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Stacey Corbin

Standards

How to Promote Your Certification Correctly

Be careful with what you say and how you say it.

Published: Monday, December 14, 2009 - 15:46

You just finished your audit, and your registrar has handed you a brand-new certificate. Now, what do you do to make sure everyone knows about it? Most likely you’ll send an e-mail out to the entire company, prepare a press release, post an announcement on your web site, and so on. But sometimes, these announcements don’t talk about certification in a technically correct manner. When you use the right terminology in each and every marketing piece, it brings added credibility to you and to every other certified organization.

It’s not “ISO certification”

The term “ISO certification” is commonly used to describe management systems certification. But it never has been, and never will be, a correct term. There are several reasons why:

  • The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) is a global, nongovernmental standards-writing body. ISO writes standards, but is not in the business of auditing to them. The term “ISO certification” could be misread to imply that ISO provided your management system’s certification, when in fact that job is done by a registrar—a third party organization that audits your ISO 9001 system to verify that you meet its requirements.

  • ISO 9001—“Quality management systems—Requirements,” is unquestionably ISO’s most well-known standard. But ISO is involved in much more than management systems—there are thousands of ISO standards, covering everything from railroad construction to ink color.  When you say “ISO certification,” you may be thinking of ISO 9001, but there is no way for your audience to know that for sure.

  • Just as ISO publishes standards outside the realm of management systems, likewise, there are many other management systems standards that aren’t published by ISO. For example, the quality management system (QMS) standard for the aviation, space, and defense industries, AS9100, is published by the International Aerospace Quality Group. 

 

However, if you’ve used the term “ISO certification” in your marketing materials, all is not lost.  It can be corrected by adding the standard name: for example, “ISO 9001:2008 certification.”

Accreditation vs. certification vs. registration

If you think the terms “accreditation,” “certification,” and “registration” are interchangeable… you’re two-thirds right.

Accreditation is the approval of a certification body, (such as a registrar, by a national accreditation or standards body (such as ANAB in the United States). In other words, it’s the registrar’s “certification” that deems it competent to issue certifications to your company. As the certified organization, you cannot say you are accredited, because it is your registrar that holds the accreditation.

However, the terms certification and registration are essentially the same. Both refer to actions taken by your certification body: “certification” (and similarly, “certified”) means they have issued a certificate to your organization, and “registration” (and similarly, “registered”) means they have added you to their client register. Either way, it signals a successful end to the auditing process.

Keep your registrar happy

If you choose to mention your registrar by name in a press release (for example, “ABC Company announces it has received its ISO 9001 certification from XYZ Registrar”), tell them about it before you publish it. They may want to review it for technical accuracy—not to mention, it is just professional courtesy.

When you are writing your press release or other marketing materials, be sure to specify the scope of your certification as needed (for example, “ABC Company announces that its Anytown facility is now certified to ISO 9001 for the manufacture of pink ball bearings”). If not all sites or processes are covered by your certification, don’t mislead your audience in to thinking it applies to all of them.

Certification marks

While your registrar understandably would like to see your organization use their certification mark, you are not required to do so. You are free to create your own “certified” logos or artwork—perhaps something based on your corporate logo, or a new design. However, make sure that any logos you create cannot be mistaken for the ISO logo, which is displayed at www.iso.org.  (ISO expressly prohibits use of its logo by registrars or certified companies. This is why each registrar creates its own mark for distribution to certified clients.)

If you do choose to use your registrar’s mark, ensure that any such use cannot be misunderstood to imply product conformity. Remember, they certified your management system, not your product. When in doubt, ask your registrar to review your proposed application of their mark.

Methods of promotion

Now that you know the do’s and don’ts, let’s get to the fun part—the promotion itself. There are many different ways you could announce your organization’s certification, internally and externally.  Here is a list of just a few of the ways that other certified organizations have accomplished this:

  • Use the registrar’s certification mark, or your “we’re certified” logo, on printed materials such as stationary, business cards, and literature. 

