Do You Need the APR?

Not too long ago in my career, I was pretty convinced I would pursue the APR (Accreditation in Public Relations) someday. At the time, I remember thinking how well-respected APRs were. They always seemed to be the ones giving all the speeches at conferences I was going to. My professors and mentors in college were APRs. The best media relations pro I’ve ever worked with was an APR. And a lot of the great people I’ve met since I started writing this blog have the APR designation. So, I’m basically surrounded by a lot of smart people who decided the APR was an important process to go through. But like a lot of other PR professionals, it’s hard not to question the value of the certification, when so many people outside of the PR world have never heard of the APR.

There is no question the APR certification process is probably the most demanding professional development available for public relations professionals today. It’s the whole professional license angle that rubs me the wrong way. I don’t think you need to be a certified professional to practice PR. I want my lawyer and my doctor to be licensed, but my publicist… well, I just want them to have some relevant experience and know what the heck they’re talking about (which the APR process delivers on).

Don’t get me wrong, I think there is a lot of value in the APR. If I was giving advice to somebody just starting out in their career, and provided they wanted to manage an agency or corporate PR team someday, I would encourage them to go through the APR process. Though honestly, I think the letters “MBA”are more valuable for PR professionals to have these days.

I know people get pretty charged up on this issue, and I would have left it alone, but I recently read a debate in PRWeek that raised the issue of whether the APR is necessary for PR or not. There were some okay points in the article, but I really wasn’t convinced one way or the other on whether or not there is value in the APR. I figured this would be a good issue to raise with our audience, since many of you have worked hard to get the APR – and others probably think it’s a waste of time (you know who you are).

Beyond the PRWeek article, I tried to do some digging on the issue to see if I could find any meaningful data points to offer in this post. I’ve seen a lot of different articles about the pros of the APR, but very few cons (beyond the whole lack of awareness and recognition issue). Across these articles on the pros, these themes kept rising to the top:

  • You’ll earn more money with an APR. A recent Korn/Ferry study found that APRs earn an average of 20% more. Of course, you could increase your earning power by 35% with an MBA, but it costs a lot more than the APR.
  • People will take you more seriously. As a professional, with certification that says so, you’ll be more respected in the industry. Of course, just as many people say the APR isn’t widely known outside of PR, so not too many people may truly appreciate all the hard work that goes into it.
  • You’ll be more respected by your peers. I saw several examples that referred specifically to APRs (other APRs will respect you), but non-APRs will probably wonder what those letters are all about.

These three reasons (or even just the first reason) might be enough to go down the APR path. Combine the APR with the MBA and your paychecks will be bigger than mine. I personally don’t think you need the APR to rise to the top in PR, or even to be taken more seriously, but it can provide you with some valuable skills and experience that will help you advance in your career and possibly earn more money. In a time when there is more and more competition for PR jobs, and so many people are out of work, it could be a good time to get your APR certification.

As a final look at this issue, I figured it would be interesting to let the Twitter community sound off on the issue of whether or not the APR is worth the time. Overall, out of 249 responses, 67% think the APR is worth it, while 26% don’t. Here are the results across both APR and non-APR respondents:

What do you think? Add your comments below. Be sure to indicate whether or not you are an APR or not, so we know where you’re coming from. Thanks for your feedback!

About Jeremy Porter 214 Articles
Jeremy Porter has been passionate about the intersection of public relations and journalism since studying both Public Relations and Journalism at Utica College of Syracuse University in the late 90s. Porter launched Journalistics in 2009 to share his ideas and insights around both professions and how trends and developments in modern day marketing, communications, and technology impact those working in these fields. Porter also values the traditions and history of both professions and regularly shares his perspective in these areas - and related topics geared toward the next generation of journalism and public relations professionals.

40 Comments

  1. APR definitely has value to PR pro since it is hard one and difficult process to achieve the APR accreditation and so it carries weight to those who achieved it. I believe this Accreditation will have more value when there is much demand or awareness among potential clients.

    • I believe it would have more value if there were more demand or awareness, but I don’t see that ever happening. 12 years after I first heard of the APR, it still has weak brand awareness. Maybe we need to get some APRs on building awareness and credibility for the APR?

