Fifteen years ago, I concluded the rigorous process of earning the Accreditation in Public Relations (APR) credential, a mark of distinction in the profession. Administered by the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA), and governed by the Universal Accreditation Board, APR signifies a distinguished level of public relations expertise and a commitment to ethical conduct.
Shortly after attaining the credential, I co-designed an intensive Accreditation professional development program titled APR Boot Camp. PRSA offers the program nationally and local chapters of the society host it.
As a longtime instructor for the program, I have had the privilege of guiding other public relations professionals along their journeys to earn Accreditation. My role as an instructor has afforded me the opportunity to meet and coach practitioners in cities throughout the country — from Harrisburg to Fort Lauderdale, from Richmond to San Diego, from Columbus to Houston.
I have coached professionals from all walks of public-relations life — including global brands like Disney and McDonalds, small and mid-size companies, military branches, academia, government, associations, agencies and sole practitioners.
The experience of facilitating an APR Boot Camp invigorates me every time, because: 1) I enjoy giving back to my profession; 2) I always learn something new, even as I share my knowledge with others; and 3) I consistently gain an even greater appreciation for what Accreditation in Public Relations represents.
On that last point, here are qualities you can expect from a public relations professional who has undertaken the Accreditation process and earned APR:
1. Appetite for Learning
The field of public relations is ever changing. To stay ahead, Accredited public relations professionals are continuously pursuing professional development to acquire specialized knowledge and expertise. To maintain APR status, Accredited professionals must renew their credential every three years by documenting engagement in learning and leadership activities.
2. Commitment to Ethics
As a condition for completing the APR process, candidates must acknowledge they will uphold PRSA’s Code of Ethics. As stated in the code, “the level of public trust PRSA members seek, as we serve the public good, means we have taken on a special obligation to operate ethically … we believe professional values are vital to the integrity of the profession as a whole.”
3. Inquisitive Nature
Accredited public relations professionals are trained in a disciplined four-step process that begins with situation analysis and research. As such, work begins by exploring, asking questions, collecting data, analyzing and drawing insights that are applied to the planning process. This is the path to developing sound public relations strategies and tactics.
4. Strategic Mindset
Grounding tactics in intentional and rational strategy is key to effective outcomes. Put another way, it is critical to think before you act. A strategic mindset and approach is at the core of the APR professional. A recent APR Boot Camp participant anecdotally shared that he often asks colleagues, “is it on strategy?” Not just is it on message, but is it on strategy. That is spot on.
(For more about strategy, read How Strategy Drives Success.)
5. Focus on Measurement
The fourth step in the four-step public relations process is evaluation. Accredited public relations professionals place an emphasis on measurement in order to evaluate and improve programs and campaigns. Furthermore, that emphasis is on outcomes (i.e. engagement, behaviors and impacts) as opposed to simply outputs (i.e. the specific work or deliverables produced).
6. Propensity to Give Back
Accredited public relations professionals actively give back as mentors, speakers, educators and volunteers. We visit classes to speak with students. We serve as panelists to offer insights to professional audiences. We participate on nonprofit boards. We give back because we believe sharing our expertise and experience makes our profession and communities stronger.
To all the APR Boot Camp participants I have met through the years: I am so glad to have had the chance to get to know you and be part of your APR journey.
To public relations professionals who are considering earning the credential: Please feel free to contact me via firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss the process.
If your business or organization is looking to partner with a firm led by an Accredited public relations counselor, please consider PRworks.