professionals in the '50s and '60s, because we learned on the job and from other communicators," Resnick says. "In those days before word processors, I couldn't bear to type a story more than three times because I'd make too many mistakes for the typesetter to read. We didn't learn to do communication audits and focus groups until the 1960s, and began to focus on strategic versus tactical communications in the 1970s.

"I earned my ABC in 1978 in a spirit of 'I'll show you that I'm a professional.' And I did!" says Resnick, who at the time was an organizational communicator at Libby's (now Nestle) in Canada. "However, I don't think that it changed the way people looked at me until much later in my career, when the ABC became a well-known credential here in Canada indicating our degree of sophistication and ability to advise management."

Mary Ann McCauley, ABC, president of Minnesota-based Catalyst Communications, "graduated" from one of the first accreditation completion programs, in which chapters offer a framework for progressing through the four steps: application, ethics assessment, portfolio submission, and written and oral exams.

"In 1982, our four St. Louis, Missouri, ABCs targeted 14 senior members as candidates," McCauley says. "Eleven of us took the exam that year after meeting three or four times over a couple of months to discuss the requirements. Talk about time pressure. I did my exam on a manual typewriter, and one of us handwrote his answers.

"Accreditation was an advantage at General Dynamics, which was dominated by engineers with initials after their names," says McCauley of her former employer. "But the real value was the self-assessment process that accreditation put us through. You had to be strategic and not 'siloed' into one particular communication discipline. IABC and accreditation also provided me with new information anda network of very smart people. For example, I learned a strategic planning framework at an IABC district board meeting 20 years ago that I'm still using today."

Rich E|lis, ABC, began his career in 1981 asa "jack of all PR trades" at a major university medical center. He earned his ABC in 1992 in hopes that it would help him continue to land better jobs at higher salaries. "Ironically, I discovered the real value of the ABC was validation of my expertise in my own eyes, not the eyes of others," says Ellis, who now helps advocate Verizon's public policy positions to government officials as executive director of federal regulatory affairs.

"Like many folks, I had the recurring nightmare that at some point my boss was going to realize I didn't know what I was talking about," Ellis says. …

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