To APR or Not to APR?
It’s a question every public relations professional asks at some point in his or her career – should I pursue my Accreditation in Public Relations? Will it add to my professional knowledge and credibility? And, will it help me advance to the next level in my career?
The Accreditation in Public Relations (APR) is the profession’s only voluntary post-graduate certification program. According to PRSA, “It measures a public relations practitioner’s fundamental knowledge of communications theory and its application; establishes advanced capabilities in research, strategic planning, implementation and evaluation; and demonstrates a commitment to professional excellence and ethical conduct.” There are currently only 5,000 PR professionals worldwide who have earned the designation.
I began pursuing my APR a year into owning my own PR practice. At 28, I found myself competing for business with senior-level professionals, many of whom had more than 20 years of experience. I felt that obtaining my APR would provide the additional credibility I needed to compete, and help demonstrate my commitment not only to the profession, but to practicing PR according to the highest ethical standards.
Numerous other Accredited professionals weighed in via Facebook and Twitter on why they pursued the designation:
I did it to affirm my PR knowledge, but also to get a refresher on PR history. I also thought it would be a great way to connect with other PR professionals, which was absolutely correct! I met great people throughout the testing process and afterward. – Carissa McCabe, APR, GroundFloor Media
I pursued my APR for my own professional development and satisfaction, and because I wanted to demonstrate my commitment to my profession by earning the APR distinction. – Kim Sporrer, APR, Humane Society of Boulder Valley
I pursued my APR for two primary reasons – 1. Legitimacy of the industry 2. Validation of my knowledge. – Christie Denniston, APR, Catapult Public and Investor Relations
I pursued (my APR) to ensure I did not become too comfortable with my current skill set, but learned PR best practices. – Joe Kovacs, APR, Gelman, Rosenberg & Freedman, CPAs
There are numerous benefits to gaining Accreditation, including:
- Credibility – Accreditation is essentially an endorsement of a PR professional’s knowledge of the practice and skills in researching, planning, implementing and evaluating PR campaigns. In addition to the credibility it lends, pursuing and maintaining an APR demonstrates that the professional is committed to the ever-changing industry.
- Latest and Greatest – Pursuing Accreditation – preparing for the in-person Readiness Review and studying for the written test – requires a significant time commitment. But, even after obtaining the designation, professionals must participate in ongoing development activities to maintain Accreditation, including workshops, seminars, speaking engagements, teaching, coaching, publishing and so on for as long as they wish to maintain their APR. This is an excellent way to ensure that APR professionals are not only up-to-date on the latest industry practices, but also leading and coaching younger professionals as well.
- Competitive Edge – While no one has ever told me they hired me specifically because of my APR, I have no doubt that it has given me a competitive edge. Beyond credibility, gaining my APR has given me more confidence in my ability to deliver best practices to my clients. Going through the process helped reinforce the knowledge I gained in college and early in my career, and gave me a new, higher standard of practice to strive for with every client and campaign.
- Elevating the Profession – My skin crawls every time someone calls me a publicist or asks me to “spin” a story for their company. There is so much misunderstanding out there about public relations and what we do as professionals. Accredited professionals, and anyone out there who is delivering strategic, ethical, best practices PR, contribute to a better understanding and appreciation of the PR profession. The more that people experience the value of a true PR professional, the less we are mistaken for flaks, spin doctors or party planners.
Yes, there are numerous benefits to the professional who obtains an APR, but there are also many benefits to an employer or client hiring an APR. They can be certain they are bringing in a professional who is exceptionally driven, dedicated to ethical practices, committed to the profession and ongoing learning, and a proven success at campaign strategy and execution.
Obtaining my Accreditation in Public Relations was an important and valuable achievement in my career. I look forward to maintaining it for a long time to come. What about you? What value have you seen from Accreditation? Conversely, has anyone obtained it and not seen the rewards?
To learn more about Accreditation in Public Relations, visit PRSA Colorado.
–Stacey Sepp, APR