I knew that I wanted to earn the APR designation as soon as I learned what it was — a challenge to become a stronger practitioner. Because I “fell into” the role of public relations professional, I never took the time to educate myself about the profession and my responsibilities in that role. Experience gave me a better understanding of many issues and helped me become adept at many skills, but I wanted to be a well-rounded professional and a more intentional, more strategic communicator.
I joined the APR Online Study Course and enjoyed discussions on public relations practices with individuals throughout the country. After taking about one year to work through the entire Course Map, I felt more confident that APR was a step I was ready to take.
After completing the online course, I spent several weeks preparing the Readiness Review Questionnaire. Never before had I really analyzed my own work in such detail; I enjoyed that process immensely. It was only a few short weeks later than I participated in the Readiness Review panel. My NSPRA colleagues were exceptional guides and truly supported my journey to APR. The panel went beautifully — I had great conversations with the panelists and left feeling proud of the work I had done so far.
I scheduled an appointment for the computer-based Examination for Accreditation in Public Relations within a month of learning the panel recommended to the UAB that I be Advanced. The test was harder than I anticipated; the difficulty challenged my confidence in the first few minutes as I went through the opening questions. I stuck with it, though, and by the end of the test, felt much better about my understanding of the KSAs.
I have no regrets about the process, but I do recommend that interested candidates work together in groups if possible, and suggest they focus on case studies together. Most of my preparation and studying was done alone, and so considering case studies was not quite as effective as a solo effort compared with hearing multiple points of view.
Earning my APR was a great experience, and I encourage any public relations professional to seriously consider taking the steps to earn theirs!
Bridget McGuiggan, APR is the community relations coordinator for Orland School District 135 and has worked in school public relations for seven years. Bridget serves as president of the Illinois Chapter of the National School Public Relations Association (INSPRA).