Why the APR Process Isn't Nearly As Scary As You Think
I can’t tell you how many PR professionals I speak to who express an interest in earning their APR, then immediately tell me why they probably won’t. Some are concerned about the time commitment and some fear they don’t have enough work experience. The large majority however have heard war stories about how tough the APR is to achieve and are scared off by a process they assume is far more intimidating than it really is.
As one of the accreditation chairs for the PRSA Hoosier Chapter, and a newly minted APR myself, let me assure you this is no cake walk. But you wouldn’t want it to be, would you? If accreditation were easy to achieve everyone would have it and it would carry far less weight within professional circles. That said, the process is far less intimidating than I thought it would be and far less formidable if you break it down into these three bite-size steps.
You must first complete an application for accreditation. The Universal Accreditation Board (UAB) will then decide if you’re eligible to proceed. The UAB prefers professionals with at least five years of public relations experience. That experience can be in the field or teaching at an accredited college or university. Once the UAB notifies you that you’ve met its criteria, you have one year to complete the next two steps. You will also be charged $385 to cover the cost of your computer exam.
The Panel Presentation is an opportunity for you to demonstrate competence in a dozen skills that cannot be effectively judged on the computer-based exam including, but not limited to, creativity, initiative, interpersonal skills, communication, and presentation skills.
The panel consists of three accredited local chapter members. You will choose a public relations plan to present and complete a questionnaire that outlines that plan. Bring four copies of your presentation to the panel (one for each judge and one for yourself). The panel can take upwards of two hours to complete and should be treated very much like a job interview. This is the time to talk about the strengths and weaknesses of your plan, your measurable objectives and if you achieved them, and what you would have done differently had you had more time or a more robust budget. It’s critical that the plan you choose strictly adheres to the RPIE method (research, planning, implementation and evaluation). After the panel presentation, the judges will decide whether to give you an Advance or Not Advance status. The UAB will mail those results within two weeks.
Once you’ve passed the panel presentation, you’re ready to sit for the computer exam. It’s designed to test your knowledge of the public relations process, history, ethics, law, issues and crisis communication, as well as communication models and theories.
The test consists of 132 multiple-choice, single answer questions. You must correctly answer 82 of the scored questions in order to pass. Each candidate is allowed three hours and 45 minutes to complete the test. Results are printed for your review upon completion, although the official pass/fail notice from PRSA can take anywhere from two to four weeks to arrive in the mail.
Still feeling overwhelmed by the process? Don’t. The PRSA Hoosier Chapter offers a FREE eight-week intensive APR prep course as well as a mentoring program designed to pair individuals who have completed the prep course with an accredited chapter member who will mentor them through the panel presentation and exam, offering advice, guidance, support and encouragement along the way. If that weren’t enough incentive, how about a little cash? The Hoosier Chapter offers a $110 rebate to those who successfully complete the APR process!
Accreditation IS important on so many levels, so don’t let your preconceived notions of the process scare you off. Not only does an APR help provide instant credibility, it offered me a newfound respect for myself, my profession and my place in the PR field. So go get yourself that accreditation. It may just be the single best thing you do for yourself professionally.
Tammy is the owner of Mother of Pearls, a full-service, boutique public relations agency in Carmel, IN, that specializes in media relations, media training and crisis communications.