I remember what crossed my mind the first time I heard about the APR process and I shook my head thinking, “Who has that kind of time?” I was about to embark on a massive public relations campaign at work and my experience from past projects told me I’d barely have time to do much else.
Although I knew the benefits were obvious: An accredited public relations professional holds significantly higher weight in a world full of self-proclaimed public relations people. Fundamentally, the certification represents separating the best from the rest. All companies only want to hire and retain the best, and so it was an easy sell to the C-suite.
However, even after I achieved approval to proceed, I hesitated. In many cases, journalists, colleagues and the C-suite do not understand our world at all. I never had formal public relations training, so naturally I had self-doubt. What if I really don’t know what I’m doing? What if I don’t pass the Examination for Accreditation in Public Relations? We can’t always produce neat and tidy Excel spreadsheets in communications. Some people think I post everything I eat on Twitter or that I get to go do all the “fun” stuff because they only see the end result of strategic effort or a tactic in the vast arsenal of public relations tools.
I participated in the six week preparation courses and secured a study buddy. I asked all the questions in the world I could come up with. I wrote notes, I crammed, and I studied the APR Study Guide and the textbooks. However, NOTHING prepares you for that edgy feeling you get that day facing a four-hour biometric test on your public relations knowledge. Even worse is the feeling at the end when you hit “Submit” and you swear you got everything wrong! (Don’t let my paranoia influence you!)
I can tell you when the “Passed” screen flashed in front of me I felt a shift inside me instantly. All the years of self-doubt and trepidation ended right then and there. I will always value those few months earning my APR because now everything I do is in sharper focus thanks to the training and classes. The “gut” feeling is replaced by science and the certainty allows me to be a better public relations counselor for my employer. I can no longer pretend I am a journalist masquerading as a public relations professional, I am a public relations professional. It turns out, the only person left to prove it to was myself.
Gina Morales is a print journalism graduate from the University of South Florida who ended up in public relations by accident. She’s been voted one of Tampa Bay’s Top 10 public relations professionals from the Tampa Bay Business Journal’s Reader’s Choice Awards, and nominated for many other awards as the public relations manager at Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino, Tampa. For seven years, she’s led dozens of strategic, integrated public relations and community relations campaigns, which have achieved millions of dollars in earned media for her employer, including national TV placement.