Two years ago, the PRSA and the IABC undertook major reviews of the their respective credentials programs. PRSA examined the management and perceptions surrounding this 60 year-old credential while IABC scrapped its ABC designation and re-tooled its offering in pursuit of an eventual ISO recognition. This provided the impetus for a deep-dive analysis of all credentials and educational frameworks used by the members of the Global Alliance (GA) who saw an opportunity to explore yet another global standard. The GA has since 2003 published a consensus-based global code of ethics.

It is an internationally accepted notion that public relations is recognized as a strategic function. Yet in many countries, that is only a goal. Unfortunately, the practice does not have an internationally recognized benchmark of KSABs. If public relations does not establish its own standards an outside influence will.

I was asked to lead this project and determine if, through our analysis, a global body of knowledge (GBOK) was possible.

Our conclusion: an internationally recognized body of knowledge is both possible and necessary for the future success and professionalization of public relations. Through extensive content analysis of 31 credential schemes, education frameworks, and scholarly articles produced across six continents, (over 900 pages) the Global Alliance for Public Relations and Communications Management (GA) has developed a foundational list of knowledge, skills, abilities and behaviours (KSABs), which entry and mid/senior-level practitioners across the world should possess. This study and list of KSABs is laying the foundation for development of an internationally accepted framework which professional associations and academic institutions across the world will be able to use to benchmark professional credentials and curriculum outcomes.

The project took on even greater significance when it received a major research grant from Huddersfield University in the UK, which will take the result of GBOK and convert it to a capabilities approach which has the merit of thematically bundling KSA’s and allow flexibility to detail specific areas that are useful for different cultures and continents. In other words, rather than being prescriptive and providing a black and white, ‘check-the-box’ list of KSA’s, and a list of behaviours (B), we would allow professional bodies to align KSA’s that are relevant to their situation and apply the right weight and level of detail to the capabilities.

Why is this important? For decades we have been debating what is public relations. We did this in the media relations age, the social media age, the content creation period, and now we are about to transform again with artificial intelligence tools and approaches that will once again transform the way we practice.

At the root of it all however is what we do – the capabilities we bring to the workplace; the skills and knowledge we teach our students. That is why agreeing on the global body of knowledge was so important and why the capabilities phase will be so rewarding and promising for the profession.

And where else than at the Global Alliance table- the United Nations of our profession – could these discussions evolve and be submitted for consideration.

We used the following definition of KSABs to organize the descriptors:

  • Knowledge: the theoretical or practical understanding a practitioner requires in order to practice competently. It is the foundation on which a practitioner develops their skills, abilities, and behaviours.
  • Foundation skills and abilities: universal and essential to practice anywhere in the world.
    • Skills: what practitioners need to learn and practice in order to act competently.
    • Abilities: the innate qualities of being able to act competently.
  • Behaviours: how knowledge and skills are put into practice.

The full document is available here on the Global Alliance web site:

What next? The capabilities approach will be tested and refined over the next 18 months through an international network of academics, professional bodies, industry groups and be widely circulated in and outside the GA network. The work started at the World Public Relations Forum (WPRF) in Toronto this past May and will be concluded in April 2018 at the WPRF in Oslo, Norway.

Concurrently, the Commission on Public Relations Education is in the early stages of research towards its next iteration of curriculum standards. The GBOK work will be one consideration in establishing KSA’s. If you haven’t already taken the survey that will shape the next report do so here please:

I would love to hear your thoughts and am grateful for being involved in this world-class research project that can transform our profession.

9cc7f6b7bbf660960073f42016c47fa11368127754_lJean Valin APR, FCRPR, Honorary Fellow CIPR is a founding member and past chair of the Global Alliance. He has received awards from several professional bodies for his contribution to the profession. He is the Principal associate of Valin Strategic Communications and has over 35 years of experience in the public and private sector.

Heidy Modarelli handles Growth & Marketing for IPR. She has previously written for Entrepreneur, TechCrunch, The Next Web, and VentureBeat.
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