Wednesday, 6 June 2012

A Manifesto for the establishment of a professional customer reference* body

To develop the profession, educate, provide accreditation and recognition and leave a lasting legacy for future generations. Read on, or download this manifesto here

The customer reference community is at a tipping point.

Actually it’s at two tipping points.

The first one is small by comparison, relating to how broadband and mobile speeds and devices will change the deliverables we create in line with how much of the world now consumes content: immediate, mobile, sound bite, relevant, personal and narrow-band.

The second is much larger; in fact it’s so big and obvious it’s easy to miss, and yet hard to know how to deal with it. 

This is the tipping point of the community itself; Customer Reference Programmes leaping from a mere marketing discipline into a recognised profession. 

The Oxford English Dictionary defines a profession as “a paid occupation, especially one that involves prolonged training and a formal qualification” and in its definition of a professional the dictionary uses the words “competent, skilful, or assured”

There is now such a wealth of experience, expertise, tried and trusted processes, techniques and forms plus a critical mass of practitioners AND an interest in the value of the work we do that it’s time to put a stake in the ground before evolving further.

What do we need to do?

· Seize this moment
· Formalise the profession
· Leave a legacy

What will it look like?

Hard to say as it is a group decision but it will initially include a fiercely independent web space with all the basic tools a reference pro needs, best-practices etc plus a forum that is moderated and rewards good citizens. Details of training and accreditation will be there (foundation, practitioner, advanced etc), as will details of events and other resources. It will be free to all, maybe subtle sponsorship allowed. Roles will probably be for limited terms, by election. Democratic and open.

Why do we need to take action?

On the face of it we don’t. Customer Reference professionals are some of the most collaborative and open marketing professionals there are. 

While we don’t NEED to do this I believe we are obligated to act. Take any professional organisation and you can trace it back to a set of individuals that recognised their skill for what it was, and thought bigger.

Even if one ignores legacy, education and the greater good there are still reasons to do this:

Although there are many LinkedIn, Facebook and face2face groups already in existence almost none of them are not aligned in a larger or smaller way to a specific vendor, geography, or industry.

We speak about the freedom of Social Media yet this freedom is being abused. We have a situation where competitors’ tweets are not forwarded no matter how good they are, what are billed as ‘discussions’ are often promotions and those with the biggest mouth (or time to type, or axe to grind) are completely un-moderated.

True communities set values and work for the greater good, which is why the professional body we will establish MUST have ways to amplify great content and genuinely helpful contributors and also ways to try to modify self-interest, with the ultimate sanction of removal from the professional community if needed.

What do you need to do?

Nothing, however IF you share these beliefs, have expertise and experience to share and want to be part of the team that will attempt to create a lasting structure for customer reference professionals, and their profession then please email your interest (or encouragement, or reasons why this is a spectacularly bad idea) to: 

Personally I can think of 30 or so thought leaders in this space that would make an excellent team. Your list might be very different from mine so even if you don’t have sufficient experience yet, why not nominate someone you think is a ‘must’ to be part of this movement at:

*’customer reference’ and ‘customer advocacy’ can be used interchangeably in this manifesto. 
This manifesto was originally outlined in Boston at the ICRPC on May 15th 2012.
Feel free to share and use in any way you wish. 

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