Written by Deanna Johnson, APR, CEBS, MSHRM
American Benefits Council
Thanks to earning my APR back in 2002, I can actually see the forest for the trees on most days. In fact getting my accreditation opened up a whole new world of public relations theories and ideas with which I’d not been familiar, even though I’d been “in the business” for more than a decade. Like many, I came to PR from somewhere else: newspaper reporting in my case. In both professions you do a lot of writing, editing, interviewing and fact checking. But I found there’s an entire science to PR that I’d missed from “the other side of the notebook.”
Public relations is so much more than counting clips, tweets or ad imprints. You can tell the boss WHY something works when you apply PR theories and the “RPIE” (Research, Planning, Implementation, Evaluation) process in your every day job. It helps all the time that I can quickly sketch out in my head what a goal to resolve a problem might be, obtain the information I need to frame that issue and determine who my prime audience to address is. Next is deciding what behavior I plan to make them change, how I’m going to measure that, what strategies and tactics will best communicate that message and allow me to gauge the result, and to learn from what I’ve done and apply it to the next challenge. Earning the APR designation gives you the tools to control the chaos of an everyday work issue or your organization’s sudden need for/to avoid publicity.
Earning the APR
To be clear, earning the APR will take time and effort. The usual recommendation is to have at least five years of PR experience and that you plan to spend about six months to a year undertaking this course of study. Candidates usually begin by taking a mini Jump Start course —the next course for PRSA-NCC is scheduled for May 29. You may opt as well to take the PRSA on-line course offered in addition to studying the recommended texts and forming a local study group. You’ll then submit a written statement of why you are earning your APR and a PR campaign that you plan to highlight in your Readiness Review. An application to proceed also goes to National at this time. At your Readiness Review, you present to a panel of APRs a public relations campaign that you’ve completed and explain how you have applied your studies to that work. If the panel feels that you’re then “ready to advance”, you’ll receive authorization from PRSA’s national headquarters to finish your studies and sit for the computer-based exam. For those in the military or with Department of Defense responsibilities, the process of earning your APM+M designation is similar.
Not every candidate will advance from that initial readiness review or pass the computer based exam on the first sitting, though NCC candidates do have some of the highest passing rates in the country. Our chapter provides great mentors who will support you through each hurdle and cheer you on to the finish. And IT IS worth the study, the knowledge gained, the self-confidence acquired, and the wonderful relationships you make with the peers you meet along the way. Earning your APR means you put out fewer daily fires and instead build a solid platform for your career and your organization.