As we start a new year, I’m pleased to begin my term as 2014 chair of the Universal Accreditation Board (UAB), which oversees the Accredited in Public Relations (APR) credential. The world’s largest certification program for public relations professionals, the APR celebrates this year its 50th anniversary. This is an exciting milestone that gives us the opportunity to celebrate our past, reflect on our present, and prepare for our future.
Personally, I chose to pursue the APR after I had earned my Ph.D. from the University of Maryland. You might ask why someone who already had a terminal, academic degree would put herself through the effort to earn a professional certification. (And to be honest, I often asked myself the same thing while in the studying process.) But, the APR to me was another opportunity to stretch myself, to demonstrate my commitment to life-long learning.
Over the years, the APR program has likewise stretched itself, to give public relations professionals greater opportunities for life-long learning. In 1998, the UAB was formed by a coalition of professional associations, which threw their combined weight behind the unified APR credential. In 2010, the UAB pioneered an enhanced accreditation for practitioners working in military communication, called the APR+M. This year, we are launching the Certificate in Principles of Public Relations, designed for college seniors entering the profession.
So, the APR program now has additional components, but its core competencies remain unchanged. The APR has never been about the latest tactics or the greatest gadgets. Rather, the APR is about the enduring principles that undergird our field of professional practice; it’s also about the ethical application of those principles to the daily challenges that practitioners face on the job.
Likewise, the core mission of the APR program remains today as it was in 1964: To raise the standards of professionalism in the field of public relations.
Thus, as we all tweak those New Year’s resolutions for 2014, I encourage you to add “earn the APR.” Do it for yourself, to engage in a challenging learning opportunity. Do it for your employer, to brush up on the enduring principles of public relations. And do it for our profession, to enhance our credibility in the boardroom and our standing in the community. Just do it.
And do it this year. There is no time like the present to honor our past and strengthen our future.
Dr. Bey-Ling Sha, Ph.D., APR is 2014 chair of the Universal Accreditation Board (UAB)