Accreditation in Public Relations PR Training

The APR Process — Why It’s Worth It

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The Accreditation process was a mid-career boost of adrenaline — challenging and exciting, yet difficult and trying. I tested my knowledge and understanding of public relations and learned more about the history and evolution of the craft.

Share this!

The Accreditation process was a mid-career boost of adrenaline — challenging and exciting, yet difficult and trying. I tested my knowledge and understanding of public relations and learned more about the history and evolution of the craft. Although the process seemed overwhelming at first, the PRSA Georgia Chapter APR Accreditation team divided it into manageable parts and I completed the program within a year. 

In the spring I finished the Readiness Review Questionnaire, which challenged me to analyze my firm, my professional experience and the state of the industry.

Next, I scheduled my Readiness Review for June and prepared to present a media relations campaign and corresponding event plan that I had executed for a consumer client. The Review was approximately two hours in length but required dozens more in research and preparation. My panelists provided a fresh appreciation of the campaign I presented and positive feedback on my career highlights and accomplishments. Ultimately, they gave me the green light to proceed and confidence to continue on to the computer-based portion of the process.

I spent winter evenings by the fire with the APR Study Guide, my flash cards and a copy of “Effective Public Relations.” Then, I took the computer-based Examination in February. After four hours at the Prometric testing center, I received the unofficial pass and, finally, the “thrill of victory.”

Undertaking this process required me to reflect on my career accomplishments and review, rediscover and refine the specific campaign that I presented to my Readiness Review panel. It opened my eyes as I learned more about the theories and methodologies of public relations, and began to adjust the way in which I practice.

Additionally, I felt tremendous support from my colleagues. The PRSA Georgia Chapter APR team, my “classmates,” Review panelists, and co-workers provided encouragement and guidance. My family provided inspiration and support at home. Overall, it was a positive experience that I’d recommend to colleagues. In fact, I have some flash cards that I’d happily loan out.

Stephanie Q. Fitzsimmons, APR, has more than two decades of public relations experience and been a senior account leader at Jackson Spalding since 1999.  She serves as strategic counselor to some of the firm’s top consumer clients, including Delta Air Lines and Purchasing Power.  Fitzsimmons earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism and mass communications from Iowa State University.

About the author

Stephanie Q. Fitzsimmons


  • Congratulations, Stephanie! Your Jackson Spalding coworkers are so proud of you. Thank you for serving as a source of encouragement and inspiration for other PRSA members seeking APR certification.

  • APR isn’t for everyone…but it is for anyone, who like Stephanie, wants to elevate their relationships internally and externally. It’s for the professional who knows that they haven’t yet reached the boundaries of discovery and professional knowledge. It’s not just what you learn in preparation for the difficult APR process, it’s how it causes you to look at what you do and how you do it through different, more strategic, more sophisticated lenses.

  • Perfect timing for a perfect endorsement of accreditation. I am helping today with a readiness review seminar sponsored by the Alabama PRSA chapter. I’ll make sure that all the participants see Stephanie’s testimonial. After 25 years, I am even more convinced than ever than accreditation was a right professional step for me.

  • Bravo, Stephanie! We need more PRSA members to understand the APR as a mark of preparation and achievement, not a roadblock to progress in the Society.

    I wish some of the so-called “ad-hoc” committee bent on destroying the APR would reconsider their approach and embrace earning the credential as the mark of someone who cares about the future leadership qualities that PRSA desperately needs, like understanding the social science underpinnings of communications theory. PR is not about throwing parties or getting products photographed with celebrities, sorry!

    Steve Lubetkin, APR, Fellow, PRSA
    Past Member, PRSA National Board of Directors, 2003-2005
    Past Mamber, Universal Accreditation Board, 1997-2003
    @PodcastSteve on Twitter

  • Stephanie, I’ll be sharing your thoughts with potential Accreditation candidates in the San Diego/Imperial Counties Chapter. I pursued my APR primarily due to friendly peer pressure at first. Five years later I can say without hesitation it’s one of the best things I’ve ever done for my career development. One of the most powerful benefits is somewhat intangible. Getting my APR gave me confidence: confidence that my counsel and strategic thinking was valid, thoughtful, and grounded in solid principles. It permits me to speak with a little bit more authority which can often make all the difference! I’m much more willing to stand my ground when it’s necessary. This benefits my clients. I know the quality of my clients has improved and yes, my pay rate too!

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