Is Accreditation Worth It?


Is it a good idea to earn a bunch of letters after your name? ABCAPR and CPRC, to name a few.

As with many decisions, it depends.

First, what are these letters?

They’re the accreditation programs offered by various professional associations for corporate communications and public relations.

IABC offered the Accredited Business Communicator designation through 2013 and is moving to ISO certification. 

The Universal Accreditation Boardof which PRSA is a participating member, offers the Accreditation in Public Relations designation.

The Florida Public Relations Association offers the Certified Public Relations Counselor designation for senior-level professionals.

Second, should you want them?

Earlier in my career, I pursued accreditations to help establish credibility and confidence in my capabilities as a communicator. They were part of the evolution in my journey of demonstrating my professional knowledge. A logical next step after my PR certificate and my M.A.

Right after I hit the required five years of work experience, I earned an ABC. Shortly after than came an APR.

As my work expanded into Human Resources, I added an SPHR, or Senior Professional in Human Resources.

But here’s the thing. I was motivated to prove something to myself, not to others. I wanted to show myself that I had mastered a body of knowledge. That I had reached a certain level of expertise. And that I had what it took to contribute at the next level.

It was intrinsic motivation. I was internally motivated to add to my knowledge bank – for the sheer joy of learning something new and applying my new-found knowledge to my work.

And to continue learning through the recertification process every few years. Lifelong learning is what enables you to thrive in a rapidly changing world. It gives you more confidence in your abilities to handle whatever comes your way.

Leonard A. Schlesinger and others make a compelling case for this in a Harvard Business Review piece about the information explosion and continually retraining and relearning for the future.

When I hear people talk about accreditation, the underlying rationale is often extrinsic motivation. There’s an expectation of an external reward. Could be getting hired, getting a raise or getting promoted.

From my perspective, there are more effective ways to make the case for those external rewards. Things like sharing your best work, showing the results you achieved for your organization and giving insight into how you think and solve problems.

This may be why accreditation seems to have fallen out of favor in recent years. Fewer people are pursuing accreditation, perhaps because they don’t see the rewards or a return on their investments. Associations are stepping up their marketing efforts in response. And so the cycle goes.

Like with most things in life, you’ll go further with intrinsic motivation. Do things because they’re important to you personally and you derive satisfaction from them.

This has implications for leadership as well. Creating the conditions for people to be internally motivated will lead to greater performance, after the extrinsic needs such as salary have been met.

Someone will go the greater distance because of a burning motivation within. Our job as leaders is to provide a sense of meaning and purpose that speaks to our team members and fuels an inner passion to excel.

This means investing time in getting to know each person as an individual. What are their passions? What are their aspirations? What’s most important to them?

Once you know this, you can structure your team for maximum impact and tailor your leadership approach for each person.

Third, what do you do with them?

Do I list my accreditations in my LinkedIn profile? Of course. Why wouldn’t I showcase my dedication to lifelong learning?

Do I include them in my email signature or on my business card? Absolutely not. I want the focus to be on my name. On my personal brand.

Should you get accredited? Probably not. Unless you love learning and want to prove something to yourself.

Work on your social media presence, your speaking ability and your strategic agility. Bring new ideas and fresh thinking to your job every day – all topics of upcoming posts.

Published by

Caroline Leach

Hi, I'm Caroline Leach. I help people and organizations tell their stories. I'm a Marketing VP at AT&T, a former Communications VP at DIRECTV and an alum of the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. This blog, How to Build Your Career through Social Media, shows you how to build your personal brand, advance your career and embrace your future. It helps you promote your employer and your network too. Opinions expressed in this blog are my own. Your comments are welcomed and encouraged. I'd love to hear from you!

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