As the public relations and marketing manager of PKE Marketing & PR Solutions, I recently achieved my Accreditation in public relations, and since then many of my peers have been asking for advice about the APR process. I’ve been asked whether I think getting Accredited would benefit their careers, what my study methods were and tips I have for passing. I thought this blog would be the perfect place to share what worked for me.
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.
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 …
To ensure the delivery on Boehringer Ingelheim’s promise of ‘More Health’ to the patient communities we serve, we are continually examining and innovating around how to engage employees in responding to, and leading, the change we face.
Change is our reality: the increasing pace of technological innovation, regulatory changes, globalization, shifting demographics; the whirling maelstrom of global Life that we find ourselves operating within — none of which pauses for us to catch up.
Couple this with the second challenge: Engaging our talent, ensuring productivity, improving margins and managing turnover by supporting acceptable levels of employee engagement. Many other issues vie for strategic attention; however these two challenges have far-reaching implications for the future success of any organization.
Beginning in 2010, we constructed a series of pilots to engage employees in leading change. The results of these pilots were encouraging and have culminated in the creation of a new team within Boehringer Ingelheim Pharmaceuticals, Inc. (BIPI). The central thesis of this Organizational Engagement (OE) group, operational since February 2013, is woven from our understanding of the results of our pilots and tied to a theoretical foundation painted from a diverse set of sources and inspirations: enterprise social media, social entrepreneurship and the theory of urban planning.
The OE approach involves surfacing issues that span multiple functions through questions, discussion and dialogue. We subsequently empower passionate people from across our company to work together to affect positive change. Specifically, project teams made up of volunteers or nominated subject-matter experts (SMEs) devote their time to high priority organizational problems. These project teams form an agile network-like structure that forms, expands, contracts and disbands based on the priorities of the business and the demands of their projects. A portfolio of these projects is centrally managed by a cross-functional OE Core Team, which appropriately sets conditions to maximize the likelihood of project success.
Since inception of the OE group we have:
- Saved over one million dollars of opportunity cost avoidance.
- Implemented a variety of processes to sustain opportunity cost avoidance “wins.”
- Actively engaged almost 300 people from 17 functional areas, from across our entire U.S. organization.
- Connected diverse actors throughout our organization, at all levels, to work together for the benefit of the whole.
- Reduced organizational redundancy through questioning and empathetic engagement.
There are three broad themes we shared during our time at the PRSA 2013 International Conference in Philadelphia, and that we believe have been crucial to the delivery of these unambiguous business results:
- The importance of internal networks — formal and informal.We promote our messages actively and often through all channels — both offline and online. Our creation of a network-like structure to organize this work matches the underlying pattern of the organization and provides a mechanism for organizational learning at scale.
- The role of leadership in supporting nascent change.Our senior leaders provide sponsorship for OE projects, ranging from active “boots on the ground” through to figurehead roles. Our president and CEO has taken to routinely updating the organization on the availability of OE projects as business relevant cross-functional collaboration opportunities, and we have statistically robust data that links this messaging to robust employee awareness of this work.
- How to turn latent organizational energy into strategically important “wins.”Like most organizations, we run Engagement Surveys wherein the pulse of the organization is captured through questions. A persistent opportunity for improvement remains Development — and a desire to do more. Much of our recent OE work has been focused on validating this theme and then curating conditions wherein all employees have opportunities to participate — and subsequently “Develop.” This is not done in isolation, but in collaboration with all of the other opportunities afforded our colleagues through more traditional developmental assignments.
The business results we have realized are worthwhile, but they do not demonstrate OE’s impact on the system in terms of organizational capacity for change and engagement; employees’ experiences do. Below is one story of significant change that illustrates the power of turning latent organizational energy into a strategically important “win.”
Tags: 2013 International Conference: One World, Corporate Communications and Public Relations, Employee Relations & Internal Communications, Management & Leadership, Professional Development and Training, prsa conferences, PRSA International Conference
I remember what crossed my mind the first time I heard about the APR process and I shook my head thinking, “Who has that kind of time?” I was about to embark on a massive public relations campaign at work and my experience from past projects told me I’d barely have time to do much else.
Although I knew the benefits were obvious: An accredited public relations professional holds significantly higher weight in a world full of self-proclaimed public relations people. Fundamentally, the certification represents separating the best from the rest. All companies only want to hire and retain the best, and so it was an easy sell to the C-suite.
However, even after I achieved approval to proceed, I hesitated. In many cases, journalists, colleagues and the C-suite do not understand our world at all. I never had formal public relations training, so naturally I had self-doubt. What if I really don’t know what I’m doing? What if I don’t pass the Examination for Accreditation in Public Relations? We can’t always produce neat and tidy Excel spreadsheets in communications. Some people think I post everything I eat on Twitter or that I get to go do all the “fun” stuff because they only see the end result of strategic effort or a tactic in the vast arsenal of public relations tools.
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