APR: The Next Stop on Your PR Career Track?

APR 50th Anniversary logo

For all of us who have chosen the field of public relations as a profession, becoming Accredited in Public Relations (APR) is the hallmark of ethical professional practice. It is an affirmation of the art and science of our work. Like any advanced degree, it requires purposeful preparation, a study plan and dedicated time, so for some it can be a bit intimidating. But don’t let that stop you! Everything worthwhile comes at a price — isn’t it time to invest in yourself?

The Universal Accreditation program seeks to improve public relations practice and to unify and advance the profession by identifying those who have demonstrated broad knowledge, experience and professional judgment in the field. The designation Accredited in Public Relations (APR) signifies a high professional level of experience and competence. NSPRA values accreditation highly and supports members in their pursuit of this career milestone.

Ability. Professionalism. Respect.

Earning recognition as a skilled and respected public relations professional requires personal commitment, solid professional development and the ability to apply sound public relations theory to common sense practice. There are a lot of talented and creative PR pros doing good work in their districts and organizations, but the ones who consistently effect successful, measurable outcomes (and who typically are the people colleagues call on for advice and counsel) are grounded in the knowledge, skills and abilities that comprise APR.

Making a commitment to your own professional development is an important component of a successful career. If you have been a full-time school public relations professional for five years or more, it may be time to consider pursuing your APR. Many veteran NSPRA members will tell you that they wish they had taken this step earlier in their careers. The process of studying and preparing for the examination is valuable in and of itself and provides helpful tools and knowledge for some of the challenges you will face throughout your career.

New APRs Share Their Insights

We asked several NSPRA members who became Accredited this past year to give us their perspectives on the process and value of becoming an APR.

Nancy Wayman, APRNancy Wayman, APR, director of communication, Pittsford (N.Y.) Central School District

“The way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing.” This quote from Walt Disney pushed me over the line of coveting the APR and actually pursuing it. When I read this quote, I was well into my career and had set the goal of achieving my APR when I was a PRSSA member in college — in the 80’s! But, you know what happens: your career takes off, then life takes over, and that goal is set aside — “temporarily,” you tell yourself. Now, I wish I had done it much earlier in my career.

The process of becoming APR is challenging. The rigor pushes you to the next level of professionalism, integrity and expertise. That’s the beauty of the challenge and the rigor. If you’re stuck in a rut in your job, start your APR; it will inspire you. If you’re newish in your career, start your APR; it will catapult you to the next level. If you think it’s too hard or will take too much time, start your APR, and plan accordingly. All your expertise, knowledge, and instinct will be sewn together with a golden thread that is the APR development process. Thread your needle with the APR golden thread and begin doing.

Ryan Williams, APRRyan Williams, APR, public relations coordinator, Tulsa (Okla.) Technology Center

For me, earning my APR has brought a personal value that extends beyond the respect of my peers. The personal satisfaction of accomplishing a goal (my goal was to leave the NSPRA Seminar and finish my APR by the following NSPRA Seminar) that I had set for myself was much more rewarding than I had anticipated. The process was certainly challenging but worth all of the effort.

The biggest advice that I would give is go through at least one, if not multiple, study sessions so that you can feel more comfortable with the material before heading into the Readiness Review. Knowing what to expect, for me, overcame much more of the fear of the Readiness Review than taking the actual exam. People just don’t understand the public relations profession in general. Accreditation lends itself to bringing a professional meaning and certification, earned by the practitioner, that makes sense to the general public.

Getting Started On Your APR Journey

The first step on the journey to your APR is to review the information available on the Universal Accreditation Board (UAB) website. Everything you need to know about the process and becoming a candidate is there, including a Study Guide. Once you have reached a point in your study that you feel ready to become a candidate, you can download the application and submit the materials and the required fees to the UAB.

Kim YieldingKim Yielding, APR, manager, communication and public relations, District School Board of Niagara, St. Catharines, Ontario

Earning my APR is certainly one of the most significant accomplishments in my career. As communications professionals working in the education sector, we constantly strive to demonstrate how strategic communications benefit the system and support students. Becoming accredited is an important way to validate that work and display our commitment to effective public relations. On a personal level, becoming an APR has increased my confidence and helped me improve my personal practice.

Brett SweeneyBrett Sweeney, APR, communication officer, District School Board of Niagara, St. Catharines, Ontario

I began my career in Communications and Public Relations after having trained and served as a broadcast reporter for several years. In that time, I learned many different skills which helped me transition into my new role; however, I did not have a solid background in the theoretical underpinnings of our profession. Going through the APR process was such an incredible opportunity because it allowed me to grow as a practitioner and gain that in-depth understanding of the foundations of public relations.

I would recommend anyone interested to begin the process. It challenges you to think critically about how you approach your work and will open your eyes to new thoughts, ideas and strategies. Earning your APR is as much about your commitment to continuous learning as it is about the achievement of becoming accredited. It is well worth the time and effort!

The fee is $385 for non-PRSA members (PRSA member $275). NSPRA has made a commitment to support Universal Accreditation by reimbursing NSPRA members who successfully become accredited $110 (limited to the first 20 members each year) in order to match the PRSA member fee.

NSPRA members interested in pursuing accreditation should contact Karen Kleinz, APR, NSPRA associate director, kkleinz@nspra.org or 301-519-1227 with questions and to discuss important timelines for meeting your APR goal.