While many public relations practitioners are familiar with the APR designation, relatively few have heard of the Universal Accreditation Board, the governing body behind Accreditation in public relations. Better known as the UAB, the Universal Accreditation Board is comprised of a diverse range of public relations professionals who manage, administer and market the Accreditation program.
“We’re often misunderstood, or people simply haven’t heard of us,” said John E. Forde, Ph.D., APR, Fellow PRSA, and 2011 UAB co-chair. “In reality, the UAB plays a critical role in Accreditation. It’s the body that implements policy, maintains and updates the Examination for Accreditation in Public Relations, and grants Accreditation.”
Wide Range of Professions and Professionals
Comprised of 24 people, the board is led by Forde and Jay Rayburn, APR, Fellow PRSA. Nine public relations organizations are represented on the board: Agricultural Relations Council, Florida Public Relations Association, Maine Public Relations Council, National School Public Relations Association, Public Relations Society of America (PRSA), Religion Communicators Council, Southern Public Relations Federation, Texas Public Relations Association and Asociación de Relacionistas Profesionales de Puerto Rico (Puerto Rico Public Relations Association).
A 2011 survey of the UAB revealed board members have an average of 23 years’ experience working in public relations. The number of years that board members have been Accredited falls between seven and 28 years, with an average of 15 years.
UAB members’ experience crosses all sectors of public relations. Members of the board include an agency president, several professors (who all have practitioner experience), a vice president of public relations, the director of a hospital communications program, the director of public relations for a university, a vice president of corporate communications, military officers, an editor for a religious magazine and other public relations professionals. Their education levels range from bachelor’s degrees to doctorates, and many have additional specialized schooling in their areas of public relations.
“Our board members’ diverse backgrounds are a testimony to the vital role public relations plays across all sectors of society,” said Bey-Ling Sha, Ph.D., APR, co-vice-chair of the board. “The commonality among all board members is that they passionately care about Accreditation and believe strongly in its importance for the professionalization of public relations.”
Personal Commitment to the Credential
In addition to attending three weekend meetings a year in New York City, the UAB holds a meeting at the annual PRSA International Conference. Working groups hold teleconferences and meetings throughout the year. In addition to these scheduled time commitments, UAB members report volunteering between two to 15 additional hours a month.
The UAB has four main responsibilities: developing and implementing policy for the Accreditation program, developing and maintaining the Examination for Accreditation in Public Relations, reviewing appeal cases and granting Accreditation.
Serving on the UAB requires more than Accreditation — the volunteer position requires time commitment, travel costs and volunteer work.
“Until working directly with the UAB, I didn’t really understand the work being done behind the scenes,” said Melissa LaBorde, APR, a college professor who joined the board last year. “As a practitioner, I took for granted that the APR process was available, rigorous and reputable. Now that I am part of the actual work behind the APR, I have a new appreciation for the credential and for those who seek to attain it. I know that the entire profession is enhanced by our work to protect the integrity of the APR.”