The holiday season is famous for not only receiving gifts, but giving them as well. This year, my mind quickly goes to something that I was able to give to myself nearly 12 months ago as I unofficially “passed” my Examination for Accreditation in Public Relations on Dec. 5, 2012, and received the confirmation letter less than two weeks later.
There are those on both sides of the fence about earning an APR, with either “It adds value” or “It has no value.” A quick scan of the comments about this topic on PRSAY is a good illustration. While PRSA is currently looking at ways to enhance the perception and the reputation of the certification, at the end of the day, it’s about what you think it is.
This was a self-inflicted battle that I put myself through the past couple of years of “will I” or “won’t I” pursue the APR. Is it better/worse/worth my time compared to other certifications or even degrees? Will an APR really help me both now and later in my career journey? What if I start down the path of an APR, but don’t get it? Does that mean I should rethink my profession?
Finally, after taking the online practice test several times — spanned over the course of two years to gauge my improvement with knowledge of the profession — I decided to make it a goal to get it done by the end of 2012. The preparation read like a public relations version of the “The Twelve Days of Christmas”:
- Fourteen-page Readiness Review questionnaire based on work experience and skills.
- Seven months of studying and preparing (May–early December).
- Five group study sessions.
- Four-page application based on previous work experience and skills.
- Three hour and 45-minute, multiple-choice computer-based Examination.
- Two-hour, 3-person Readiness Review panel, which judged the questionnaire and my portfolio.
- A portfolio (not in a pear tree) representing a successful public relations campaign.
Amazingly, there were no “lords a-leaping” or “geese a-laying.” So why am I thankful for putting myself through a voluntary process that wasn’t required as part of my job, did not necessarily guarantee me anything in the future and required continuous review of a 450-page textbook, 150-page study guide, and numerous handouts and PowerPoint presentations?
Because if you want to be better, you have to test yourself. The APR process taught me that I still can accomplish education-related goals 10 years out of college. It confirmed to me that I have the skills and comprehension to continue to do great things in the profession. It affirmed my commitment to future learning by understanding the maintenance and membership requirements.
Most of all, it gave me something that I’ll never lose. That’s the funny thing about acquiring knowledge … it’s truly a lasting gift to yourself that can never be taken away.
Andy DiOrio, APR, is the director of corporate communications for AMC Theatres, and 2015 president-elect for the Greater Kansas City PRSA Chapter. In addition, he serves as the Professional Adviser to Kansas State University’s PRSSA Chapter. Follow him on Twitter @AndyDiOrio.