A badge of assurance: Why we took the SCMP® exam

A blog by Simon Monger, SCMP®, IABC UK&I Board Member


Like a lot of people, I’m asked on a regular basis to “do my comms magic” on a project or piece of writing. Now, I don’t really mind this – after all, what we as communication professionals do does indeed have a little magic to it – and it’s far better than being asked to make something “look pretty” (more common than you’d hope). But for me, it’s important that I am valued as a professional – just like accountants, lawyers, and the other subject matter experts.


So, in 2020, I decided to sit the senior-level Strategic Communication Management Professional (SCMP®) certification exam, run by the Global Communication Certification Council (GCCC®) in association with the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC). The SCMP®, as explained on the GCCC® website, is ‘for highly-skilled business communicators practiced in providing strategic communication advice and counselling to an organisation’s leadership’.


There is also a Communication Management Professional (CMP®) certification ‘for generalist, specialist and other business communicators established in their careers as managers and looking to demonstrate their competence. The CMP® is an ANSI-Accredited Personnel Certification Program – Accreditation #1259 – proving the prestige and value of this certification on an international scale.’


I’ve already thought that I was operating as a strategic communication professional on a daily basis, but I wanted to attain some formal recognition. So, in early December, I found myself in a room on a rainy Regent Street in Central London, sitting the three-hour exam with fellow communication professional Andrew Morrison (spoiler alert, now also an SCMP®), ably proctored by IABC Fellow, Neil Griffiths. I sat down with Andrew to reflect on the process – and perhaps share a nugget or two of wisdom for anyone considering sitting a certification.


Simon Monger, SCMP®: So Andrew, I found the process to be incredibly rigorous – from the application through to the three-hour exam. I don’t know about you, but I hadn’t sat an exam that long since I was sitting my GCSEs! How was it for you?


Andrew Morrison, SCMP®: I’d encourage anyone who feels ready to have a crack at either the CMP® or the SCMP® exam. You need to feel like you ‘know your stuff’ and there’s a 75% pass mark for the SCMP®. The application form checks your eligibility to sit the exam.  The SCMP® is designed for communicators with at least 10-15 years’ experience, compared with the CMP®, which is aimed at those with six to eight years’ experience. There’s a fee to pay, too, and you’re expected to tick quite a few boxes to ensure you’re ready to sit the exam, including proof of mentoring or any pro bono work you’ve done. Fortunately, the administration of the exam is all pretty swift and smooth and being accepted to sit the SCMP® was the first hurdle over.

“I found the process to be incredibly rigorous – from the application through to the three-hour exam”, says Simon

SM: When it came to preparing for the exam itself, what did you do? I’m an all-or-nothing reviser, so I bought a hard copy of the IABC Handbook of Organizational Communication (Tamara L Gillis), which I read from cover to cover, as well as studying the Job Task Analysis and the IABC Code of Ethics. As I’m an internal communication and change professional through-and-through, I found it quite interesting to read up on the other areas, like public relations and marketing. How did you approach preparing for the exam?


AM: Wow, Simon, you’re far more rigorous than I was! I definitely remember hitting a few questions in the exam, where I thought – gosh, I wish I’d read up on that topic! Fortunately, I’ve had a very broad corporate and marketing communications career, so I felt familiar with a lot of areas, but I wish I had read Catalyst magazine and the IABC bulletins more regularly, or listened to the IABC Circle of Fellows monthly podcast to ensure I was keeping up with the latest communications thinking and research. There is help available for candidates on the GCCC® website, with a dedicated webinar (I joined one with IABC Fellow Brad Whitworth) and sign-posting towards the main themes which will be covered in the exam. For the SCMP® exam, these cover: ‘Advising and Leading’; ‘Management’, ‘Strategy Development’, ‘Innovation’, ‘Ethics’ and ‘Reputation Management’. So, you need to look at these topics and figure out where you feel confident, or where you might need to do some more research or thinking before you walk into the exam room.

“There is help available for candidates.”

SM: Top tips, Andrew. I really found Brad’s webinar on the exams to be helpful, too. Now, as I already mentioned, the last time I sat a three-hour exam it was for Business Studies at GCSE. And I did really, really badly. I had to sit it twice! Thankfully not for the SCMP®, but it was certainly a challenge. I remember you finished a bit earlier than I did, but I needed the three hours to go through everything thoroughly, answer the questions I knew immediately, and then revisit the ones I was less sure about. What was the experience like for you?


AM: In some ways, I was glad that it was a multiple choice exam – so you get the context for the question, rather than staring at a blank sheet of paper. However, there is time pressure – you have three hours to answer 100 questions – so that’s about a minute and a half per question. You need to have good time management. If you don’t instinctively feel like you know the answer, move on to the next question. I laugh about it now, but I was actually stumped by the very first question! I thought ‘oh no!’, I have no idea what the answer is and there’s 99 more questions to go!


SM: I’m glad that wasn’t just me!


AM: Fortunately, I was able to answer the second question and come back to the first question and others I’d missed out in the final 30 minutes. You should definitely leave time to check those answers you’re not sure about, but overall you should go with your gut feel.  And always read the question twice to make sure you’re not missing something obvious. After I’d got the first few questions under my belt, I was ‘in the zone’ and felt more confident about having a crack at the dozen or so questions I was struggling with. There are four possible answers to each question, with one or two that are obviously wrong, leaving you a couple of options – with one being more ‘right’ than the other.


SM: The SCMP® is an investment, especially if you’re paying for the certification yourself and don’t have a company paying for you. It costs $400 to sit the exam, plus $100 to apply if you’re an IABC member, or $400 to apply if you aren’t. Then there’s the $100 renewal fee each year to maintain the qualification, where you need to provide evidence that you’re working to ensure you remain at the level of your certification. So, now that you’ve done it, do you think it was worthwhile? Would you recommend others to follow in our footsteps and sit either the CMP® or SCMP® exams?


AM: Oh absolutely. Frankly, it rescued my year from COVID gloom! It has given me renewed self-belief in my abilities as a communications director, especially as I’m currently looking for a new role. (I’d welcome any leads from our readers!) In summary, to have the SCMP® letters after my name on my LinkedIn profile and CV feels like a badge of honour and somewhat exclusive too, since it is still a fairly new qualification, only being around for a couple of years. However, the number of fellow SCMP®-holders is growing and I’d certainly invite other communication professionals to have a crack at the CMP® or SCMP® – let’s grow our alumni network!


SM: I feel like we need an official club! And I definitely agree with you. For me as a consultant, it’s a globally-recognised badge of assurance to all my clients that they are getting what they’re paying for. I would absolutely recommend that anyone get either the CMP® or SCMP® certification, depending on where you are in your careers. If you want to find out more about the GCCC® certifications, you can visit the website: gcccouncil.org. Or contact either me or Andrew – we’d be happy to have a chat!

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