Preparing for APR — Starting Now!

Photo courtesy of Robin Rothberg

Grab your phone. Set a reminder for five years from today: “APR time! I can do it!”

The APR or Accreditation in Public Relations is a voluntary certification program for public relations professionals. The distinction of those three letters after your name sets you apart as a PR pro who has demonstrated broad knowledge, experience and professional judgment in the field. The recommendation is for five years of PR practice before even trying to earn the APR.

So why think about it before then? Well, a little preparation starting now can make the APR process a lot easier later. Here are three key tips.

Keep Your Smarts.
Take notes on big realizations (“I love to make good writing great and great writing sublime.”) and interesting challenges (“SEO writing can destroy a news release — if you let it.”) I call this “keeping your smarts.” Look, you’ll learn a lot during your PR schooling and career. Saving key takeaways in a special notebook or file means you’re much more likely to remember inspiring case studies, thought-provoking articles, a speaker’s salient points and even your own accomplishments. This collection shapes your professional point of view, the reason you do the things you do. “Keeping your smarts” makes you more than a qualified PR professional, it makes you an informed PR professional who learns from mistakes and understands pathways to success.
Map Your Journey.
That heightened awareness is great but how do you know when you’re ready to start your APR paperwork, much less sit for the Panel Presentation that qualifies you to take the computer-based exam? Well, there are 12 KSAs (knowledge, skills and abilities) APR candidates must prove to panelists:

  1. Creative conceptualization/creativity
    2. Initiative
    3. Interpersonal skills
    4. Management skills
    5. Multi-tasking
    6. Flexibility
    7. Time management
    8. Use of multiple delivery mechanisms
    9. Communication skills/speaking
    10. Communication skills/writing and editing
    11. Communication skills/listening
    12. Presentation skills

Use the KSAs as a guide to your professional development. Display them where you will see them every day. Log your accomplishments within the KSA categories. With the KSAs to map your journey, you’ll know which milestones in your career signal your readiness to sit for your APR.

Take a Test Run.

PRSA’s college-level certificate, the Certificate in Principles of Public Relations, isn’t an APR and those who earn it can’t call themselves accredited. However, like the APR, the PPR has a study component and a computer-based exam. The PPR can impress potential employers but more importantly, earning it can reassure you that you have what it takes to showcase your skills to PRSA. PPR now, APR later!

So, by keeping your smarts, mapping your journey and maybe even taking a test run, you can start APR prep much sooner than you may have thought. Then, when that reminder goes off on your future phone, you’ll think, “Yeah, I’m ready,” and you will be!

Robin Rothberg, APR, teaches public relations at the University of North Carolina Charlotte. When she was an undergraduate, Rothberg was president of the Tallahassee Student Chapter of the Florida Public Relations Association. She is a member of PRSA Charlotte.

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