Go for Both!

By Mitchell Marovitz, Ph.D., APR, Fellow PRSA, 2018 Chair, Universal Accreditation Board

Last week, I had the opportunity to participate in a panel discussion about the APR certification with a group of government communicators.

What a thrilling opportunity! I joined two of my colleagues, one from the Universal Accreditation Board and a second representing the National Capital Chapter, to discuss the benefits of seeking a professional certification.

It was easy for me to explain how certification made me a better, more confident communicator, giving me a proven process and access to thousands of fellow practitioners who share my passion for high quality ethical practice.

One of the attendees asked a question that really intrigued me. She wanted to know if I would recommend seeking certification instead of a master’s degree. Intriguing, because not only am I this year’s chair of the Universal Accreditation Board, I am also a college professor! Now, how to answer…

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The Value of APR

By Tracy Cooley

Since receiving accreditation, I have had numerous debates with co-workers about the value of APR.

The value of APR is based on the individual as there are many benefits. For me personally, the greatest benefit is reinforcing the principles of public relations that produce strong results. The APR process gave me an opportunity to commit to approaching communication using the RPIE method (Research, Planning, Implementation, Evaluation) and following PRSA’s code of ethics.

Accreditation can provide a strong foundation for future career growth. While not everyone recognizes the value of the APR designation, it is recognized throughout the profession. There are many professionals, including me, who gravitate to public relations pros who have their APR as it gives me confidence that they have a firm understanding of the RPIE approach.

Pursuing accreditation is a personal decision. It takes time and patience, but most importantly, it requires a commitment to increase your knowledge and broaden your perspective in order to elevate your career.

The good news is that you do not have to do it alone – there are many accredited professionals who will mentor you throughout the process. A strong mentor can make a difference and give you the guidance and tools to ease the way forward.

Personally, I found the accreditation process to be enjoyable. I met numerous people who provided inspiration and motivation. Although I have two degrees in public communication, I still gained valuable knowledge that helped to compliment my formal education. Since it had been many years since I took a test, I enjoyed the challenge of test-taking (surprisingly!).

I would encourage anyone to pursue their accreditation as I believe it expands and enhances the experience of being a public relations professional. The APR process is valuable for professional and personal growth and will provide immense long-term benefits.

Learn more about APR

Ask the PRofessor – APR vs. Masters

Q:  I’m in my 2nd year of communications/marketing/PR work as a second career. Is it worth it to earn a Masters part-time, or would an APR be enough to advance my career?—AH, Washington, D.C.

Dear AH: As one who earned a Masters degree in Public Communication and the APR, I think I can speak from both perspectives.

The APR exam is an extremely valuable experience. Through the accreditation process, you will cover the basics of public relations practice as well as best PR practices. Its focus is on practical, “real-life” situations. However, having “APR” after your name doesn’t count for a lot in the marketplace these days. Many seasoned PR practitioners who were never PRSA members don’t know what it means, and some others don’t care. It may put your job application on the top of the pile, but your experience will count for more.

A graduate degree, on the other hand, is usually a combination of theory and practice. I gained from graduate school an understanding of WHY some communications strategies and tactics work. The advantage of a graduate degree, of course, is the sheepskin–relatively few PR practitioners have a graduate degree in PR, and that tends to count for something when hiring decisions are made.

Ideally, it would be useful to pursue both, but I’m sure you are limited in time and budget. If I had a choice to do it over again, I think I’d go for the APR early in my career and pursue a Masters about five-to-ten years later, assuming I wanted to stay in PR. Education is expensive, as you know, and accreditation costs much less. It also takes less time!


The “PRofessor” is Fred Whiting, APR, a long-time PRSA-NCC member, chair of the Mentoring Committee and is an adjunct professor at the University of Maryland and Hood College in Frederick. a local university professor. Fred will answer questions personally and publish some in the chapter’s website and blog.

Do you have a question about public relations? Ask the PRofessor! Submit your questions here or you can leave public questions/comments below.

April is Accreditation month – Click here to check out upcoming APR events and contact NCC APR co-chairs, Pamela Mooring, APR at pam_mooring@yahoo.com or Jennifer Bemisderfer, APR, jenbemisderfer@gmail.com.

Lack of Brains Hinders Research

Yes, this was an actual headline for a question on the APR (Accreditation in Public Relations) exam to define one of Lippmann’s barriers to communication.  (The answer is: Distortion due to compression).

When I started my blog last fall, I had intended to write more about the process of studying for the APR exam. Instead, I found my passion in writing about social media, crisis communications and current events.

Now that I have earned my APR, I am both relieved and excited to join this elite group of public relations professionals. Here are my lessons learned for the successful completion of the APR readiness review and computer examination process.

  1. Be ready to make the commitment to read a lot (study guide, text books, articles, case studies) and to exercise the APR knowledge, skills and abilities in hypothetical scenarios.
  2. Form a study group. You can meet in person or chat online (e.g. Google Chat). Invite APRs to your study sessions. Talk through every scenario in the study guide and your own case studies. Deconstruct case studies and rebuild them.
  3. Embrace communications theory. It had been years since I thought seriously about diffusion theory and the Grunig models of activating publics. These and other theoretical concepts have helped make sense of the confusion surrounding social media, for example.
  4. Become familiar with research and measurement, as related to objectives. Unfortunately, many PR campaigns often do not have sufficient budget for pre and post research or measurement.  Yet, these topics are a significant portion of the exam. Study up, and you’ll find new ways of thinking about how to incorporate research and measurement into your job with no or little budget.
  5. Improve your knowledge of business practices and ethics.  Experience is the best teacher in these areas. If you haven’t worked for a publicly traded company or faced the challenge of decision making, seek out colleagues who have.
  6. Don’t be daunted by the process. Sitting in front of a computer for 3 hours and 45 minutes was not as painful as I envisioned. There is plenty of time to read the questions, reflect on your answers and review if necessary.

By Tracy Schario Johnson, APR