Qualifications: PR’s hidden success story

About the author

Kevin is a co-founder of PR Academy and editor/co-author of Exploring Internal Communication published by Routledge. Kevin leads the CIPR Internal Communication Diploma course. PhD, MBA, BA Hons, PGCE, FCIPR, CMgr, MCMI.

PR Academy is 15 years old this month, write co-founders Kevin Ruck and Ann Pilkington.

We set the business up to provide the first online Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR) PR Diploma. And we haven’t looked back since.  

More on our short history later. But first another story that is little reported or appreciated in the public relations world: the success of professional PR qualifications. 

Although there is no absolute record of the number of PR people who have become qualified, a reasonable estimate is between 15-20,000*. This includes all practitioners who have studied a CIPR, PRCA, or AMEC qualification. That is a substantial group, perhaps 20 percent of all current practitioners. And this has been achieved virtually from scratch in a 25-year (or so) timeframe. PR can justifiably proclaim to be well on the path to becoming a qualified occupation. Something that I think should really be celebrated a bit more so it will be good to join recent graduates at the CIPR graduation ceremony on Saturday. 

At PR Academy, we have been at the heart of delivery of professional qualifications in the past decade and we believe that at least half of all practitioners with a professional CIPR qualification have studied with us.

We designed the initial specialist CIPR Diplomas in Internal Communication, Public Affairs, and Digital Communications. We revamped AMEC’s International Certificate in Measurement and Evaluation. And more recently we developed three new PRCA Diploma courses in Public Affairs Management, Change Management Communication, and Integrated Communication. All with the valuable help of our course leaders, tutors, and subject matter experts.  

The core team at PR Academy has been together for some time now. Our course manager, Izabella Fejer, has been with us since the start and keeps us on the straight and narrow. Shelley Pickles has been with us for eight years now and has really transformed the enrolment process and support for students. Our philosophy is simple; to help students understand and apply theory into more effective and ethical practice. All our course leaders (doctors and directors) exemplify this student-centred approach – we all love to teach! 

We have been really fortunate to work with some great consultants and agencies recently. The exceptionally intelligent team at BrightMinded have transformed our website. The outstanding people at Focus Mode have developed our content marketing beyond all bounds. The super talented Nadja Stanglauer has introduced to us to Airtable for project management. And of course, Richard Bailey, brings a tremendous wealth of knowledge and PR wisdom to his role as editor of PR Place Insights. Last year we also partnered with the inspirational Reem Masswadeh in Dubai who has set up the PR Academy MENA for training and qualifications in that region. 

We are extremely proud of our teaching record. But, of course, all the really hard work has been done by our students.

Studying a qualification is the most valuable professional development activity that can be undertaken. It requires a lot of time, tough reflection, and application. And the assessment is robust. But the rewards are substantial.

Our students frequently report higher levels of confidence and the qualification also often leads to a career move or promotion.  

What’s next? We have big plans for 2023. In the meantime, we’re busy undergoing the largest ever revamp of all our courses. We decided against using an off-the-shelf learning platform and resisted the temptation for a simplistic use of Teams or Zoom for course delivery. This is because we really understand how practitioners want to learn today. It’s important to them to have bite-sized content that they can study and fit in with a busy work and home life. So, working with Brightminded, we’ve designed a bespoke learning management system that incorporates short videos, access to a hand-picked library with more than 50 PR titles, podcasts, audio clips, visuals, and interactive in-person workshops. The first ‘new’ course started this week.  

Here’s to the next 15 years! 

*A fuller exploration of the development of PR qualifications up to 2018 can be found in a chapter titled ‘Professional Qualifications: Past, Present and Future’ by Heather Yaxley, in CIPR’s ‘Platinum’ book published as part of its 70th anniversary.