As a lawyer and consultant, I have been engaged in some form of what I now know as public relations for more than 20 years; it was just never called public relations. It was alternatively referred to as public affairs, public information or public participation. And although I had real-world experience, I had no formal training in such topics as communication theory, models or history. Nonetheless, in May 2013, when two APRs in our firm held a session to introduce Accreditation, I was intrigued. A week later I was in a Jump Start class.
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As a self-proclaimed “old-school” public relations strategist for more than 13 years, I found myself becoming concerned that the integrity, credibility and prestige of the communications field might be waning. Without a way to measure expertise, how could true strategists separate ourselves in the field?
I was thrilled to discover that the Accreditation in Public Relations exists. It legitimizes our profession and builds accountability. At first glance, it seems a daunting task. And make no mistake, from the questionnaire to the Readiness Review to the computer-based Examination for Accreditation in Public Relations, it takes commitment, dedication and time … lots of time.
But once I began, it was stimulating to delve deeply into the theories and methods we use every day. Frankly, it renewed my passion and excitement for communications strategies. I was excited to realize that I use RPIE — research, planning, implementation and evaluation — habitually in my practice and that the core competencies lead my decision making. Plus, I learned new concepts that have made me a better professional and enabled me to perform my job at a higher level.
My best advice is: There is no time like the present. Sure, studying for the APR is time-consuming. The process can at times be overwhelming. And it is intimidating to think about what you might not remember — or even worse — not know. But in the end, it is absolutely worth pushing past these and other negative thoughts.
I came out of newspapers like a lot of folks my age who end up in public relations. Although I attended the best journalism school in the world, the University of Missouri, I didn’t know anything about planning, budgeting and evaluating.
My strength as a communicator for the colleges and social service organizations I worked for was in media relations.
But that was a small part of my responsibilities. Increasingly, I was called upon to develop a big-picture approach to help organizations realize their missions. That meant a lot of on-the-job training and mistakes.
All along, at Chapter and national PRSA and Religion Communicators Council meetings and conferences, I kept hearing the drumbeat — APR, APR.
But I had been out of school for decades! Could I do it?
Ten years into my career as a public relations practitioner, I was seeking a challenge that would renew my passion for public relations and invigorate my career. Earning the Accreditation in Public Relations was just what I was looking for and more than I bargained for!
The application process is like nervous laughter — feels exciting and scary simultaneously. Preparing for the Readiness Review is time-consuming and thought-provoking. I was reminded by a mentor that the Readiness Review is not there to deter candidates from earning their APR. It is used to evaluate whether or not a candidate is ready to move forward or if further mentoring is needed. The computer-based Examination for Accreditation in Public Relations is, well, um, yeah — it’s tough!
In fact, the whole process was overwhelming at times. But the greatest asset I brought to the party was perseverance — I never gave up! When I earned my APR credential, it was a spectacular moment in time. The experience was also personally transformative, and I was certainly not expecting to have a profound experience that I now reflect upon with great appreciation.
With all that said, Accreditation is more than the achievement, in and of itself; it’s about the process. Earning the APR is an Available and Powerful Resource.
The Accreditation process is one of the most rewarding accomplishments I have undertaken as a professor of public relations. I work as an assistant professor at Mississippi State University, and was encouraged to pursue my APR by our department chair. My initial thoughts on the matter were that I would go through a few examinations to earn a title that would better our standing as a public relations department. What I did not realize, and would soon find out, is that the APR process is a long journey that requires study, preparation, self-assessment and subject knowledge that vastly improved my ability to transfer theoretical concepts from research into professional practice, helped me to relay concepts to students with greater ease, and gave me a more precise ethical framework to evaluate public relations practices.
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