April is Accreditation Month at PRSA. It’s a time to learn about how becoming Accredited in Public Relations can help advance your career. Discover more about earning your APR by visiting PRaccreditation.org.
As co-chair of PRSA’s marketing committee for Accreditation in Public Relations, I receive many questions from peers about the credential: How does the APR make you a better communicator? How did the APR change the way you do your job?
I always answer these questions with conviction and enthusiasm as I reflect on my own path as a PR professional. To get people to trust me with their stories, I needed the confidence booster the APR could provide. I needed the framework of a third-party endorsement from a known commodity — with infinite reach, a solid reputation and a well-articulated Code of Ethics.
This was all available through the salient programming and the depth and breadth of PRSA’s committed volunteer colleagues (and the staff who support us) through our Chapters across the country.
A setback at work
My APR journey began when I didn’t receive a promotion. Working for a national telecommunications firm in Atlanta, I lost a seismic bump up the corporate ladder. I learned that it was because I could not articulate the communications objectives, strategies and tactics that brought the multibillion-dollar firm’s products to life in the eyes of the target audience.
I was an idea aficionado, a hard worker and an admired colleague in the executive ranks but, until I could effuse the business goals in terms of time-bound measurable benchmarks that influenced behavior change through strategic communications activities, I was stuck in a mid-level holding pattern.
With a precious baby girl and a husband on his own upward career trajectory, pursuing an advanced degree was not an option at this time. The Accreditation would be my salvation.
Or so I thought. I didn’t pass the Panel Presentation the first time because my command of the planning process was not second nature. I fought my way back, and realized that by putting the concepts to work every day, and demonstrating the skill in board rooms and idea sessions, my confidence increased.
My knowledge became more directive. My cadence is more sure-footed. Conducting multi-phased details of PR initiatives evolved with ease, and command of the ever-growing owned social media channels that debuted in the early 2000s became deft. The applied knowledge worked, and I passed the second panel and then the computer-based exam.
My employer was growing, and our C-suite leaders needed an easier way to swiftly understand communications initiatives. I devised a visually appealing communications plan on one page — an architecture that shows the goal, objectives, strategies, tactics and target audiences post research.
A new opportunity
A few years later, after the sale of the telecommunications firm, I decided to invest my retirement package from the firm — at age of 40 — in myself. With two colleagues in an LLC partnership and a dreamy vision for what we wanted to accomplish, we began growing our agency named for the goddess of dawn, Eos, whose purpose in Greek mythology was to bring Zeus a new day and a fresh perspective.
Following Eos’ mantra, this perspective was presented and sold to client after client via these APR-credentialed plans. Its simple architecture broke down complex communications problems, showing the art and the science of communications challenges and how they could be solved for clients’ business needs. It made our clients’ work easier, better and even financially safer — building loyal customers and repeat business.
People noticed us. With 16 colleagues now working for Eos, the ripple effect of the credential had manifested. With command of the nomenclature, we did not waste time debating the difference between a strategy and a tactic; thus, the speed of execution (and therefore profit) escalated.
Fueled by this, I volunteered to teach the APR process in the PRSA Georgia circles to anyone interested in achieving the mark of excellence. Within several months, the Georgia Chapter went from a very low number of Accredited professionals to one of the highest in the country.
We sold Eos to a regional marketing organization. At the end of my buyout period, I joined a client — the Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta. Here, we applied the APR framework with the objective to increase donors and grants, thereby enabling our area to thrive.
Today, in the first half of 2021, my rearview mirror sees an amazing team of volunteer board leaders and phenomenal staff colleagues who are rolling up their sleeves to achieve monumental change. The Community Foundation moved from $880 million in assets with annual grant-making of $80 million, and no brand awareness, to $1.2 billion in assets with annual grant-making in 2020 of $177 million.
We are now considered a “regional anchor” institution across metro Atlanta. In 2020, our focus shifted to $30 million of the annual grant dollars specifically allocated to fight COVID-19 on the front lines for our region. We are now seen as Atlanta’s home for philanthropy.
The difference the APR credential had on my career made is apparent. I ask you to seriously consider pursuing your APR — because of the confidence it brings, the thorough understanding it provides, and the simple yet sophisticated, processes and practices that you will apply to your work every day.
Elyse Hammett, APR, is co-chair of PRSA’s Accreditation Marketing Committee. She earned her credential in 2001. She is vice president, marketing and communications, at the Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
[Illustration credit: nwm]