There’s no time like the present. That is my best advice for anyone considering pursuing their Accreditation. For me, the journey was largely personal. I had been working for the same organization for nine years, and had settled into a comfortable role. There was no external pressure to achieve the APR, but it was something I had always considered, and thought would be a valuable learning process.
I finally decided to take the plunge at a rather unlikely stage in my life. With two young children at home — and a new baby due in February 2014 — I knew it was “now or never,” and I decided to fill out the paperwork to apply. Once I received my acceptance letter in September 2013, I nearly got cold feet. How in the world would I manage to do this at such a chaotic time? But I also had the new baby on the way, creating a tangible deadline. So I set a five-month window to complete the process and got to work.
Here are my top five tips from my experience:
1) Tell a few close friends, and enlist their support and advice. I had a close friend who pursued her ABC several years prior, and she became both a sounding board and a cheerleader. She connected me with an associate who had achieved her ABC and APR. Her suggestions enabled me to fine-tune my Readiness Review presentation and feel more prepared.
2) Start the studying process early. After signing up for the Examination for Accreditation in Public Relations, I began reading through some of the books early on, spending an hour or so in the evening looking through the materials. I also signed up for the online study course. Getting back into the “study mode” after many years in the workforce helped when I began to study in earnest prior to the Examination.
3) Practice what you are learning. One of the most valuable things I learned was to implement best practices in my day-to-day job. I looked back at plans I had written in the past, and saw where they could be improved. I began to think more critically about current projects, and to hold myself more accountable for results beyond just media clips.
4) Don’t memorize the materials. I found the Examination to be much more about applying your learning, versus rote memorization. Really try to think beyond the text and how it might relate to your current job or past experience.
5) Trust yourself. At the end of the day, I found that I gained a new appreciation for my understanding of the profession and more confidence in my skills.
If you are considering obtaining your APR and are on the fence, it will never happen unless you sign up. I spent many years contemplating the Examination, but am so happy I finally took the plunge.
Kim Cole, APR, is the director of public relations at Four Seasons Resort Scottsdale at Troon North. She helped launch Four Seasons Resort Rancho Encantado Santa Fe in 2012, spending two years supporting both properties. Prior to joining Four Seasons in 2004, she worked for the Scottsdale Convention & Visitors Bureau, developing a love for the hospitality industry. A graduate of the University of Texas at Austin, she has a bachelor’s degree in magazine journalism and a love for Texas barbecue.