"If you are working on something that you really care about, you don’t have to be pushed. The vision pulls you.” — Steve Jobs

Public Information Officers have had a vision for decades of creating a national certification or professional designation of some sort to highlight to leadership the position’s validity, value, and credibility but also to bring intrinsic value to those in the position. After all, we know that the training, expertise, skill, and education that goes in to being an effective PIO is not for the faint of heart or lazy!

Over those years, many have sought pathways to achieve this vision but unfortunately, were repeatedly met with dead ends or diminished drive.

In 2020, a group of Master Public Information Officers and Advanced PIOs from FEMA’s Emergency Management Institute began meeting biweekly to discuss current issues in the field of public information, particularly the onslaught of COVID-19, civil unrest, and other overarching, taxing themes of the times. In the wake of those challenges, several PIOs were faced with either fighting for their positions within their organizations or the more personal struggle of whether to change careers due to burnout and underappreciation. Those conversations reignited the charge to create a professional designation and credentialing process for PIOs.

A small focus group was formed to lead the efforts. At the time, I was serving as President of the National Information Officers Association and had the pleasure and honor of chairing.

Two years ago this month, the group submitted a proposal to the Center for Public Safety Excellence (CPSE) to serve as the host organization for an international PIO credential. This organization was selected given its international footprint and decades of professional credentialing experience. The proposal contained a strong case for this designation, its need, benefits, and projected success. Research was conducted to obtain imaginable and achievable markets and to pinpoint national standards to which the technical competencies could be written.

In late September 2021, CPSE’s Commission on Professional Credentialing (CPC) met in person for the first time since Covid and unanimously voted to send the proposal to the CPSE Board of Directors.  In December, the Board unanimously approved to move forward with the project.

In January of this year, the development committee was formed as were sub-committees for eligibility criteria, technical competencies/references, and beta testing/peer reviewing. By early summer, the committee met its goals and rolled out the application to a select group of beta testers.

Just last month, beta testers and peer reviewers met to give feedback on the application and provide suggestions for improvement. The feedback received careful consideration from the development committee and the most recent edition of the application reflects the implemented recommendations.

CPC met this week to approve the final application for an anticipated rollout date of 15th November. They also voted on the 10 applications that were submitted during the beta testing phase, marking the first 10 CPSE credentialed PIOs in the world! This is monumental for our profession!!!

Noteworthy is the fact that this is the first international credential CPSE has hosted in decades and has laid the groundwork for others to come—most recently, Data Analyst. The credential, open to eligible public and private sector public information officers of various disciplines and backgrounds, opened the door for the first time for civilians to apply. The same will be for the Data Analyst credential when it is completed.

Steve Jobs’ quote holds true for this specific vision. A group of passionate PIOs came together with a shared vision and because of our determination to see this through, none of us were going to stop until this finally came to fruition. Relationships, hard work, and divine intervention were the perfect recipe for baking this final product. There was “no need to push…the vision pulled us!” Though it took some time, it is phenomenal to see this dream become a reality.

A special “thank you” to those who had any part in this endeavor. Whether you served on the original focus group, provided letters of support, took part in the survey, served as a beta tester or peer reviewer, or even sent up the good vibes, you contributed in a BIG way to advancing the field of public information for years to come!

If you would like to learn more about the credential, the application process, or general information on the Center for Public Safety Excellence, please visit www.cpse.org.

I’m also happy to help answer any questions you may have.

Connect with Ashley on LinkedIn

October 6, 2022

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