The Communications Management Standard (CMS) is the only globally recognised quality certification for PR and communications agencies.

If your organisation runs professionally and ethically – get the paper to prove it.

CMS combines elements of ISO and Investors in People with criteria specific to public relations consultancies. The standard was first developed by PRCA in the UK in 1997 and has since grown to become adopted internationally.

The standard is mandatory in a number of ICCO member countries and in 2021, a new Quality and Standards Group was established to use CMS in ICCO’s drive towards improving professional standards globally.

If you would like to become CMS certified, apply to support@iccopr.com to receive the application and arrange an audit with your local PR association or auditing body.

Why get CMS?

  • Gain competitive advantage, use the globally recognised and independently awarded badge of excellence to enhance your organisations reputation.
  • Assure clients and prospects that they are working with an independently audited and regulated organisation, that is operating sustainably and ethically.
  • Distinguish your organisation from those that do not operate in this way.
  • Monitor and improve businesses performance through the self assessment framework.
  • Assure employees of the organisation’s ethical and professional accountability. Demonstrate to staff that you are committed to their development and well-being.
  • Access ICCO matchmaking services, including Agency Finder, to win new international business.

Who is CMS for?

CMS certification can be gained by any organisation that conducts PR and communications activity, whether an agency or an in-house team.

Auditing and Costs

After completing and submitting an easy self assessment spreadsheet, you will be contacted by an auditor assigned to your location to arrange an audit.

Costs vary depending on location and which PR association is overseeing the audit. Fresh audits are required a minimum of every two years to maintain your certification, but some locations will require annual audits.

ICCO works with PRCA, ICCO’s other member associations and independent partner Agency Experts to assign auditors. If there is no local language auditor available, an audit will be conducted in English. Or, if there is demand for a new language audit, a new auditor can be trained by Agency Experts.

Contents of CMS

Below is an overview of the mandatory core chapters. In some countries additional chapters are required to pass. To receive a sample excel document with all the self assessment criteria, please contact support@iccopr.com

Leadership & Communications

The auditors look for evidence that the consultancy is well-managed. Responsibilities at all levels must be clearly defined, and all employees must not only understand their accountabilities but also know how and when they will be judged on their performance.

Leadership Communications

Business Planning

The consultancy must prove that its Business Plan is a realistic, long-term programme based on a clear view of the firm’s direction and potential. It must define business goals that are specific, measurable, achievable, viable and time-framed. The plan must be used systematically by management to run the business.

Business Planning
Business Improvement

CMS demands a programme of continuous business improvement, with evidence of long-term goals and the steps the consultancy is taking to achieve them. The Standard’s key values are trust, excellence, professionalism, growth, development, enthusiasm, commitment and ownership. All of these affect the quality of the consultancy’s service to clients and must be measurably enhanced over a three-to-five year timescale.

Financial Systems

The consultancy’s systems are evaluated on financial forecasting and management of financial fundamentals. Checks and balances must be in place, enabling the consultancy to withstand periods of low or negative economic growth. Key financial ratios are scrutinised to ensure that the consultancy can and does invest in its future.

Campaign Management

The consultancy must demonstrate systems for planning and managing programmes against agreed targets as well as for measuring and evaluating results in terms of ROI.

Campaign Management

Client Satisfaction

Client satisfaction must be tracked on a consistent and continuous basis.

Client Satisfaction

New Business

There must be proof that the consultancy conducts negotiations with new clients and offers service agreements which reflect the high standards exacted by the professional codes of ICCO and comply with current best practice in the public relations profession.

New Business

People Management

The consultancy must have a clearly-defined and universally understood system of appraisal, training and career development for all employees. Evidence must be given that high standards and an appropriate level of investment are in place at every stage from recruitment onwards.