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 …
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I began the Accreditation process after having acquired 10 years of experience in public relations. Moreover, my public relations training came about largely via an apprenticeship. Like many a practitioner, I entered public relations after a successful career as a print journalist and joined an up-and-coming agency in the Detroit (Mich.) area. After making the transition, I found that many of the core values that guided me as a reporter and editor served me well as a public relations counselor and media relations manager. However, public relations is about much more than being just a “journalist in residence,” as one author described it.
When I earned my APR designation earlier this year, it marked the end of a yearlong odyssey that encompassed a range of learning opportunities ― and conflicting emotions.
My decision to pursue this rigorous postgraduate certification was not something I entered into blithely. In my role as the director of medical communications at Nova Southeastern University College of Osteopathic Medicine, I work extremely long hours. It also had been 24 years since I graduated from college and participated in a formal educational program.
When I left television news 22 years ago, I was impressed by several PRSA Chapter leaders’ professionalism and how their work seemed on a higher level than other public relations practitioners I’d met. Later, I learned all of these leaders were Accredited. One suggested I “audit” the Chapter’s Accreditation study sessions as part of my transition into the field. Having never taken a public relations course in college, it was an excellent way of quickly learning about communication theories and best practices.
During the past 20 years, I have progressed from working on a tactical to a more strategic level for clients. I was ready for the challenge and saw this as a way of demonstrating my knowledge while also showing thanks to the many mentors who shared their time and expertise with me.
I knew that I wanted to earn the APR designation as soon as I learned what it was — a challenge to become a stronger practitioner. Because I “fell into” the role of public relations professional, I never took the time to educate myself about the profession and my responsibilities in that role. Experience gave me a better understanding of many issues and helped me become adept at many skills, but I wanted to be a well-rounded professional and a more intentional, more strategic communicator.
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