Some years ago, I attended a presentation by Patricia Fripp (for you King Crimson fans, she’s Robert’s sister), where she talked about the concept of “relentless self-promotion.” This was back in the early days of “personal branding” for ordinary people. Nowadays, of course, we have YouTube, Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, and all the other myriad ways for people to get visibility. Today, Facebook has over 500 million users, Twitter around 200 million, LinkedIn around 90 million, and people now watch two billion YouTube videos every day. It seems the idea has caught on, big-time. So with all this relentless self-promotion going on, maybe we need to ask a few questions.
- Who are we promoting ourselves to?
- What do they think they need (that we have to offer)?
- Why do they think they need it?
I bring all this up because Miles Jennings, CEO of iMediaVentures, recently initiated a poll on LinkedIn, “Is PMP certification becoming more or less important for project managers?” The question drew 2,771 votes and 248 comments. A full 57 percent thought it was becoming more important, but the comments showed an interesting divergence: those who thought it was becoming less important stressed the number of PMP holders they knew who were not effective. One even wrote, “PMI and PMP is a racket.” Another commented on the scope of the testing, “Unfortunately, the PMP does not measure the art or social skills that a PM [possesses] …”
Meanwhile, while those who felt it was becoming more important stressed the market value of the credential. “It’s been my experience that all employers weigh PMP certification as a plus and many require it.” Others wrote about perceptions in the workplace, “There is something about having the PMP to back me up when making decisions that have an economic or resource impact.” The opinions expressed largely diverged along the lines of those who considered the value of the PMP credential to themselves, and those who considered the value of the PMP to their target market. Clearly, these folks have a larger view of “self-promotion” than simply maintaining a LinkedIn page, and they’ve thought about who they are promoting themselves to , and what they have to offer. But for the PMP credential, it is largely up to PMI to drive why that target market thinks they need it.
If you go to the PMI website nowadays, you’ll see their tag line, “Making project management indispensable for business results.” Some are a bit shocked at the idea that a professional organization should try to manage the public’s perception of the profession and its practice. Once upon a time, PMI’s mission was about expanding the knowledge base and publishing it in the PMBOK and other documents, identifying and promulgating best practices, and making resources available to the practitioner. Of course, they still do all these things, but now the mission of growing PMI has been placed front and center.
And they’ve been successful – over the last eight years, the number of PMP credential holders has about quadrupled, as has the number of PMI members. They’ve also added four other credentials to the original PMP. And PMI is now making the Certified Associate in Project Manager (CAPM) credential easier to pursue – they’re going to allow applicants to complete the required 23 hours of education prior to sitting for the exam, rather than prior to submitting the application. They’ve also expanded the number of Prometric test sites to about 5,000. I expect similar small steps in making the PMP and PgMP credentials more accessible, as Mark Langley settles in to his new role as President and CEO of PMI.
Naturally, this makes a lot of long-time members queasy about diluting the value of the credentials by making the club appear to be less exclusive. But in a large market, marketing requires more than relentless self-promotion – it requires alignment with established brands that are actively working to be successful. And in order for a brand like PMI to be successful, it requires the support of those who have bought in to their vision, in the form of membership, gentle advocacy, and mentoring of beginners. And, ultimately, it requires growth in order to dominate the market. So, whatever you might think about PMI’s mission, or the value of the PMP credential, I’m going to simply say that I’d rather hire an experienced project manager who has demonstrated their ability to understand and perform to a specified standard, than one who believes that self-certification to a personal, undefined standard is preferable. Your mileage may vary.