As a lawyer and consultant, I have been engaged in some form of what I now know as public relations for more than 20 years; it was just never called public relations. It was alternatively referred to as public affairs, public information or public participation. And although I had real-world experience, I had no formal training in such topics as communication theory, models or history. Nonetheless, in May 2013, when two APRs in our firm held a session to introduce Accreditation, I was intrigued. A week later I was in a Jump Start class.
I then joined a study group that met weekly through the summer and into early fall. We briefed and quizzed each other on material mainly from the “Effective Public Relations” textbook and the APR Study Guide. I credit my study group with providing the emotional support and encouragement that kept me going.
Then I began the Readiness Review process. Completing the questionnaire took some time and introspection. Describing my project through the eyes of the APR methodology was challenging. All the elements were there, but the sequencing and nomenclature were different. Fortunately I had an APR mentor who took the time to review multiple drafts. Only when I was satisfied with my draft did I apply to take the Examination for Accreditation in Public Relations. I didn’t want that one-year clock starting until I was ready. The Readiness Review itself turned out to be more conversation than interrogation. It was collegial, helpful and positive.
After the Readiness Review, I took a month-long break. Finally, I set a date for the Examination and started studying in earnest — rereading the entire EPR text, taking the sample exams, and reviewing the Study Guide. I won’t kid you; the Examination is tough. It’s replete with scenarios that test your understanding and ability to apply both theory and practice. But then that’s what it’s all about, isn’t it?
Throughout my career, I’ve accumulated multiple professional certifications, but this was different. I’m using what I’ve learned this year in my work every day. I’m a more critical thinker, writer and reviewer. I have tools, resources and evidence that buttress my opinions. I still value my years of experience, but I know I’m a more complete consultant because of what I learned during the APR process.
Pat Van Nelson, JD, APR, PMP, is a senior associate with Booz Allen Hamilton, Inc., a management and technology consulting firm.