When my company underwent a reorganization, leaders urged me to get my professional certification as quickly as possible. I submitted an application for the APR (Accredited in Public Relations), and my journey began. Earning the APR a year later was a highlight of 20 years in public relations and communications. Here are a few things that helped:
- Even though I was intimidated, I committed to the process. I rented textbooks (i.e., “Cutlip & Center’s Effective Public Relations”) online and contacted an APR mentor in the Richmond Chapter for support.
- I studied “old school” style: I printed the APR Study Guide and put it in a binder, reading through (more than once!) and highlighting each section.
- My colleagues supported the process, and I valued my company’s investment in me including the time and expense of the PRSA International Conference.
- I attended pre-Conference sessions led by APRs that provided invaluable interaction and feedback, and received encouragement from the speakers that propelled me forward.
- Before starting the APR process, I didn’t know what “KSA” meant. I wrote the knowledge, skills and abilities on the whiteboard in my office, and looked for opportunities to practice each KSA in my daily work.
- I upped my game when panic set in. As my deadline loomed, I wrote the highlighted info from the notebook onto notecards that I studied while waiting in lines, in our office library, in local coffee shops, etc.
- I looked for PRSA webinars directly related to KSAs and APR prep, and I scheduled the webinars as meetings on my calendar. I took notes on my whiteboard and then photographed the notes for review.
- I made my portfolio attractive, organized and comprehensive. There aren’t details about what a portfolio should look like, so I created something I was proud to present.
- The panelists said I answered in-depth on my Panel Presentation Questionnaire (translation: it was long!). I included details about what I didn’t know when I completed my featured project, but had learned through the APR process.
- I participated in an APR Boot Camp. Last-minute review with peers filled gaps I’d missed in my own studying. The speakers led us through the jitters of our final prep and helped us focus on case studies before the computer-based Examination for Accreditation in Public Relations.
In the end, successfully navigating the APR process challenged me as a PR professional, and I’m grateful for the platform for knowledge and camaraderie it has provided me moving forward in my career.
Julie McGowan, APR, is public relations manager for the International Mission Board in Richmond, Va., and a member of the Richmond PRSA Chapter.