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

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Build Career Resilience With Accreditation in Public Relations (APR)

APRBuild Career Resilience With Accreditation in Public Relations (APR)
Interview with Suzanne Lundin-Ross, chair of the APR committee

Could you tell us a bit about yourself and your role in the chapter?
Working with PR leaders as the chair of the Accreditation Committee inspires me to amplify the breadth and depth of our knowledge across the PRSA network. I earned my APR in 2008 while working overseas. With more than 15 years of international public relations and development expertise in crisis and disaster management, public health, food security, infrastructure and economic growth in Asia, Africa, and Latin America, I hope to bridge local and national APR expertise to a global platform.

What is Accreditation in Public Relations (APR)?
Accreditation is formal recognition that you are capable of meeting advanced industry standards much like other professional certifications such as those held by your accountant, dentist, or architect.Accredited Public Relations professionals, also called APRs, distinguish from other PR practitioners in that they demonstrate broad business and communications knowledge, a strategic perspective and sound judgment, and also a personal commitment to life-long professional development.

Why would PR pros pursue the accreditation? 
The APR offers branded value to organizations and members alike.For companies and organizations, confidence in APR competency is a given- an APR Pro has been independently tested and validated; Importantly, APRs offer added-advantage: they are able to parse metrics that matter for achieving business results. Whether they work to promote a positive policy environment, respond to issues, or help build the business bottom line, they achieve a return on investment.

For public relations practitioners, the APR validates higher-level strategic thinking and management skills—but more than a badge of quality assurance, the APR is a banner line of your toolkit and network help you access growth opportunities and career mobility.

How should PR practitioners begin their accreditation process?
Before applying for the APR, we encourage candidates to join our introductory overview session, called a Jump-start. Registration is now open for the 21 April, half-day, accreditation Jump-start. Register here: https://www.prsa-ncc.org/2017-accreditation-public-relations-mini-jump-start).

This introductory session, led by seasoned APR facilitators, provides a general overview of professional competencies: knowledge, skills, and abilities (KSAs) that focus on:
·       Strategic design, research, planning, implementation, and evaluation
·       Public relations management
·       Ethics and legal practices
·       Issue and crisis management
·       Theoretical and historical underpinnings of the practice

We discuss resources such as core texts and tools specifically applicable to the two components of the APR accreditation examination process:
·       The case study panel presentation assessment
·       The computer-based examination

We wrap up with a discussion about how to develop an individualized APR work-plan.


Is APR training appropriate for both those thinking about the APR and those seriously seeking the APR?

Absolutely! While the APR designation demonstrates a gold-standard of professional practice, each person’s pathway to the APR is unique.

Some pursue studies independently, some take years to test their mettle, while others seek support from the PRSA on-line program (see: http://online2learn.net/APR/) and/or chapter services to lock-down this designation of expertise.

We recognize that a professional support system contributes to an individual’s success. At NCC (see https://www.prsa-ncc.org/accreditation), our volunteers not only facilitate the PRSA national on-line course but also serve as a local point of contact for training, coaching, and mentoring. This helps streamline understanding about ever-improving standards of practice required for the APR.

To help address specific knowledge and skills gaps the NCC offers “deep-dive” Saturday seminars that focus on core KSAs. Our seminar in May will focus on strategic planning, and the seminar in June will focus on regulatory, legal and ethical practices. If we learn from military practitioners that they need a specialized course, we are ready to offer APR+M certificate training.

We also offer APR meet-ups to practice:
a)    Application of the APR framework and KSAs to situations in the current news
b)    Scenario-based questions like those used on the computer examination, to strengthen capacity to make appropriate recommendations on-the-spot, as well as test-taking skills and confidence.

Accreditation sounds like a professional fitness challenge.

Well, it is, and in a good way!

We help practitioners build a strong practice and a powerful professional network of current and emerging APR pros: the key to personal and professional career resiliency.

You attained accreditation! Now what? Build your network

new-member-lunch

Susan Apgood, APR; Robert Krueger; Sultana Ali, APR; Suzanne Ross, APR, Chair APR Committee; Samantha Villegas, APR.

Recently a colleague and APR panelist with the National Capital Chapter of PRSA Pat Van Nelson wrote an article on LinkedIn (https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/open-letter-boomers-thanksgiving-pat-van-nelson?trk=hp-feed-article-title-publish) sharing her experiences during a job search. She urged professionals to remain diligent in building and maintaining a professional network throughout their careers.

Pat and others like her tell us a professional network is not only a key component of a career crisis management plan, but a resource to gain insights into an industry, referrals for a project and guidance about a specific career path or challenge. The plan isn’t formed on the day you learned your employer was downsizing, the day your partner pursued a job in a different state or the day you achieved your APR. It’s a plan that requires strategic thought, curiosity, risk, accountability and sustained commitment to the changes you want to make throughout your career and life.

As Stephen Dupont, APR, said in his blog, “We are all in the relationships business…sharing what we know, and witnessing the journeys of others is the first step in building a lifetime of fruitful relationships.”

One step you can take in building a relationship network is to serve on an APR panel presentation review. You don’t have to join the APR committee, simply volunteer your skills and expertise for a specific activity. At our National Capital Chapter, APRs volunteer to teach one of six Knowledge, Skills, and Abilities in Jump-start introductory courses. In addition, they lead facilitated study events that “drill-down” into key KSA content, and participate in meet-ups such as the new member lunch Dec. 1, to share experiences and career insights.

Often, APRs are connectors helping those who seek career guidance to meet specialists for information interviews. Additional opportunities to begin or join a conversation include sharing your thoughts through publications such as PRsay, and platforms such as the chapter blog https://theprsanccblog.com or the LinkedIn APR Group and Twitter feed: https://twitter.com/PRaccred, @PRSA_NCC, #PRSAchat, #ItTakesAPRo.

As you contemplate New Year’s resolutions for 2017, add “relationship network” to the top of your career plan goal. At the National Capital Chapter, we’re here to help you get started.

Written and compiled by Suzanne Ross

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