As 2009 Chair of the Universal Accreditation Board (UAB), it’s my pleasure to lead a team of distinguished, senior-level public relations professionals who oversee and guide the Accredited in Public Relations (APR) program. With April having been designated “Accreditation Month” by PRSA, I’d like to share some of my personal thoughts on APR certification, and to answer a question that I’m frequently asked, which is, “What is the value of the APR mark?”
To give you a little bit of background, I’ve held my APR since 1995. When I began the journey toward Accreditation, I was pregnant with my daughter, who is now 14, so we both came through the process just fine.
(And for any ladies who are considering postponing their pursuit of APR because of motherhood or the impending birth of a child, here’s a tip: Don’t! I’ll admit to having vacillated on this point myself. But a very smart woman, who was my mentor at that time, urged me to move ahead and not put the decision off. And I’m so glad that I followed her sage advice. It’s far better to move ahead before your bundle arrives!)
Shortly after obtaining my Accreditation in 1995, I shared my perspectives on the process with the leadership of my local PRSA Chapter — the wonderful Hampton Roads Virginia Chapter — and the next thing I knew, the Chapter had appointed me as its Accreditation Chair. A few years later, I was elected to the Chapter’s Board of Directors, before eventually serving as Chapter President in 2000.
Attaining Accreditation has helped me explain the concept of credentialing, and show the importance of demonstrated competency in the knowledge, skills and abilities required to practice public relations effectively. It also sends a message to those outside of our profession, that we have standards of excellence that we strive to maintain and follow.
Having now served all these years as an accredited professional and leader within PRSA and the UAB, what feedback can I offer you? And moreover, how do I feel about the time, expense, energy, effort and other sacrifices that I made to obtain the credential?
Seriously, I wouldn’t trade it for a thing!
Throughout my career, I’ve held firm to the notion that professional development is a significant contributor to intellectual and career growth, and that each of us is responsible for honing our craft. That’s where APR comes in.
The APR mark also bears forth witness to my proficiency in the strategic planning and execution of public relations campaigns. Does Accreditation prove that APRs are the best practitioners around? No, but for me, APR is a mark of distinction for public relations professionals who demonstrate their commitment to the profession and to its ethical practice, and who are recognized for broad knowledge, strategic perspective and sound professional judgment.
Achieving Accreditation has helped me grow professionally, personally and financially, as well. What’s even more noteworthy is that the journey of becoming APR has created opportunities and experiences that I otherwise would never have had.
Therein lies the value of APR, and just some of the reasons why I’m such a staunch advocate for Accreditation.
In closing, I’d like to mention that being the first person of color to lead the UAB is a great source of personal and professional pride. And it has been a heartfelt goal of mine to encourage — explicitly and implicitly — diverse candidates to sit for the APR examination; I firmly believe that we can increase the number who do.
I’d also like to thank you for the opportunity to share this message and personal ruminations about my experience with the credential.
Finally, I’d like to encourage you to take a moment to visit our Web site and share your thoughts on Accreditation and on the site as a resource for seeking and/or maintaining APR status. I’m certain that the Board would agree with me when I say that we want your thoughts and ideas, so we can enhance our efforts to “advance the profession and professional” through APR.
I look forward to hearing from you.
Felicia Walker Blow, APR, is the 2009 Chair of the Universal Accreditation Board (UAB).