I have been involved in PRSA since the student Society at San Diego State University — longer ago than I care to mention. I began volunteering for the San Diego and Imperial Counties Chapter in some capacity the summer after I graduated, and have been on the board of the Chapter since 2008.
For years, APRs on our board would rant and rave about the Accreditation process. I never thought it pertained to me, and did not think it would be useful. I knew what I was doing! I knew public relations! I did not need a lapel pin and some initials after my name to prove I knew my stuff! I was far too busy trying to establish my professional reputation to have time for some certification process! For years, I balked at the program and my colleagues’ insistence on Accreditation.
However, as I advanced in my career I began realizing perhaps there was, in fact, more I could learn to take my career to the next level. I was in an organization with limited advancement opportunities, but I was hungry for more. I became dissatisfied professionally as I tried to figure out what my next steps would be. Then one day, one of my colleagues talked about the APR, and something in me clicked. Years of colleagues’ passionately advocating for the APR finally made sense, and I knew this was just what I needed to do.
I completed the application, the Readiness Review Questionnaire, put together my portfolio and prepared for the Readiness Review. Immediately after I was Advanced through the Readiness Review, I began studying for the Examination for Accreditation in Public Relations. I was fortunate enough to have attended San Diego State University, and studied with one of the authors of “Effective Public Relations,” Dr. Glen Broom. I was going to nail this thing!
As soon as I started making plans, life happened. I was in a serious car accident, I began having health problems and the company I was working for at the time was really struggling. I got distracted for a while as I focused on other areas of my life, always thinking about the clock ticking down to the one-year mark when my application would expire.
Also, I had opted not to do any group study or join the online cohorts. For as long as I could remember, study groups had always been a distraction and hindrance for me, and I needed to do this at my own pace. At times, I doubted the effectiveness of this strategy, as the cohorts are emphasized throughout the study process. In the end, I am glad I stuck with my instincts on what I thought would work for me.
Sometimes it was annoying to deal with the APR during a difficult time in my life. Other times, the process was therapeutic and kept me focused and driven toward a goal. After several months of studying, I finally signed up to sit for the nearly four-hour Examination. That is a long dang time to sit in a cubicle taking an examination. I strongly recommend all go to the Prometric testing center and learn their many rules several days prior to sitting for the Examination. Alleviating the stress of the unknown goes a long way.
On the Bandwagon
After passing the Examination, I left my in-house corporate public relations job I had been at for seven years and launched my own consultancy. I firmly believe I never would have had the courage to do that if it were not for the confidence the APR injected into my professional career. It reaffirmed my talent and abilities, and began a new chapter in my career.
From the time I decided to begin the process until I took the Examination was a year, almost to the day. I had an amazing network of colleagues and friends in the Chapter who supported me every step of the way. Had it not been for their encouragement and unwavering faith in me, I might have walked away from it. I am glad for their support through it all, and am proud to say I am Accredited in Public Relations.
Reema Makani Boccia, APR, is the principal at Two Rivers Strategies, an award-winning public relations, marketing and event planning firm specializing in health, public safety, real estate/construction and the green industry. After more than a decade in the industry, Boccia has a wide range of experience, including agency and in-house public relations, and is the current president-elect of PRSA, San Diego and Imperial Counties Chapter. You can connect with Boccia via LinkedIn or Twitter @ReemaTwoRivers.