Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Why get accredited in PR?

This year, I've taken on the role of Accreditation Director for the Manitoba chapter of the Canadian Public Relations Society ("CPRS"), after having been grading APR work samples and exams for the better part of a decade.

Here's how CPRS describes its accreditation on its website:

CPRS Accreditation (APR) is a respected measure of professional experience in the field of public relations. This program recognizes the dedication, energy, perseverance and competence of successful public relations professionals. To pursue the accreditation process you must satisfy the following eligibility requirements:
  • You are a member in good standing of the Canadian Public Relations Society.
  • You have been employed full-time in a public relations position for at least five years; and
  • You spend at least half of your professional time involved in specific public relations activities.
Candidates must complete an Accreditation application (due December 1st) which is available through the National Office. The examinations, offered in French and English, consist of three parts: a review of a work sample (due April 1st), a written examination and an oral examination (October). 
The exams are designed to test the breadth and depth of a candidate's public relations experience and ability. The goals of CPRS National Council on Accreditation are to assure professional competence; establish standards for professional practice; increase recognition for the profession within business organizations and the community, and influence the future direction of the profession.
The APR is designed to tell employers and colleagues that you have an in-depth understanding of how public relations works; that you are able to provide sound, ethical advice and create effective communications plans and materials; and that you have proven success in public relations work. But you don't need an APR to practice PR -- or even to practice PR at a senior level.
If you don't need it, why do it?
While accreditation isn't a requirement for public relations practice the way it is for other professionals like accountants and engineers, it is a valuable professional development activity which -- if you take advantage of the opportunities it offers -- can help you improve your skills and keep you current for decades after you've achieved the APR.
I can't honestly say that my APR has ever gotten me a job or a consulting contract, directly. If it was ever a factor in my getting hired, no-one ever mentioned it to me. But I have used it on my website, my business card, in my email signature, on LinkedIn, on this blog... I am proud of it. My APR certificate hangs on the wall of my office beside my university degrees.
But while it may not have directly led to a job, my APR has been valuable from a professional development perspective -- and that has without a doubt made me a more attractive job candidate.
First of all, the knowledge required to pass the written and oral exams forced me to study the foundations (history and theory) of PR, which I'd never had the need/motivation to study before. Until my accreditation process, I had learned about PR by watching, listening and doing, and working with bosses/mentors who literally paid me to be educated by them (thanks again for my entire career, if you're reading!). 
Studying the material required to pass the APR helped me understand why we do things the way we do, and gave me a far greater appreciation for how public opinion and persuasion work.
But the professional development I gained in earning my APR in 2002 was just the beginning of the benefit my accreditation has given me. 
In the years since, I have volunteered as an APR grader, helping evaluate candidates' work samples and exams. While this might just sound like "work" (and, especially for a teacher, "marking"), it's actually an excellent opportunity to see what other communicators are doing in their roles, to deal with issues their organizations face and the opportunities they leverage, across the country.
APR work samples and exams are evaluated outside the province in which they're created -- which both helps remove the potential for favouritism among friends and colleagues, and gives graders the opportunity to be exposed to great work they wouldn't normally hear about at their local chapter networking events.
And not only do I get the chance to read in-depth case studies presented by the communicators who led them, I also get to discuss their relative merits with other seasoned practitioners (i.e. APRs) on the grading panel.  Each member of the panel grades the submissions individually, and then we have a conference call to come to agreement on the scores each candidate will receive. The discussions involved in this consensus-building are fantastic PD opportunities, twice a year.
Interested? Application deadline is December 1.
For me, the APR has been a great way to keep current, to learn from my peers, and to have the opportunity to debate PR issues with colleagues I wouldn't normally have the occasion to meet with. It's not just a sign of where I was, professionally, in 2002 -- it's been a big part of how I've developed my skills since then.
If you're in Manitoba and would like to discuss undertaking your APR in 2012, please email me at lockstep [at]; if you're elsewhere in Canada, contact CPRS. In the U.S., you can contact the Public Relations Society of America.

1 comment:

  1. Melanie, thanks for sharing those photos with me today. Your little one is precious!

    On a PR note; sad day for Mac lovers all over the world. However, how do you feel about withholding information about illness to protect share prices? I'm curious!