by Patricia Pickett, APR

You may note that my name is usually followed by some “alphabet soup” that supposedly demonstrates my professional knowledge as an accredited public relations professional. Nearly every industry has these designations and certifications, from architects and realtors to accountants and school counselors. I attained the APR nearly five years ago and have successfully maintained the accreditation through continuing education and professional development.

In the world of public relations, “APR” is the designation for those accredited by the Universal Accreditation Board (UAB) of the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) and seven other communications organizations. It is achieved by presenting a peer-reviewed “readiness review” project that incorporates the best-practice “knowledge, skills and abilities” as set forth by PRSA/UAB as well as passing rigorous computerized exam. The designation Accredited in Public Relations (APR) signifies a high professional level of experience and competence.

So, do you hire an APR? Not always – do not hire an individual who holds an APR if:

  1. You are seeking an order taker and/or a head nodder. Those PR professionals holding an APR are pretty adamant about a set process – research, planning, implementation and evaluation — and are going to respectfully disagree with anything that feels like a whim.
  2. You want a “spin doctor” to cover up the company’s faux pas. Ethical conduct is the most important obligation of a member of PRSA and a good portion of the APR exam is dedicated to both legal and ethical practice.
  3. You want someone right out of college you can train. Sorry, the APR exam is recommended only to those with five or more years of experience. It demonstrates knowledge gained in real-life, professional situations, not the classroom.
  4. You believe that a public relations professional – whether part of an agency, sole practitioner or internal employee – is not an integral part of the management team. To the contrary, an accredited public relations professional should work in tandem with executive leadership – from the CEO to legal to human resources. An APR should never be the last to know about a merger, acquisition, change in policy or a crisis; their expertise in strategic communication is why you hire them, and their commitment to the code of ethics makes them a trusted advisor.

That said, do seek out a public relations professional who holds an APR if you are looking for a seasoned professional and a trusted advisor who is committed to strategy and ethics. I don’t believe you will be disappointed in the results.

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