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The Case for Accreditation

We’re in an era where it is becoming more and more difficult to separate fact from fiction, or truth from lies. The widespread dissemination and consumption of fake news by the public during the US election cycle highlights how easily people today can be deceived into believing things which are groundless. Some have even called today’s era the “post-truth” era, where falsehoods can triumph over facts.

In a world where mistruths become increasingly rampant, it becomes ever more crucial to have procedures in place that can verify the legitimacy of information, otherwise society at large could be led to ruin by acting upon unsubstantiated or erroneous “facts”.

One such procedure is accreditation, which provides evidence to support an organisation’s claims that they are reliable and operate to high standards. Just as an impressive reference or academic qualification provides an independent source of credibility and legitimacy for a jobseeker, accreditation performs the same role for an enterprise.

What is accreditation precisely?

Accreditation involves a firm undergoing a rigorous audit by an independent body that examines various dimensions of a firm’s operations. These typically include client servicing, team training and expertise, management, ethics, and financial administration. A firm that is accredited will have met a minimum standard in all of these areas, which provides reassurance to clients that the firm they are dealing with is a reputable one.

A firm which fails accreditation will nevertheless find the process enlightening, since they will receive vital feedback regarding the areas in which they are lacking, allowing them to implement improvements where needed.

Three reasons to become accredited if you are a communications firm

Given the above, three strong reasons can be offered for why companies in the communications industry should be accredited, although these reasons could apply to companies in many other industries as well.

  1. It makes business sense. Accreditation will assist communications firms to persuade prospective clients that they operate to high professional and ethical standards. This will help in attracting more clients to do business with firms, especially smaller firms which aren’t as well known and can’t rely so much on their brand name to seek business.
  2. It raises the bar of the communications industry in general. If a large number of marketing and PR agencies become accredited, standards will be raised across the whole of the communications industry, making it more competitive in the process.
  3. It will prevent communications companies from making big mistakes. Without passing a competent accreditation process, communications firms may have inefficient, corrupt or broken procedures in place that could spell disastrous results for their standing and future business. Consider the case of Dentsu, the Japanese marketing agency.

It recently came to light that Dentsu had been overbilling one of their major clients, Toyota, for over five years. Poor working conditions at the company also contributed to the suicide of an employee last year, which has led to an investigation by the authorities and the resignation of Dentsu’s CEO. These two scandals have significantly eroded the brand reputation of Dentsu and it has lost several clients as a result. A competent accreditation audit would have examined Dentsu’s billing processes and working conditions, flagging shortcomings in these areas and potentially preventing these catastrophic mistakes from happening in the first place.

How to get accredited if you are a Hong Kong communications firm
In Hong Kong, the accreditation process has been run by the Council of Public Relations Firms of Hong Kong (CPRFHK) since 2003, which audits firms based on international standards. Information on how to get accredited can be found here: http://www.cprfhk.org/accreditation/

By Rosemary Merz, Vice President and Managing Consultant at Text100.