Aubia Communications

Going for gold and blue: How to pursue your APR

Going for gold and blue: How to pursue your APRIn the month of June, the Aubia Communications Blog will focus on professional development. I’ll start with this post about obtaining your Accreditation in Public Relations, followed by seeking professional development on a budget, and finally wrap it up with what I’ve learned by freelancing for the one-year anniversary of Aubia Communications.

Courtney, my friend and Public Relations Society of America, Hampton Roads Chapter colleague, and I waited for the door to the testing center to close completely. We then looked at each other and yelled out at the top of our lungs “We passed!” The receptionist turned and gave us a disapproving look through the glass. Ignoring her glare and with our results in hand, we proceeded to jump up and down in celebration of passing our final test to obtain our Accreditation in Public Relations.

After about a year-and-a-half of preparation, we could finally call ourselves APRs. It had been a long and challenging road to this point, but at that moment and for years to come, we knew it was all worth it.

What does having an APR mean?

The APR designation is one of only two post-graduate certification programs for communications professionals. A mark of merit, the APR tests candidates on their ability to research, plan, implement and evaluate a public relations program plus their competency in ethics, business literacy and crisis communications.

For me, earning my APR meant I had demonstrated the capability of thinking strategically about PR issues and distinguished myself in the career field as one who could identify and solve problems more effectively. The entire APR process moved me from a tactician to a strategist.

For the career field, having more professionals become certified means not just anyone can practice PR. Our industry is not licensed, and though what we do is not rocket science, it is important for society. I would like to see our industry one day come to the point where we hold all practitioners to the high standards that the APR advocates.

As PRSA looks toward the 50th anniversary and researches ways to enhance the prestige of the APR, now is a great time to consider advancing your career with this valuable certification.

How can you earn your APR?

1. Reach out to APRs

I earned my APR two years ago this month, but I started researching the possibility almost four years ago. I contacted three APRs in my PRSA chapter and asked for brain-picking sessions over coffee. Their advice and insight on the process were invaluable. I took notes and developed a map for my road to APR.

2. Begin the process

To earn your APR, you must go through a four-step process. First, you will submit an application to PRSA Headquarters with a fee. The application is reviewed to determine if you meet the qualifications to pursue APR. If you are approved to continue, you will then complete and submit a Readiness Review Questionnaire at least 15 days prior to your Readiness Review, which you schedule with your chapter’s APR chair. The questionnaire will share your professional background with a panel of your local PRSA chapter’s APRs who will judge your presentation.

The Readiness Review was the most difficult part of the APR process for me. You must present a PR plan that you or as a significant member of a team developed, applied and measured. The plan will need to show you followed the PR process of research, planning, implementation and evaluation (RPIE).  After your presentation of the plan, your panel will ask questions and you must be able to defend your plan.

If your panel believes, through your presentation in the Readiness Review, that you understand and can demonstrate the RPIE process, you will be moved on to the final element of the APR process, the computer-based examination. The CBE is a multiple-choice assessment given in a standardized testing center, and you will have three hours to complete it.

You have one year from the time you are approved to begin the APR process to complete the Readiness Review and CBE. You must continue membership in PRSA or one of the other participating organizations plus earn maintenance points to keep your APR.

3. Sign up for the Universal Accreditation Board’s APR Online Study Course

The UAB in partnership with PRSA administers the testing for the APR. The organization offers a self-guided online study course with the option of joining study cohort groups. The materials in the course, especially the Short Bookshelf of Recommended Texts, plus the weekly study group presentations were a significant help for me in earning my APR. During the course, you can also sign up for an APR mentor to help with any questions.

4. Take advantage of APR Boot Camps and Academies

One year before I took the CBE, I underwent an eight-week APR Academy offered through the PRSA Hampton Roads Chapter. My class met once a week in two-hour sessions where an APR chapter member taught about a series of the knowledge, skills and abilities that are tested in the CBE. National PRSA also offers APR Boot Camps and other professional development to obtain your certification.

5. Join a study group or get a study buddy

After the APR Academy, a small group of us started a weekly supper club to continue preparing for our APRs. We met over dinner once a week to study, prepare, listen to each other’s presentations, and cheer each other on. Courtney was in the supper club with me, and we paired up to take the CBE on the same day. Having this amazing support group gave me the final push I needed to become an APR.

One of the proudest moments in my career is when I received my APR pin at a professional development conference in front of my entire local chapter. Being recognized as a PR professional who can practice strategic communications instead of just producing tactical material is deeply gratifying.

Do you want to stand out in the industry? I’m more than happy to answer any questions you have on obtaining your APR.

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5 Comments to "Going for gold and blue: How to pursue your APR"

  1. Dick Egli, APR says:

    You have created an excellent analysis of the process for acquiring the APR, as well as an exceptional and motivational rationale as to why it should be one goal for any serious public relations professional. As Chair of the Professional Development Committee of the Michigan School Public Relations Association, may I have permission to use all or part of your comments?


  2. Dick, thank you for your kind words. I’d be more than happy for you to use the entire post. I hope it helps other professionals thinking about pursuing their APRs. Please let me know if there is anything else I can help you with.

  3. […] are great objectives, Monica, but how did you move the needle?” As I stood in front of my Accreditation in Public Relations review board in 2010, walking these senior practitioners through my strategic communications plan […]

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