The journey to earning your accreditation in public relations (APR) can be a rigorous process. You must complete an application, study, present a campaign portfolio to a panel of APR peers, complete a computer-based examination and demonstrate a commitment to lifelong learning through maintenance.
Some may see the designation as being overrated, not worth it or too time-consuming. But that’s the point, isn’t it?
It is estimated that there are only 5,000 accredited professionals worldwide. Making those with the APR designation a relatively small but distinguished group of practitioners.
In full transparency, this past year, the organization I work for offered to cover the cost of pursuing my accreditation and I jumped at the chance. Not having to cover the $410 fees on my own, something that many people see as a barrier, definitely nudged me to take the plunge and begin the process (to be completed by Dec. 2018) but even without the benefit of having the cost covered, getting my APR was something I was always going to do.
So why exactly is having your APR designation important and how can it help you stand out from the crowd?
Here are my top five reasons:
First, it demonstrates to employers, clients, and peers your ability to perform strategically at the highest level and that your standards align with those who are at the top of the public relations profession.
In the PRsay article “Why You Should Pursue Your APR Certification in 2018,” Mitchell Marovitz, APR, Fellow PRSA stated it this way, “[The APR designation] tells prospective employers you are a master of practice. Obtaining the APR tells employers you have demonstrated the ability to perform as a strategic communicator to a high professional standard, that you have demonstrated your decisions are grounded in strong ethical approaches and that the professional process you use is based on current best practices.”
Second, it illustrates your pledge to continually strive to obtain the most current knowledge, skills and best-practices in the public relations industry through lifelong learning.
An accredited professional is required to earn points to maintain their accreditation every three years. Points are earned by participating in continuing education, community service, academic publishing and board service at the chapter, region or national level of PRSA.
Third, having the APR designation shows a practitioner’s commitment to ethical practice and to the PRSA Code of Ethics.
A 2015 survey sponsored jointly by PRSA’s Board of Ethics and Professional Standards and the Arthur W. Page Center found that accredited practitioners are more likely to feel prepared to provide ethical counsel and are more likely to engage in public relations ethics competencies when compared to non-accredited practitioners.
Far too often we read in the news about unethical practices that gives public relations a bad name. Accreditation helps to separate committed and ethical practitioners from those who claim to practice public relations but do not adhere to a professional standard.
Fourth, the APR designation brings a certain level of esteem to the profession and to the practitioner. Accountants have the CPA, engineers have the PE and electricians have the master electrician designation, each bringing with it a level of respect and acknowledgment of the practitioner’s skill level and to the profession as a whole.
The fifth and final reason for pursuing the APR accreditation is that making it through the demanding process and obtaining your APR is not only a personal achievement but an acknowledgment from top-level practitioners of your understanding and expertise.
The APR process strengthens the knowledge and skill of the public relations professional and hones his or her ability to communicate the theory and practice of the profession, all while boosting the practitioner’s confidence and leadership skills.
Does not having the APR designation means you won’t be successful in the public relations profession? No. Does it mean you lack skill or knowledge? No. Does it mean you are unethical or unprofessional? No.
Does it mean you are demonstrating your willingness to go above and beyond what is required to be the best practitioner you can be? Yes.
Pursuing the APR is about having a passion for the profession and for being your best. The process is tough. It takes time and sacrifice. But anything of true value comes with a cost.
So, in 2018, is the APR worth it? I say it’s a resounding yes!