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To practice public relations there is no board or exam. The practitioners are lumped in together- the good, the bad and the ugly. The Accreditation in Public Relations process is elective. You can choose to sit for accreditation or you cannot without any consequences. And if you pass there is no real effect on your job and you won’t get an extra zero on your next paycheck.
However, I just checked the mailbox and my official letter of passing has just arrived. There is something that feels so good about having three little letters behind my name that I can’t help but be excited.
The desire to take the APR has to come within. You have to want to go through the process to further your career and to separate yourself with the designation in the pool of resumes.
It is hard to self-motivate on this. It does take a lot of time and it is like going back to college. Text books, flash cards and studying are definitely involved. You will question yourself somewhere in the middle of why you are actually doing this. But when that envelop arrives addressed to your name with APR behind it, it is worth it.
I am what I classify as the next generation of PR practitioners in that I went to college to actually study PR. Many of my mentors and supervisors went to college for journalism or business because there was not a PR program.
I had heard about the accreditation process when I was in school and knew that was something that I wanted for myself. I wanted the designation to prove, if only to myself, that I was a practitioner that knew what I was doing.
I was terrified for the Readiness Review panel. I will tell you that it is not the blood bath that I thought it was going to be. The panel is there to peer review your work. They ask questions, very politely, and do not drill you the way I was expecting. They want to understand your thought process as you explain your work samples to them. I admit that answering the questionnaire prior to the panel was almost insightful for me to analyze my career and my work of how I got to be where I am and what I would do differently.
As for the test, I admit that this was a beast. I have studied the material before in college….but it has been years! I can’t actually remember the definitions of things that learned in school which I was trying to dig out of the file I thought I had shoved it in the back of my brain. I knew that I knew how to practice PR but exactly what method or theory I was using at any given time escaped me.
This was the hard part for me. It was hard to carve the time out to slow down and study. I also admit that the test is based on the practice of PR and not the execution of PR. This took me a while to figure out and changed my entire study approach when it clicked.
In New Orleans, there is not a large APR community and I could not find anyone who had taken or seen the test in years. I pretty much went in dark with the bits of personal experience that I could gather together.
My recommendation is to find a study partner and hold each other accountable for the study pace. Set a timeline for yourself and stick to it. I got to the point where I was just stick of the studying and this test hanging over my head that I scheduled the test and worked towards the deadline. While you have a year from start to finish. I find as practitioners we work best under pressure.
Now that it is over and I look back it is something that I am glad that I did. I invested the time and money into my career, not because I knew there would be a reward but because I wanted to for myself. I feel proud that I accomplished the designation. I would encourage others to go through the process and to join the minority of practitioners who are accredited.