Accreditation in Public Relations

Finding Confidence Through Accreditation

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The year 2020 consisted of fighting the constant communication fires that came with COVID-19 and nationwide protests over social injustice. As much as we tried to be proactive, there was often only time to react, and my team was tasked with crafting messages that could make or break our reputation as a health system.

As the urgency started to lessen, I still had the burst of adrenaline from being in a constant crisis. One thing was true — if this happened again (and fingers crossed it never does), we would have to prepare differently. I started my APR journey with this at the forefront of my mind. I love to learn, and while I didn’t see a reason to return to school, I knew the prestige and expertise that came with Accreditation in Public Relations.

After making the mistake of paying for the exam prior to studying, the clock was ticking. Both the study guide and textbooks solidified what I already knew. There was indeed a right and wrong way to practice public relations, and I had to make the space to properly articulate and act on how important proactive, strategic planning was in our work.

The Panel Presentation and exam helped me retrain my mind — something I benefit from every single day. Fact is fact, no matter how I feel about it, and the practice of public relations takes just that — practice. The way we are often encouraged to move from task to task without proper research, planning, implementation or evaluation is incorrect.

I had to change how I thought about my profession and put intention into every piece. While there are still many situations where quick communication is important, the APR framework continues to be the first step. Working in health care, we joke that “this is PR… not the ER.”

Darcel Walker, MA, APR

Darcel Walker, M.A., APR

Today, I am confident in the processes and practices the APR has engrained in me. My journey also taught me that representation is essential. The experiences I had during my process and the people who motivated and coached me through them continue to remind me to use my voice, find a seat at the table, and support those who may often not be represented or heard in public relations.

The difference the APR has had on my professional career and volunteer work is evident. The strategic planning process is always my first step, and I strive to demonstrate the confidence, skill and knowledge that come with Accreditation.

As Accredited practitioners, it is our responsibility to show that public relations is both an art and a science that should be your first step in solving complex communication problems.

Darcel Walker, M.A., APR, earned her Accreditation in 2023. She is the director of public affairs at CaroMont Health in North Carolina and an adjunct instructor teaching public speaking. She also serves on the board of directors of the Charlotte Alumnae chapter of Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, Inc. as the Epistoleus (historian) and public relations and marketing chair. Connect with her on LinkedIn.

[Photo credit: denis]

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Darcel Walker, MA, APR

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