Navigating the PRSA APR Process

There is an ongoing debate among PRSA members concerning the value of pursuing, completing and maintaining the APR certification. Some members may just not have the time to devote to the process; completing each one can take up to a year; and maintaining the designation upon completion requires renewing your membership each year. Others wonder if having them will really lead to promotions and higher salaries. I decided to pursue the APR in the summer of 2010 and my perspective on the process is outlined below.

Benefits of Attaining APR?

People talk about how having the APR designation after your name can lead to more senior job opportunities and higher salary potential. These are both great things to pursue in any career, but I was not preoccupied with these notions as motivating factors. I wanted to see if I could complete the accreditation while continuing to perform my job at a high level, but also to become a well-rounded leader in the communications field, regardless of any status or monetary expectations that might eventually follow completion. I also felt that as a board member, I could help set an example or at least encourage other members and colleagues that the process can be worthwhile if one’s personal schedule can accommodate the tasks and time commitment it requires. I researched the criteria and felt confident that I could effectively navigate the process while improving my plan presentation and strategic thinking skills.

The Steps in the Process

After completing the application and being accepted to proceed, I met with the PRSA Phoenix Chapter APR liaison in August to kick off the orientation for the portfolio process.

The first step was writing a “personal narrative” that addressed several career and experience questions. These essay answers could range from three to five pages and were read by three local APR judges prior to setting a portfolio panel review date. I prepared my two career projects and presented to the panel in October.

After I received notification from the PRSA headquarters in New York City that I passed, I scheduled the computer APR exam for late December. This test consists of about 180 multiple choice in a variety of knowledge, skills and abilities areas that cover many standards and best practices of the public relations industry. With the help of reading four prominent public relations textbooks and practicing some APR sample tests, I studied for six weeks. The test was fairly difficult and I scored stronger in some areas, but I did pass and was pleased to have completed the process in four months. You have up to a year, so that affords you to proceed at the convenience of your schedule.

You Passed! Great, Now What?

Once you finish and pass the test, you are never truly finished. Part of maintaining these designations is giving back to your chapter in the form of serving as a panel judge on future APR candidates or being involved in other areas, such as committees, mentoring and workshops for other members. There is a set amount of points you must attain in a three-year period to remain active; these points can be accumulated by serving on the board, presenting to organizations, attending conferences and participating in professional development events. If you are an active member, satisfying the points requirement really isn’t that difficult to undertake.

So it’s just up to each PR practitioner to assess where the process can fit into their busy lives and if they feel it will help their industry knowledge, career advancement potential and continued involvement in their local chapter if they so desire.

Since receiving the APR designation, I have found myself more involved in helping out the PRSA Phoenix Chapter in a variety of writing, editing and marketing activities. I am more dedicated to being an advocate for PR pros to get involved as much as they can afford with their busy lives and careers while enhancing their industry expertise.

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