I applied to be an APR candidate in June and sat for my exam in December — six months of hard work built on 10 years of industry experience contributed to my success. My approach included independent study, with an emphasis on the “short list” of recommended books provided by the Universal Accreditation Board. I also downloaded the study guide and actively participated in an online study group for the duration of my prep period. The weekly sessions were extremely helpful and kept me on track in my studies. My biggest fear was not the exam but the Readiness Review. I was daunted by the thought of the portfolio review and having to come up with a relevant case study from my work experience.
However, preparing the case study turned out to be the single most important exercise I performed. It forced me to synthesize the online classes, the study guide and all my real-world experience and apply it in a prescribed method. With some wonderful input from an Accredited colleague, it came together beautifully, and I learned an awful lot in the process. Highlighting the best-of-the-best from my body of work for the portfolio review was a worthwhile endeavor. I made sure that I covered all the points in the Readiness Review panel’s scoring forms while showcasing my work. Realizing that my Readiness Review panel was there to validate my knowledge and offer constructive input made all the difference.
After that, it was a matter of making time to study and recognizing my weak spots. I recommend a rigorous review of communication models and theories, because these figure prominently on the test, but are not generally part of a public relations professional’s top-of-mind knowledge base.
Finally, the support and encouragement I received from my APR facilitator kept my head in the game and my eye on the ball. As with most things in life, the journey was even more valuable than the bright shiny certification at the end of the rainbow.
Laura M. Bower, APR, is vice president of corporate communications for Edfinancial Services, a national student loan service provider, where she’s responsible for public relations, advertising and brand management. Prior to joining Edfinancial Services, she had a freelance creative business, WordDesign. She has a BA in English literature and an MBA in finance, both from the University of Tennessee. Laura is active in her local PRSA Chapter, and was recently recognized as Volunteer of the Year by the Knoxville Chapter of the American Marketing Association.
To learn more about Accreditation in Public Relations (APR), visit http://www.prsa.org/PD/apr/.
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