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Taking Tangible Steps to Strengthen APR

Fellow PRSA members,

As my term as 2014 National Chair of PRSA comes to an end, I look back at a year filled with great memories and milestones – one of the most significant being the 50th Anniversary of the APR credential.

Throughout the year, individual members and entire chapters came together to celebrate the APR, spread awareness of the credential, and shine attention on the value of lifelong learning while reinforcing the enduring principles of public relations.  I am also deeply appreciative of the efforts of the Universal Accreditation Board (UAB), the APR Marketing Committee and PRSA staff for helping to guide the most aggressive marketing campaign in the history of the credential.

As the 50th Anniversary year comes to a conclusion, our organization’s commitment to APR remains steadfast.  This commitment extends beyond the marketing of APR – which will continue into 2015 and beyond – it also includes a focus on strengthening the credential.   And work needs to be done.  Within PRSA, the champion organization for the credential, only 18% of our members are APRs.  After years of extensive research, including three independent studies by three separate groups — Kelton Research, Organizational Performance Group (OPG Recommendations) and Ketchum (APR Membership Study)  – we learned that the challenge goes deeper than a lack of marketing. The APR credential needs to be looked at with fresh eyes.

Let’s take a step back for a moment…  It is no secret that the business and media landscape has shifted a great deal in recent years, and that communications pros are wearing more hats than ever before.  As such, a major area of focus at PRSA is to review and audit all of our offerings to ensure that we are delivering value to our members as their day-to-day jobs evolve.  This review transcends everything from our professional development courses and the content in our periodicals to the programming at our events and conferences.  Just as we are looking at all of our offerings to make sure that they are relevant and set for success in the current environment, we must do the same for APR.

Within this lens, last year the PRSA National Board assembled the Task Force to Strengthen the APR.  Throughout the first six months of the year, the Task Force worked tirelessly to examine all aspects of APR, including the infrastructure and governance of UAB, the APR examination process and the marketing of the credential.  Following months of work, that included a transparent and collaborative dialogue with UAB, the Task Force issued recommendations to the PRSA National Board that identified opportunities to make enhancements that will strengthen UAB and the APR for years to come.  I must extend my deepest gratitude to the Task Force, including Co-Chairs Jane Dvorak APR, Fellow PRSA and Elizabeth Pecsi, APR, Fellow PRSA as well as Mitch Marovitz, Ph. D, APR, Grace Leong, APR and Jill Hollingsworth, APR.   I must also extend my appreciation to UAB Chair Bey-Ling Sha, Ph.D, APR, for her tremendous spirit of collaboration throughout the process.

Following a review of the recommendations from the Task Force, as well as a review of years of research including the independent studies referenced earlier, the PRSA National Board of Directors identified a series of action steps to strengthen the APR.  These actions steps, which will be implemented over a three year period, include:

  • UAB Structure and Governance – work with UAB to enhance its infrastructure and governance model, and garner increased support and engagement from across PRSA and the larger profession
  • UAB Examination and Process – review and enhance the examination process to help keep the examination current with industry trends while upholding its rigorous standards
  • APR Marketing – provide consistent marketing support and bridge ties with key influencers including hiring managers and HR executives

Also among the action steps, the PRSA National Board will help guide UAB to consider the creation of a program/option where 20+ year senior professionals who have demonstrated a record of commitment to lifelong learning, and adherence to practicing the enduring principles of public relations, can apply for APR designation without taking the formal examination (the approach/format/criteria will be determined by the UAB, with support from the PRSA National Board).

The full list of action steps, which were approved by an overwhelming majority of the PRSA National Board of Directors, can be viewed at the following hyperlink: Action Steps to Strengthen the APR

As we prepare for the future – the next 50 years of APR – we must take the bold steps needed to ensure a strong and lasting future for the credential.  We also look to you, our members, to help us in strengthening the credential and encourage you to email your thoughts and suggestions to us at joseph.cohen@prsa.org. We also ask you to join us in our advocacy for APR.  As we extend our celebration of APR into the credential’s 51st year, please continue to help us to shine attention on APR, on the value of lifelong learning, and our organization-wide commitment to the enduring principles of public relations.


Joe Cohen, APR, 2014 PRSA National Chair

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