Accreditation in Public Relations PRSA News

Enhancing APR: Next Steps

Around seven months ago, PRSA embarked on a journey to enhance the profile and prestige of the APR credential. We started by retaining Organizational Performance Group (OPG), followed by the presenting their findings to the PRSA Board of Directors (Board), the Universal Accreditation Board and the PRSA Leadership Assembly Delegates, followed by an open comment period for anyone interested in providing feedback on the findings.

During the two-month comment period, PRSA collected comments from members and non-members as well as those who hold the APR credential and those who do not. After a cursory review, the feedback to the OPG analysis has been overwhelmingly positive. Thank you for taking the time to review the OPG findings and submitting your feedback on the direction PRSA should consider taking.

The next step is for the Board to assemble a task force to further review the OPG findings and submitted comments. The task force will be co-chaired by Jane Dvorak, APR, Fellow PRSA, and Elizabeth Pecsi, APR, Fellow PRSA, with the remaining members to be named in January. The group will be charged with providing recommendations to the Board regarding changes to the APR that should be considered for implementation.

PRSA believes that an in-depth look and consideration of recommendations should be conducted prior to final recommendations being made to the Board. Therefore, the task force review process will likely take much of the first half of 2014 with recommendations going before the Board for a vote during the second half of the year.

We ask for your patience during this process as we want to ensure that the recommendations go toward the goal of enhancing the profile and prestige of the APR, which was the goal when we began the process in May. PRSA will continue to make the process as transparent as possible and will provide updates on an ongoing basis.

Stephanie Cegielski is the vice president of public relations at the Public Relations Society of America

About the author

Stephanie Cegielski


  • Any discussion of enhancing the APR should begin with serious consideration for converting this program to a certificate program, which requires continuing education to remain certified along the same line as certificate programs in real estate, financial planning, and accounting. PRSA can start with its own certification program, but the ideal would be to have all major PR orgs work together to establish an independent certification board for the industry. A title such as “Certified Public Relations Counselor” that would require continuing education to remain certified would certainly have more prestige and credibility than a one-time exam geared primarily to members of only one organization.

  • Since its been announced that the analysis and recommendations will take six months, or so, perhaps comments could be opened again, or better yet, open the analysis and design to anyone for continued ideas and discussion during the process. Having continued participation by interested parties is the essence of two way communication and participation and so in line with our Mission. Also, the results should emerge from a continued interaction of a crowd of participants producing their best thinking through the whole process, instead of only through comments at the beginning. It seems this interactive process was used in coming up with the Stockholm Accords and Melbourne Mandates. There will be more need to coordinate and wrangle expectations and interests. But the result would likely be more representative and better thought out. There are also great new tools for this.
    At the International Conference in Philadelphia in October, we (Bill Wiersma and I) brought up in our session the broad range of current problems facing PR and Communication people, and also the even broader range of future issues challenging the future of PR. We owe it to the many PRSA members and staff who assisted with our research in ‘Rethinking the Journey to PR Leadership’, to represent their thinking and wishes honestly and with some emphasis, where possible, in determining the future of the APR. As an outsider, I came to observe that PRSA members are at their best when unleashed to do the job they love, and do it right. Seems like that should include the continued APR thinking, design and discussion, too.

  • Is it possible to see all of the comments that have been submitted on Redesign of APR? I’d like to try some approaches from our tool kit for the analysis, kind of like we did for Redefining PR a couple of years ago. I think looking at the big picture, the APR as a part of a system and of a professionals, would possibly be helpful to the task force.

  • Since the analysis and recommendations on APR will take place over the next 6 months, it might be a good idea to open the analysis and discourse about it to the membership in the form of an open forum of some sort. It’s a complex issue and instead of turning it over to just a few task force members, we could have challenging discussions, crowd-sourcing and developing the updated approach for APR. Starting with the ideas and comments already surfaced, we could have discussions on topics and really tear them apart and rethink them, as an interactive group. Of course, this depends on there being sufficient interest in doing so and participating, which I think there is.

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