Professional development and training blog of the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA)
November 26, 2013

One Candidate’s [Bumpy] Road to APR

Last July, I received my APR pin from the PRSA National Capital Chapter. When fellow PRSAers ask how the Accreditation process went for me, I wish I could answer with a brief recap of how everything fell into place, just as I had envisioned. That was certainly not the case. In the end, however, I can say that the process was worthwhile and rewarding. Perhaps my story can be encouraging for those whose Accreditation doesn’t quite go as planned …

My APR process began back in early 2012. My father had long practiced public relations in Alabama, was Accredited himself, and supported my decision to pursue it in developing my own skills and credentials. Asking him to serve as a mentor was a no-brainer, and within a few months I had participated in a practice Readiness Review at my local Chapter (although I didn’t plan to sit for it until summer) and completed a day-long APR Jump-Start course. I also had a decent portion of the recommended APR Bookshelf on my own shelf, as well as a tome of 1,000 public relations case studies recommended by my ever-supportive mentor.

With my Readiness Review scheduled for July, I used a week-long family visit in June to hunker down and work up my questionnaire, with my mentor close at hand.

Here’s where I should introduce some personal aspects of the story. Since first applying for Accreditation, I had at this point learned that 1) my wife was pregnant with our first, and 2) my father had lung cancer — and the treatments weren’t going so well. Both gave me cause to push even harder for Accreditation.

Confident in my completed questionnaire, I sat through what I thought to be an engaging and successful Readiness Review panel. My father was upbeat and optimistic when I told him how it went. Sadly, he did not live to learn the outcome.

I did not pass, by the way.

The feedback was constructive and of course will vary for each candidate. In my case, the panel felt my stated objectives were too corporate-based (or top-level). With the help of a new mentor from my panel, I obliged and revised both my questionnaire and my presentation for the next panel. I sat for another in October … and did not pass. In this case, the panel felt my stated objectives were not corporate-based enough. (Yes, you read that right. I was frustrated of course, but keep in mind that each panel is different and has no knowledge of candidates’ prior attempts.)

Here’s where the process’ fail-safes came to my aid. Through an appeal process, I worked with representatives from both panels to make a case for a collective “pass,” given the nature of the feedback from each. I explained the situation in a letter to the Universal Accreditation Board, which included supporting statements from past panel representatives, and did ultimately pass.

Sitting for the Examination for Accreditation in Public Relations warrants a blog post all its own. From my experience, it’s crucial that you take the Examination in your own time, having familiarized yourself with the Study Guide and some of the key texts. And get plenty of sleep the night before. I tried to rush things, given the slowed process up to that point, and was making final preparations for the Examination while getting to know a newborn baby girl. It did not go well the first time around — I missed it by a question — but I did pass after retaking it a few months later.

There are few things as satisfying as seeing that one little word —pass — on a Prometric screen. If you are working toward Accreditation and unsure of how to get from here to that coveted screen, please comment below.

Scott Gates is managing editor for the National Rural Utilities Cooperative Finance Corporation, a nonprofit finance co-op serving America’s electric cooperatives. He has written and edited for a variety of publications, including Rural Electric Magazine, Backpacker Magazine and the Denver Business Journal. He currently lives in Virginia with his wife, Kelly, and their daughter, Maddie.

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