Five Tips To Help You During The APR Process
⌛ By Kaylin R. Staten ⌛
“I want that,” I thought, as I listened to my public relations professor talk about extended learning a little more than a decade ago.
I opened a tab in my mind and filed “APR” away for when I met the requirements to apply for the Accreditation in Public Relations credential. Nearly a decade later, I embarked on my a journey to obtain accreditation in an industry I love so much.
The Accreditation in Public Relations, or APR, is more than just a certification. It showcases a practitioner’s expertise and devotion to everyday principles of public relations. It sets you apart from your peers, and in some cases, the “APR” at the end of your name could mean more money or that dream position you’ve always coveted.
According to the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA), the APR does the following:
Asserts professional competence
Communicates professional expertise, plus personal and professional dedication and values
Reflects progressive public relations industry practices and high standards
My APR journey was riddled with aha moments, heart-racing panic sessions and what-if statements. April is APR Month, so I wanted to dedicate an entire blog post to the APR process. If you’re considering adding the APR to your goal list, here are a few takeaways from my year-long experience:
Prepare for the journey ahead.
Know what you’re getting yourself into! The APR is a time and financial commitment, so be willing to make some sacrifices right out of the gate. The APR process consists of the following four steps:
Review and complete the Examination for Accreditation in Public Relations Application.
Continue to study and complete the computer-based examination.
Demonstrate a commitment to lifelong learning through maintenance.
You have one year from the time you are approved to take the examination and complete your panel presentation. I established an end date goal and worked backward from there. Your schedule will be your best friend!
Take the KSAs/Competencies pre-test.
You may feel proficient in all areas, but I guarantee there will be at least one KSA you will have to brush up on. I took a KSA pre-test and then compared what I learned at the end of the APR examination. (I know, I know. Research and Evaluation nerd!)
The following Knowledge, Skills and Abilities are tested:
Researching, Planning, Implementing and Evaluating Programs
Applying Ethics and Law
Managing Issues and Crisis Communications
Understanding Communication Models, Theories and the History of the Profession
Leading the Public Relations Function
Enroll in a course.
A course will benefit you as you navigate the panel presentation and examination resources and study guide. Of course, it carries the additional cost of $195 (PRSA, UAB and partner organizations’ membership rate), but it’s well worth it! You can follow the instructors’ live schedule or go at your own pace. The 10 modules have a wealth of information, practice questions, activities, resources and more. I used the official APR prep course, but you can also rent textbooks on Amazon, watch YouTube videos, read case studies, talk with fellow APRs and more. I attended an APR workshop a couple of years before I took the APR to get a taste of what the APR journey would be like. I felt a mixture of intimidation and confidence that I could have that coveted title, too!
Keep a consistent study schedule.
You will end up having a breakdown or several -- no matter if you have planned for the best-/worst-case scenarios or if have been flying by the seat of your pants. (Let’s hope you have a schedule.) Study at the same times every week leading up to your exam. Use that same timeframe to prepare for your panel presentation as well. You will try to make every excuse in the world to not study. “I already know that,” “financial PR is boring,” “I don’t need to know that,” “I studied last week,” etc. Stick with the plan and do your best to motivate yourself.
Do what works for you.
All of us have different studying methods. I was a little far removed from my college days, so the APR process was not only a content refresher but a glimpse into how much I have changed as a professional (or haven’t changed, in some cases). I’ve always studied better alone, and this time around, I was the lone APR ranger. I didn’t have a study group and relied on myself for accountability. I did have others review my panel presentation case study prior to going to print, however. Do what works for you! This is your process. Get advice from others, but do your own thing. I created flash cards with concepts and definitions, recorded myself talking about my case study, wrote notes about my case study as I studied and more. A study group or mentor could also work wonders for you. Pick a case study you know like the back of your hand, and prepare for any question that could be asked!
Invest in yourself and your career. The APR credential will professionally and personally aid you as you embark on the next level of your PR career. I was already confident in my abilities, but having the APR has given me the extra boost I needed to become the leader I always knew I could become. I’ve applied the strategies and tactics I learned (before, during and after) the process, and my clients have benefited in myriad ways!
Another benefit of the APR is that the UAB will give you some of your registration fee back if you complete the panel presentation and exam within a year! Trust me, there’s nothing like that APR behind your name. :)
Get the study guide here.
To learn more about the APR, tune in to the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA)-River Cities Chapter webinar on April 19 at 2 p.m.! As Chapter President and our most newly minted APR, I’m going to present everything you need to know about the APR before signing up.
Kaylin R. Staten, APR, is an award-winning public relations practitioner and writer based in Huntington, WV with nearly 16 years of professional communications experience. As CEO and founder of Hourglass Media, she uses her compassionate spirit and expertise to delve into the heart of clients’ stories. She is a recovering perfectionist, mental health advocate, wife, cat mom and Leia Organa aficionado. Connect with Kaylin on LinkedIn.