Since the father of public relations’, Edward Bernays, plea in 1992, various public relations professionals have been arguing that there is an urgent need for the public relations field to be licensed. Though none of them have been successful so far, many practitioners, like Shel Holtz, remain adamant that licensing would advance the profession and eliminate several problems.
The public relations field should be licensed because:
- it would establish a code of ethics all practitioners would have to adhere to. Across-the-board ethical standards would help eradicate spin doctors, black hat SEO and other practices that have given public relations a bad image.
- relating to the above point, the public and clients would have a greater trust in public relations professionals. They would have a stronger confidence that practitioners are creating and maintaining mutually beneficial relationships, gaining positive publicity, and crafting a genuine public image through transparent, ethical means.
- it would elicit a greater respect from those in other professions. I am currently writing an undergraduate thesis about the feminization of public relations and in the research I have done so far, I have discovered that there are those outside of the field who do not think public relations is a real job. Once there is a licensing requirement, other specialists may take public relations more seriously.
- right now, anyone can call themselves a public relations practitioner, which is probably a contributing factor to the issue listed in my last point. Licensing will help keep so-called public relations professionals, like Ryan Holiday, from associating themselves with the field and practicing their version public relations.
- no matter which career path professionals in any field choose to take, they can never have too much education, knowledge or expertise.
I think it is the responsibility of the current and upcoming generations of public relations professionals to make the dream that past influential practitioners had of a licensed profession a reality. I do not know about you, but I want to be one of the public relations game changers.
What do you think about licensing? If you are for it, how do you think soon-to-be public relations graduates can help make public relations a licensed profession?