Accreditation in Public Relations PR Training

After a B.S., M.S., an APR? Ten Tips for Success

The author, a recently accredited public relations professional, cites 10 tips to help communicators successfully get through the APR process.

April is Accreditation month at PRSA!

PRSA has designated April as Accreditation Month. Members can learn more about APR through many special events, including:

The first question I always get asked: How did you go from engineering to doing THIS?

The (Short) Answer

Quite accidentally. I had a part-time job to help pay expenses while I was in graduate school … for engineering. I began with a retail book company, and management recognized my talent for communicating — or maybe it was just that I was a big talker, thanks in part to my Italian heritage! Soon I was sent out with the community relations manager to assist on events. I loved it.

After having my first child, the crazy, all-hours of the day workweek just didn’t fit for me. I decided to go back to the retail book company, eventually going into community relations.

How the APR Fits In

Very nicely. Without a background in mass communication or journalism, I wanted to learn the science and theory for more strategic decision making. Unlike college courses where you’ve probably forgotten 99.9 percent of what you learned, APR knowledge is used daily.

If you want to understand how your audience communicates, what research methods to use, how to implement and measure a communications program, then the APR is the next step in continuing your education. The days of doing something based on a “gut feeling” are over and you can prove that to management.

Gina’s 10 Tips for Success

  1. Get support. I enlisted support from my husband for help with the kids during cohort sessions and weekends. Online course facilitators and students gave direction and encouragement.
  2. What type of person are you? Be honest with yourself. Begin your APR journey with a clear goal of completion time frame. There is no time like the present.
  3. Make a schedule … and stick to it! We are all busy. Life gets in the way. A schedule will make it less likely that you will derail from your APR journey.
  4. Get your tools: books, study guide, office supplies, online study course. I found myself shopping for “school” supplies with my children! The online course helps you keep to your schedule and connect with other candidates and APRs for their experiences and support.
  5. Get involved (early and often). I began in the summer session (May), which specifically focused on researching, planning, implementing and evaluating public relations programs RPIE. Volunteer to present case studies, module notes, book notes, and do some pro bono work. Module activities are a great source for hands-on learning and can be applied at your work. Critique and advice from APR facilitators and other candidates — invaluable. This sets you up in preparation for developing a communication plan for the Readiness Review.
  6. Apply what you learn right away. Whether it is through APR study or webinars, take away something from each module to use in everyday work.
  7. Take advantage of PRSA resources through daily Issues & Trends, live and on-demand webinars, ethics app and more.
  8. Be prepared. For my experience, an APR panel was convening in two weeks for another candidate’s Readiness Review, and my local APR chair said I was ready to go. This was a shorter time frame then I had planned, so I had to get on the ball for the presentation scheduled for 8 p.m., at night, a distance from my home … two days before Thanksgiving … in a nor’easter … and manage to prepare for Thanksgiving at my home at the same time.
  9. Take care of yourself. Adding APR prep to an already packed schedule is a serious commitment … and stress inducer. Keeping up with a daily exercise routine (with added flash card review while riding the bike at the gym) kept me mentally alert.
  10. Reward yourself. The APR is hard work and deserves a reward for a job well done. After hitting “end session” for the computer-based Examination for Accreditation in Public Relations and the painful seconds while the calculation was being made whether you pass or fail, I thought I was going to have a stroke! There was nothing sweeter than celebrating with family … and the new Dooney bag I promised myself — my first!

Gina Blume, APR, has been practicing public relations for 10 years, currently as a public relations coordinator for a public library. She has a master’s degree in materials science engineering from the University of Florida, and a bachelor’s degree in ceramic engineering from Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey. Gina earned her APR in February 2014.

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