When I stepped foot off my college campus and entered the big, bad “real world,” I knew that I didn't want the past four years to be the last chapter of my education. I was sincerely passionate about learning the ins and outs of communications and public relations, especially through my internship at the Colorado Rapids soccer team and the hundreds of hours I had spent in the classroom learning about the industry I was about to embark upon. I really enjoyed learning the dramatic horror stories like the Tylenol crisis in the 80’s and the Exxon Valdez spill. It fascinated me to see how the professionals handled these delicate situations and what it meant for the future of the company and the industry.
Flash forward a few (OK, more than a few) years and I hadn't lived up to the expectation I set for myself. As a dedicated member to the Public Relations Society of America, I decided to utilize my membership and look into the Accreditation of Public Relations (APR) program that they offered.
The accreditation process is a three-par
- Apply by demonstrating you have had at least three-five years of experience working in public relations and mail in your check. Please note that there is a one year time limit from the time they receive your money to becoming accredited. It is a lengthy process, so make sure your personal and professional calendars are ready, willing and able to accept the challenge.
- The Readiness Review- this should be called “the most detailed PR paper of your life.” Candidates are asked to answer questions describing their experience in relation to the 10 Key Study Areas (KSAs) in an AP style paper. The questions relate to planning, implementing and measuring programs, the history of the industry, IT and legal issues and ethical considerations. The PRSA suggests this should take eight to 10 hours of time, mine was more like 15. It is an intense writing exercise and you want to make sure you have ALL the KSAs covered efficiently.
- Once you have completed and submitted your paper to your APR Mentor, you present your findings in a 45-60 minute presentation to a panel. This sounds scarier than it is. Really, you are just explaining your answers in an open dialogue format to APR experts who want to see you succeed. I found their comments and questions appropriately challenging.
- The test. Standardized testing is not my forte and therefore, this was the most difficult part of the process. I get sweaty just thinking about going to a digital testing center! After reading several books, taking diligent notes and making flashcards just like I did for Spanish III, I entered the computer testing facility (what happened to Scantrons and No. 2 pencils?). People around me were taking everything from the GMAT to the HR accreditation (who knew there was one, they were probably thinking the same about PR!) More than 300 questions in over three hours.
I’d like to say I passed the test and all my hard work and effort paid off, but I would be fibbing. I actually missed the passing rate by TWO questions the first time. However, after a month off vowing to never do it again and then another month of coming to my senses and studying (sometimes stepping away for a bit and getting re-focused helps!), I am happy to report I am an APR for LIFE! With this accreditation comes continuing education courses and upkeep of the stature, but I am happy to do so.
The APR was an unexpected opportunity to improve my current job function by learning the development and the why behind effective PR campaigns. The process forces you to examine the four stages of a plan (research, planning, implementation and evaluation) and assess each from several points of view. Personally, I found that the more I become involved in chartering plans for my own clients, the more I call upon the skills from this accreditation. Looking forward to seeing more of my PR friends join me in the APR circle. I have also signed up to be an APR Mentor and happy to help anyone who is interested in giving it a shot!