For years, decades possibly, communications professionals have debated about whether or not one should pursue his or her Accredited in Public Relations (APR) is important to growth in our chosen field. In the interest of full disclosure, I should say that I am an APR so I am a bit biased about the process and whether or not it is needed. Following I initiate what I hope is an objective discussion of the certification.
While the Public Relations Society of America presents arguments as to why one should say “yes” to this decision, I somewhat disagree with the organization’s reasons. According to PRSA, accreditation defines the profession by:
1) Setting standards and recognizing the “science” of public relations
2) Legitimizing the profession and creating uniformity
3) Building accountability for ethical behavior and through legal knowledge
While I agree to an extent with PRSA’s case for why someone should pursue an APR, I also see that the true value in an APR is more hidden. Salary increases and professional recognition may occur, but I have found that is not necessarily the case everywhere. Perhaps it is a regional advantage for some. Tulsa has a proportionately high percentage of APRs in our PRSA membership but I have not found a single person who has benefited in overt professional recognition.
Statistically speaking, I don’t believe my experience is unusual in that my professional recognition or salary value has not increased due to the three letters which now appear after my name. Instead, I have found that my corporate credibility has improved. In a business setting where certifications are not usual, an APR provides the CEO and senior management with a unique look at my training.
While it does not replace the strong work ethic or exhibition of skills I must use every day, the APR certification does allow for a brief introduction of sorts with the management team. They see those letters and always ask what they mean. If nothing else, it allows me to educate and inform one of my key audiences about the communications profession and how a strategic program can help the business grow and achieve bottom line success. Ultimately, that’s all that matters in the corporate world.
My main reason for pursuing my APR is personal. I have set personal and professional goals over the years and work hard to accomplish each. Earning my APR is one of those goals. Having worked with and for several APRs who provided me with strong examples of what a public relations professional should be, I initially thought that earning my APR would be one way I could show them how much I had learned under their tutelage. While that may be the case, I have evolved in my thinking and now see the APR as a personal achievement which helped me build confidence in my skills. The process one goes through to earn his or her APR is difficult, and I believe I am a more solid professional because of it. I now have the strength to sit at the proverbial table and persuade senior management toward the appropriate communication strategy. Whether or not those three letters mean anything to the others at the table, I honestly don’t care. In the end, I know I worked extremely hard to earn this certification and am extremely proud of my accomplishment.