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“What’s APR?”

Every once in a while, someone will ask me that question, and I proudly say, “It means Accredited in Public Relations.”

In June, my friend, Nina Kult, and I presented at the PRSA Midwest District Conference in Springfield, Mo. We shared our stories about earning Accreditation. We shared why we sought APR and gave helpful tips learned from the experience, and we got personal with the good, the bad and the not-so-sure moments to reflect our session, From PR to APR: Lessons Learned in Pursuit of Accreditation.

In spring 2011, PRSA St. Louis hosted an informational meeting about the APR. It was led by Cathy Orta, APR Chair, and about 10 people attended the session. When the APR study sessions started a few weeks later, participation dropped. And eventually there were just three – me, Nina, and our friend, Megan Donovan.

For the next two years – yes, two years – we worked together to get to Accreditation. We met at the public library after work whenever it fit into our schedules. We emailed each other to ask questions about case studies or to understand a principle in the APR Study Guide. We asked about readings, and we relied on Cathy Orta for advice and guidance.

Why did we seek Accreditation? For professional development, to have a better understanding of public relations, for opportunities to advance, to become better strategic counselors to clients, to show a commitment to the profession, to promote the value of public relations, and because it’s a badge of honor.

What advice would we give to someone considering APR? We’d say “Go for it!” and we’d also tell you:

  • Wait until you know you’re ready for the APR to apply for accreditation
  • The APR exam is not a test of memory, it’s a test of understanding best practices and key principles
  • Look for opportunities to apply the principles of APR in your daily work
  • Choose several ways to study – study groups, an online class, note cards, readings
  • Choose 2-3 books from the Book Shelf, but focus on one book for your readings. Pick the book that makes the most sense to you; everyone has a different learning style.
  • The APR Study Guide is the be-all-end-all to the readings. The readings are very important, but the study guide is the final word.
  • Find a study partner or partners
  • Seek advice and ask questions of your APR chair
  • Make sure you understand the 10-Step PR Plan before your Readiness Review
  • The time you spend studying should build up, not start out to be an overwhelming thing
  • Once you apply and get accepted, the 12-month clock begins

The journey to APR isn’t easy because it requires you to work hard and to focus on your personal value as a professional. We underestimated the time it would take from start to finish. You might not advance from the Readiness Review, and you need to rethink your public relations plan. You might not pass the exam, and you have to decide whether to take it again and pay a fee. There are the demands of your career, and most importantly, there is the responsibility to yourself and your family. It’s all part of the journey.

In March 2013, Nina and Megan earned their APR. I earned my APR in June 2013.

APRs get pins from their chapters. We wanted to get pinned together, so we waited until our schedules allowed us to attend the chapter’s monthly luncheon. In May 2014, the three of us received our APR pins. We invited our mentor, Cathy Orta, and we made sure to give her props.

PRSA APR RecipientsPRSA leaders created the Accredited in Public Relations credential to recognize those individuals who have demonstrated necessary knowledge, aptitudes and skills needed to succeed in the industry. Recently accredited PRSA St. Louis members include Nez Savala, APR, Nina Kult, APR, and Megan Donovan, APR.

Allow me to get personal for just a moment. I have a Master of Arts in journalism with an emphasis in strategic communications and writing from University of Missouri-Columbia. The program was hard. The APR was just as hard, if not harder. While I was studying for my APR, I realized I wasn’t applying what I learned in grad school. I think it’s because I’d worked jobs that weren’t exactly in communications – youth development for nonprofits, substitute teacher, college admissions representative – but they became essential to my career. In 2005, I was hired as a community relations coordinator for a municipal government. I call it my first official public relations job. Since 2007, my career has centered on K-12 public education as a school public relations professional.

There’s more I could share about the journey to Accreditation, but I think you get the point. The APR distinction is personal and professional. Hopefully you’re inspired to pursue your APR. Good luck!

This post is courtesy of Nez Savala, APR, director of public relations for Confluence Charter Schools in St. Louis. She is a member of National School Public Relations Association and PRSA. You can find her on Twitter @NezSavala.

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  1. Marquinez A. Savala

    Aug. 12, 2014

    Thanks Tressa!

  2. Tressa L. Robbins

    Aug. 12, 2014

    Great post, Nez! Thanks so much for sharing your journey with us. :)