Professional development and training blog of the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA)
April 1, 2012

Earning APR Helps Everybody in Our Profession

April is Accreditation month at PRSA!

PRSA has designated April as Accreditation Month. Members can learn more about APR through many special events, including:

My local PRSA chapter, Greater Kansas City, is on the prowl for our next crop of candidates for accreditation in public relations.

We have plenty of members who are interested, but turning an interested member into an accredited member is no easy task. We developed a local incentive package to supplement the rebate offered by national PRSA to members who successfully complete the accreditation process. But even with a financial package that makes the net cost of accreditation $100, we still have challenges recruiting APR candidates. I suspect many other chapters have the same problem.

I’ve read lots of articles and blog posts extolling the virtues of earning accreditation. They talk about bumps in pay, increased confidence, and the great information you’ll learn through the process. Those are all excellent and true points. I agree with them. But since those arguments have been eloquently addressed by others, I’d like to add a different argument to the mix.

Get your APR because it’s the best way you can help advance the credibility of our profession.

PR people (myself included) often lament that the c-suite doesn’t take the counsel of its public relations department as seriously as it takes the advice of the legal or finance departments. But what are we doing to earn that respect?

Those lawyers passed the bar exam and are required to take hours of continuing education classes each year. If they violate their professional standards, they are subject to serious sanctions. (Fun fact: the magazine published by one of our region’s bar associations includes a special section devoted to public shaming of attorneys who are found guilty of breaking the rules. When my fiancée’s copy comes in the mail, it’s my favorite section to read.)

If we want our profession to be treated with the respect it deserves, we must have (and enforce) standards for our practitioners (though I’m not lobbying for a shaming section in PRSA Tactics).

Doctors, architects, engineers, brokers, accountants, and real estate agents are all required to earn credentials before they’re allowed practice without supervision. In many jurisdictions, the people serving our food, mixing our cocktails, and cutting our hair must be properly credentialed by government regulators. Why should we be the exception to the rule?

I’m sure all of us know people who were promoted into a PR job from some other department not because they know anything about communication strategy, but because they “were good with people.” Anybody can hang a shingle and say they are a public relations practitioner. Shows like “Sex and the City” lead people to believe that we are all publicists who jaunt from one red carpet to the next. And I have yet to meet a PR practitioner whose parents actually know what he or she does for a living.

As strategic communicators, we know that perception matters. We know that there is often a significant gap between the actions an organization takes, and the public’s awareness and understanding of those actions. It’s our job to bridge that gap.

Isn’t it time we do the same thing for our profession? By earning your APR, you will embody PRSA’s mantra by advancing the profession and the professional.

Justin Erick LaBerge, APR, serves as president elect of Greater Kansas City PRSA and is an account manager at Sturges Word Communications in Kansas City, Mo. He can be reached at or @justinlaberge on Twitter.

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