Guest Post: The Regulation of Public Relations: A Glimpse of the Puerto Rican Case

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Mily Hernández, APR SVP Comstat Public Relations Member Public Relations Regulatory Board of Puerto RicoAbbie was in Puerto Rico recently with PRSA’s Counselors Academy for its annual planning retreat and to begin coordination of the spring conference being held there May 1-3.  She asked Mily Hernández, APR to share her thoughts on “PR in PR.”

The Regulation Of Public Relations: A Glimpse Of The Puerto Rican Case
By:  Mily Hernández, APR
SVP Comstat Public Relations
Member Public Relations Regulatory Board of Puerto Rico

Recently, a group of members of the PRSA Counselors Academy visited Puerto Rico to coordinate the next Annual Conference, which will be held on our Island. During their visit they met a group of colleagues to share impressions of our profession and to invite us to participate in the Conference.

We had such a great time! It is always rewarding to meet other public relations professionals, with different backgrounds but all with the same commitment to Public Relations and its development. At the gathering I had the opportunity to talk to most of them; they were happy to be in sunny and warm Puerto Rico while the eastern U.S. was under a severe storm. But, more than that, they were intrigued about the path Puerto Ricans took some years ago when we decided to promote the regulation of the profession.

In 2008, Puerto Rico became the first and only U.S. jurisdiction where the Public Relations profession is regulated by law. It was a long process and not without controversy and debate among local professionals. Many questions arose and there was not a point of reference to consider…we had to pave the road!

The process was led by the Puerto Rico Public Relations Association, which played an active role researching, evaluating the options, listening to the questions and educating about the process. One of the first questions was: ‘Is it necessary to regulate the profession?” The answer was easy: YES! For many years the local profession has been threatened by pseudo PR professionals who practiced public relations without the education, the experience and, worst, without the sense of ethics that must guide our behavior. For all of us who value our profession and understand the role it plays creating public opinion, clarifying issues, supporting community efforts and communicating in a transparent and ethical way, the decision was a no brainer.

As part of the process, many questions needed answering and decisions needed to be taken before going to the Legislature to submit the law. We had to agree if we wanted a license or the creation of a “Bar/College”; decide on the education and experience required; the code of ethics to be followed; and how to give the license to those professionals who had experience but not a formal education in Public Relations. As a group we prepared a draft of a Bill and presented it to the Senate. Finally, a law was on its way!

Act 204 of 2008, as approved, is not perfect. It still has many issues to address and solve. However, it is a huge step for our profession. Currently, over 800 Public Relations professionals have the license and are committed to complying with the required continuing education program. A Regulatory Board was constituted by the Governor. It prepared the Board’s rules to manage the law, evaluate and grant the licenses, evaluate the continuing education programs, manage the administrative claims and oversee the practitioners’ respect and compliance with the law.

We still have a long way to go to achieve the regulation we all envision. However, this step taken by public relations professionals in Puerto Rico should be analyzed by colleagues in other jurisdictions. Many issues are threatening our profession and regulation is a more solid practice based on the values we all share. The challenge is there.

HMA Public Relations
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