Years ago, I attended an APR information session, borrowed a friend’s old copy of “Effective Public Relations” and her Chapter’s APR study materials — and decided not to pursue Accreditation. With a demanding job, two (then) young children and substantial volunteer commitments, including a term on the PRSA Nashville Chapter board, I was not yet ready to commit the time and energy to earn the APR.
Almost two years ago, I attended a second information session. Most of the aspiring APRs attending were in the earlier years of their careers, except for me and a mid-career practitioner. She questioned the value of Accreditation. Would it pay off in a promotion? A raise? Was there any point to it at this stage of her career?
Her questions surprised me. Accreditation demonstrates competence, relevance and professionalism, which are vital to effective practice at every career stage. And more seasoned practitioners may bring greater insight to the process than they would have earlier in their careers. I left the session ready to begin.
I started by reading “Effective Public Relations,” the APR Study Guide and several of the recommended texts. I created flashcards. I began writing my responses to the Readiness Review questions and constructing my portfolio. I watched on-demand webinars and read another edition of “Effective Public Relations.” I reviewed dozens of PR plans as a volunteer PRSA Chapter awards judge. With no deadline for earning Accreditation, I continued to ready, study my flashcards and fine-tune my Readiness Review materials for weeks.
Then a dear friend who encouraged me to get Accredited became gravely ill. I was reminded life has its own deadlines and quickly completed my APR application. By then, the KSAs and APR Study Guide had been updated. I studied the new versions as I prepared for my Readiness Review panel.
The Readiness Review went smoothly. One panelist asked why I wanted to get the APR — now? I said that early in my career I had an older boss with stale ideas. I never want to be out of date. The APR process provides a framework, a goal and an incentive to read broadly, think deeply and stay current in the profession.
I sat for the Examination for Accreditation in Public Relations on the first available date after being Advanced through the Readiness Review. With all my reading and studying, I was ready for it; but I cried as I drove away from the testing center. My encouraging friend had died and I could not tell her I passed the Examination.
When I first attended an APR information session, my oldest daughter was in elementary school. By the time I became Accredited, she was a few weeks short of high school graduation. I tell colleagues I made the fairly quick and straightforward APR process long and complicated. But taking my time also was enriching and productive. I expanded my knowledge, applied what I learned and reflected on what it means to be a public relations professional. Those are valuable exercises at any career stage.
Meredith Libbey is Communications Manager with Ford Credit and a PRSA Nashville Chapter past Board Member.