The other night I found myself in a nontraditional lawn mowing situation. I have a riding lawn mower and my son, who is now six years old, has enjoyed mowing with me since he was three. However, this time was different because he mustered up the courage to ask me, “Why don’t you ever let me drive?” I knew the answer, but how does one tell an impressionable child that his way of doing something isn’t exactly the routine way of accomplishing a task?
I couldn’t, so I simply let go of conventional knowledge and let him take the wheel. It took a little longer than usual, and I had to go over a few areas more than once, but in the end the lawn was mowed. This situation mirrors my experience going through the APR Accreditation journey.
After beginning the process in 2012, I spent time with our Chapter’s brand standards chair and thoroughly documented the answers to my questionnaire. I consider myself a good public speaker, but the Readiness Review proved to test every bit of that part of me. I have a deep respect for the three individuals who were on my panel, and I really wanted to do my best to prove to them I was ready to be recommended to be Advanced to the next stage.
After being Advanced through the Readiness Review, I focused 100 percent of my time on the study guide and the book, “Effective Public Relations.” Public relations pros in our Chapter who had taken the written examination the year before urged me to set an examination date so I had a deadline. I read every chance I had — including during a client conference and a family vacation. The day of my examination came, and a few hours later I left the testing center — with a “did not pass” result.
I knew afterward that I hadn’t been as ready as I should have been, but I wasn’t about to give up. I took a few weeks to be upset with myself about the outcome and then started over again. This time, I listened to every PRSA APR webinar I could, took the practice examination online again and realized I needed something other than just the text to get the knowledge to sink into my memory. I spoke with the late Arthur Yann, APR, and he provided me a link to the “Effective Public Relations” audio book. That made all the difference.
Upon my second examination date, I entered more confident and feeling prepared. It felt like forever as the examination calculated my answers at the end and reported — pass. I’m so excited having completed the Accreditation process, and while I didn’t take the path many before me had, doing things in a nontraditional fashion proved to make all the difference.
Marc Vasquez, APR, is the interactive marketing manager for UMB Financial Corporation and 2014 president-elect for the Greater Kansas City PRSA Chapter by day. By night he is husband and sidekick to a 6-year-old superhero. Follow him on Twitter @vasquez007.