The other day, the head of a well-respected New York firm delivered a blistering critique of the Accredited in Public Relations (APR) credential on his blog. Somewhat curiously, a similar outburst appeared on his partner’s blog a day later.
PRSA admittedly has had its challenges in trying to establish the value of the APR mark in the minds of agency hiring managers, which is something we’re working to change. But, we’re always surprised when we run into someone who is against the ideas of self improvement, learning and recognition for those efforts — ideals which are fundamental to us as Americans.
I get the argument that some of the best and most relevant experience can be gained in the workplace, but take a look at the bigger picture. Traditional media and bloggers are calling out our industry and its professionals and mocking bad pitches. Practitioners are providing bloggers with free products without ever disclosing the quid pro quo when editorial coverage results.
How can you argue that the workplace couldn’t use some assistance in educating its employees?
This is where the APR’s emphasis on continuing education helps, both through its focus on practical areas that should be a part of any good practitioner’s toolkit — things such as research, audience segmentation and measurement — to standards of professional conduct and ethical decision making. Knowledge is power at any time, but especially in a down economy.
The APR is also more than a test of knowledge. It’s a community of professionals who are dedicated to mentoring, sharing and building the industry’s knowledge base. In addition, the credentialing process moves public relations closer to getting its full due as a profession.
That’s right. Read “Effective Public Relations,” the seminal public relations text by Cutlip, Center and Broom (something most APRs have done, by the way).
“For public relations to achieve professional status, there must be specialized educational programs, a body of knowledge, community recognition, individual accountability and commitment to abide by established codes that protect the public interest and spell out social responsibility,” it reads.
PRSA members come from all walks of life, from all parts of America. Some work in large corporations, some are sole practitioners. Some live in big cities, others on the plains and prairies of rural America. While their backgrounds, motivations and needs are all different, thousands have embraced the process of structured learning and testing embodied in the APR mark, which they proudly display as part of their professional accomplishments. We find it fascinating that the heads of a single big-city agency presume that their views are somehow defining for others.
Those of us with college degrees list them on our resumes. Those imprimaturs serve as marks of accomplishment, but also represent only part of our qualifications, which are gained through our life experiences, our personal and professional encounters, our moral compasses and elsewhere. Thousands of APRs across America proudly display the APR mark — as they do their other qualifications — because it is one of their many accomplishments. It speaks volumes about their commitment to learning and professional success, and to moving our “profession” closer to the status, recognition and respect it deserves.
Michael G. Cherenson, APR, is PRSA’s 2009 Chair and CEO.