Earning my APR was a long-term goal that kept being pushed down my priority list. Don’t get me wrong; I didn’t ignore my education, as I frequently enrolled in professional development workshops, conferences and webinars. The trending communications strategies were what my clients really needed, right? This is how I justified my APR procrastination.
For me, the pursuit of Accreditation shifted from a someday achievement to an educational priority when a vice president client, responsible for all marketing and public relations, asked me: “Do you agree that marketing is basically advertising and public relations is creating a buzz?”
This oversimplified description stunned me. In that moment, it became clear that it was my responsibility to educate my clients about the history and value of public relations as a strategic communications process that builds and strengthens — must-have — relationships with key publics.
Instead of jumping right into the Accreditation application process, I began my APR journey by enrolling in the APR Online Study Course. I chose to start with the summer session because it was a review. What surprised me the most was that I enjoyed the time I set aside to read the APR study guide material and “Cutlip & Center’s Effective Public Relations” (EPR11) book. I paced myself to make sure I completed the weekly course work, but was careful to keep the time as a pleasure activity, like walking, rather than a dreaded chore.
I found the reading materials related to the origins and evolution of public relations very interesting and quite relevant for today. Having been raised in New England where “Patriot pride” is strong, I found this excerpt from EPR 11, page 74, noteworthy: “Far more than most realize, today’s patterns of public relations practice were shaped by innovations in mobilizing public opinion developed by [Samuel] Adams and his fellow revolutionaries.”
After completing both the summer and fall cohort web meetings, I knew that achieving my APR was within my reach and I submitted my application to PRSA in March, participated in the Panel Presentation in May and passed the Examination for Accreditation in Public Relations in September.
I truly believe that by looking back at the history of public relations and investing the study time to complete the APR, my knowledge and consulting capabilities have been enhanced and better aligned with best practices.
Meg Handlin, APR, is a Maine-based PR and marketing strategist. She earned her APR in September. For over 15 years, Handlin has implemented multi-channel strategic communications plans for manufacturers, health care providers, software companies, nonprofits and small businesses.