I have to start this post with a confession. I’ve been on the IIAR Board for nearly 10 months and only recently got around to taking the IIAR Certified Professional exam. Shame on me. But like a lot of other IIAR members I suspect, I was put off by misconceptions about the test. So having gone through the process and come out the other side relatively unscathed and with a shiny new certificate to put on my wall, I thought it might be helpful to share my experiences and hopefully dispel some of the myths. And if I can encourage more members to take the certification test, even better.
Myth #1: It’s too hard
This is a tough test – make no mistake. It challenges all areas of your AR knowledge and you need to do your homework before sitting down to take it. But it’s not impossibly hard. The IIAR provides a study guide on its blog about what to expect, including the key topic areas and a sample test. Take some time to go through these, make sure you’re familiar with the different analyst firm methodologies (MQs, TEI studies and MarketScopes etc.) and processes and you’ll be in good shape to take the exam.
I have to say there are some areas of the test that I struggled with, particularly the “Which of the following is not true?” questions. And I’m pretty sure that one question on analyst firm revenues is unanswerable, so the test could still do with a little refining. But there’s now a greater focus on knowledge of AR processes, and less on facts and figures, so overall it felt tough but fair. I finished comfortably within the allowed 90 minutes, with plenty of time to double check answers.
Myth #2: It’s too inconvenient
For me, this was the biggest obstacle to taking the test. When would I ever get a block of 90 minutes without interruptions? In fact, it’s very flexible and easy to arrange. Just email Peggy O’Neill and she’ll send a link with details about how to access the questions. You can then sit the test at any time that’s convenient to you. Just be aware that it does have to be done in one sitting.
Myth #3: I’ll be embarrassed if I fail
All tests are completely confidential so if you do fail first time, only you will know. IIAR members can retake the test as many times as they want to, for free. Non-members pay £100, and this includes a free re-take if necessary.
Myth #4: There’s no point
For many people, perhaps this is the greatest obstacle. If I’m an established AR professional, with a good track record, why do I need to bother with the IIAR Certified Professional exam?
We work in an industry that’s not well understood by those outside of our field. We’re often seen as an adjunct to PR – as a tool for pushing out company messages rather than bringing strategic value to the organisation. So I believe that independent validation of our professional knowledge and understanding has to be a good thing. An HR recruiter who doesn’t know anything about AR will still recognise the value of a professional award from an industry body.
The Certified Professional is also the first step to the new IIAR Advanced Certification, a multi-level award that recognises the track record, experience and knowledge of those working in the analyst relations field for four years or more.
For IIAR members, all it costs is your time. So go ahead – take the plunge!