  • Prepare and distribute a press release to key media, including industry magazines, trade organizations, and local newspapers. Your registrar may be able to help you write the press release or provide a template.

  • Announce the good news to customers and suppliers with a letter or e-mail from your president or CEO, or an article in your company newsletter.

  • Display your certificate in a prominent location, such as your building’s front lobby.

  • Create a page on your company’s web site dedicated to your management system and its certification. Include an electronic copy of your certificate for fast and easy download by customers and suppliers.

  • Write it up in less than 140 characters on your company’s Twitter page. Add a link to that new page on your web site. (Maybe @QualityDigest will re-tweet it.)

  • Mention your certification in an advertisement. The ad itself could be an announcement of your new certification.

  • Display a flag or banner to announce your certification. You may be able to obtain one through your registrar.

  • Mention your certification on your trade-show booth’s background graphics.

  • Organize an open house or reception in recognition of your achievement, and invite VIP customers and suppliers.

  • Reward your employees for their effort with promotional items (t-shirts, mugs, etc.) imprinted with your company’s logo and text such as “ISO 14001:2004-Registered Company.”

  • Add text such as “ISO 9001:2008 Certified” to the graphics on your company vehicles.

 

Take advantage of your certification—it’s a marketing tool for you. 

The bottom line

While promoting your certification properly is of benefit to you, your registrar has a vested interest in it as well. They should always be willing to help you in these efforts. If you don’t know who at your registrar’s office can help with this, give them a call and ask for their marketing department.

Discuss

About The Author

Stacey Corbin’s picture

Stacey Corbin

Global Marketing Manager, Business Assurance for Intertek

Comments

Same Article

I just saw this article again with a different author: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/how-promote-your-iso-series-certification...

Different author but same company

Thanks for finding that, but nothing to worry about. Stacey Corbin is a past employee of Intertek and Muhammad Noman Sheikh is a current employee for Intertek. It is not uncommon for a company to reuse content under different employee names.

Promoting Certification Correctly

A very good article. Just a few comments.

1. The problems mentioned in the article such as wrong usage of terms "ISO certified", ISO Certification and confusion amongst the terms Accreditation, Certification and Registration have persisted ever since ISO 9000 audits became "popular". It seems only Quality/Process Improvement professionals seem to worry about the incorrectness and distinctions. What is sad is that even many in senior and middle management positions don't seem to bother too much about this.

2. The article makes very good points about how to leverage certification to good effect. A few more about how not to go about promoting certification would also have been useful.

3. There is one more very important avenue for the organization that successfully complete the audits to exploit. It is showcasing the benefits that the organization has reaped that can be clearly attributed to certification. This can be utilized periodically both internally within the organization for launching new improvement programmes and externally with clients.

Certification Terms

Stacey,

Great article. We see this misuse of terms quite often from clients and competitors. It seems like I'm correcting people all of the time and I'm starting to get a complex about it. Oh well, my therapist is happy anyway. Seriously, it's become somewhat of a pet peeve for me. Especially the use of the term "ISO Certified". I'll refer folks to your article to help clear the air about this subject. Keep fighting the good fight of Quality!

Registration, Certification, and Accreditation

Thank you Stacey for the article. It makes some important distinctions and will help many readers make the appropriate claim in their advertising.

I think it might have been a bit clearer if you had left ISO 9001 companies (those audited and appproved by a Registrar) with just the statement that they are "registered". Discussing "certified/certification" may lead them down a wrong path. I'm glad you pointed out that "accreditation" includes the requirement that an organization be proved competent. I like ISO 17025 as a better example (than Registrars) of accreditation because many manufacturing companies rely on ISO 17025 accredited labs to meet their test and calibration requirements. ISO 17025 includes both requirements for a management system and for proving competance through audits and proficiency testing. But then I am partial to this example because I manage an ISO 17025 accredited calibration laboratory.

Again, thank you for a valuable article.

Jack Dearing