DMA introduces certification program

The Direct Marketing Association has introduced a new program certifying that marketing professionals have reached a certain level of knowledge in the core aspects of direct marketing, following the successful completion of a series of courses offered by the DMA and a diagnostic test.

The DMA put together the program because “there is a need to have a standard level of education that is recognized” by the industry, said Jodie Sangster, VP of global development, at the DMA. She added that the organization has been approached by both employers and employees interested in something like this.

The program will consist of three to four days of intensive classes that will be offered in several locations around the country. Online certification courses will be available in the fall. Ron Jacobs, president of Jacobs & Clevenger, helped develop the course and diagnostic test, based on his book, Successful Direct Marketing Methods.

“If someone came in and didn’t know anything about direct marketing, he or she could leave after taking the course and be proficient in direct marketing,” said Sangster, adding that the course is designed to bring individuals to a high intermediate level of knowledge in the field.

Individuals will be able to attend certain sessions at DMA conferences or others events to earn up to two of the 16 credits required. Credits can also be earned through qualifying courses offered through other organizations, such as SEMPO. The DMA is in discussion with several academic institutions to explore how the programs can “complement each other,” said Sangster.

There are several academic programs in direct marketing around the country, including an undergraduate program at the Fashion Institute of Technology and a graduate program at New York University, both in New York City.

The DMA sees the certificate program as complementing what students would learn in academia. “Rather than focusing on theory, as is done in the academic approach, our approach is much more how-to and learning how to implement the skills learned in school,” said Sangster.

The academic world, however, doesn’t necessarily see it this way. “The DMA is competing with the various schools that offer direct marketing education” by offering its own educational courses, said Harvey Markovitz, clinical assistant professor of marketing and the director of the interactive and direct marketing lab at Pace University. The lab focuses on taking the lessons students learn in the classroom and applying them to the real world.

Markovitz said he would rather see the DMA administer a series of exams that would qualify someone to become a certified direct marketing professional, thereby creating an industry standard that is inclusive of what others are doing in direct marketing education. “If the DMA is offering a series of courses, then all it is is a money-making scheme for the DMA,” he said.

“Certification is one of the strongest growing sectors of associations despite the downturn in the economy,” said Greg Melia, VP member relations and credentialing at ASAE and the Center for Association Leadership. “This is because employers are looking for quality indicators of a person’s knowledge as well as because individuals are looking for ways to become distinguished and more attractive to employers.”

The DMA program has “all the hallmarks of a well-designed certification program,” Melia continued, pointing to the courses, diagnostic test and requirement for ongoing education in order to maintain certification. Anyone who is a DMA certified marketing professional will be required to do another six credits every year in order to keep their certification up to date. Every third year, individuals will be required to take another test.

The program will be launched in English and Japanese. The DMA also hopes to offer the course through various international organizations in order to create a worldwide standard for direct marketing professionals.

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