To mark BIG being re-awarded the PRCA Communications Management Standard accreditation, Stewart Argo of our Edinburgh office reflects on the demands of the process.

Who doesn’t love audits? As it turns out, quite a lot of people. Not me though. The first time I was on the receiving end of one was around 15 years ago and I’ve kept volunteering for such occasions since.

But with the most recent one, I felt I’d maybe bitten off more than I could chew. And then I began to feel like most folk probably do when faced with a very long list of requirements they’re expected to provide the evidence for.

Usually, this is right up my street. After all, one of my favourite books is The Checklist Manifesto (alarming and reassuring in equal measure about medical procedures!)

For those that don’t know, the PRCA CMS requires PR agencies to provide they have robust systems in place on more than 100 points on leadership, communications, strategy, planning, benchmarking, recruitment, diversity, budgeting, cash flow, client satisfaction, new business, proposals, billing, project management, appraisals and much more.

It’s a sample-based process: you gather all the evidence, give yourself a rating, and then the assessor asks you at random to back that up within a two-hour window.

Even when you’re really well-prepared it’s still what I imagine it feels like being in the Masterchef kitchen: despite having a plan and plenty of time, it still flies by in a blur.

Thankfully, at the end of our moderation process, we passed. And although I was leading the work, we only did well thanks to the contribution of literally dozens of colleagues across the business who care about doing the best possible job. And that’s an important feature of this process.

It’s easy to get caught up thinking that you’re doing this for PRCA, or for clients, or for passing a qualification test in RFQs. But we shouldn’t do it for any of those reasons. We should do it for ourselves.

What do I mean?

Yes, you can see this as just a checklist and a mission to get the ticks of approval. Or, you can see it as an opportunity to learn and get better.

That’s what we do because we’re not perfect (please nobody tell the boss I said that). We’re always trying to improve the quality of what we do and how we work. We’re always looking at practice elsewhere and seeing what we can apply for ourselves. And while it’s nice getting the certificate, it’s much more about having that creative culture that refuses to settle for ‘it’s always been done that way’.

The process is demanding and rigorous. That’s what gives it value. An audit that’s easy to pass isn’t much of an audit. So, I’d encourage you to speak to PRCA if you work in an agency about going through the process. (And if you have an agency that’s not us, ask them if they’ve got the CMS accreditation!)

You never know what you might learn. And you’ll be very pleasantly surprised to realise all the things you already do well.

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