  2. I think without awareness, the APR designation has a diluted meaning. Yes, it’s nice to be recognized amongst your peers, however, the point should also be to gain credibility amongst clients or employers. I’m willing to bet that most clients have never heard of the designation. If the people you work for or with don’t know about the APR, what does it get you?

    I’m not knocking the idea of the APR completely. I think it’s great to offer a way for PR pros to test their chops and prove they’re up to snuff. There’s also nothing wrong with wanting to better yourself by getting this designation. However, I think that experience and results prove credibility just as well, or perhaps even better, than an APR designation.

  3. There may be value to the APR because it shows a commitment to the responsible practice of public relations. But in my experience, it does not make you better at the job, because so much of the coursework is academic and not realistic about in day to day operations of an agency or communications office (Think Rodney Dangerfield in “Back to School”).

    I studied for the APR and decided against sitting for the exam because it seemed to be a big money grab, for the test, for the continuing education requirements, for the PRSA dues, with little meaningful return for my small budget. As others have noted, no one outside the industry understands what it is.

    There is a lot of emphasis on ethics, which is good, but I have had colleagues with APR designations who have been just as dishonest or unethical as any other people you may encounter. The APR has not been a good guide on what I want in an employee: the creativity to craft persuasive messaging, the fortitude to get good exposure for the client, the patience to work with difficult clients, the personality to develop productive media relationships.

    • I support the “money grab” argument. Aren’t other professional organizations just as legit. as PRSA? Such as IABC or PressWomen or marketing organizations? Yet you have to join and stay in the PR club to retain your “accreditation.” I am a member of other organizations in addition to PRSA, and I get more out of their meetings than I do PRSA’s.
      The only time I have seen “APR preferred” on a job description was when an APR wrote her own as part of a departmental reorganization.

  4. I agree with the above viewpoints that most clients do not know what APRs are, and I also agree that it is up to the PR community to build awareness and credibility for the APR. There are many people out there who practice PR, and call themsleves experts when they really aren’t. Because of this, more and more businesses are becoming weary of using PR agencies, nor do they want to try new approaches like social media.
    An argument for the APR is that it raises PR professionals to the same standards as other professionals, such as lawyers and doctors who have to abide by a code of conduct. If some PR professionals were in jeapordy of losing their licences, I do not think they would conduct business the same way as they do now.

  5. I agree with Laura completely. And like Nancy, I started down the path to obtaining my APR many years ago, but abandoned it for several reasons, in largest part because the no one knows what it is. I’ve reconsidered a few times mostly because I enjoy professional development, but there’s never been a compelling enough reason for me to pursue it again.

    In more than 14 years in PR practice, I have never once had a client or potential client ask about it, seen it written in an RFP as a requirement or preference, or seen it mentioned in more than a few job openings. I have a colleague here who started her career in the Northeast, and she noted its much more widely promoted and expected there, but I think even she has abandoned the continuing education requirements in the 10 years she’s now been in Georgia. Until or unless PRSA and the PR community take the time and energy needed to build awareness and credibility for the designation, it won’t ever become the standard “license” for PR that other professions have. And honestly, I’m not certain comparing it to legal licenses makes that string of a case for helping with the public perception of PR practitioners. Sure, there are ramifications for lawyers who engage in unethical practices and get caught, but the public perception of the legal field in general doesn’t seem to be helped by the fact that there is a standard and well-known licensing practice in place.

  6. I have been in the PR business for more than 25 years, including a multi-year stint at a firm that I started with three business partners. We grew that firm, sold it to one of the world’s largest conglomerates, and then went on to build it to $40 million in annual fees. We had a reputation for being one of the best in the business. None of the founding partners of the firm had their APR designation. When we interviewed for new employees, we never asked if someone had achieved APR status. I can’t remember ever once in my 25-plus year career in PR being asked by anyone if I was APR accredited. Bottom line for me, is I do not think being APR accredited adds anything when it comes to the PR business.

  7. Interesting topic to contemplate: What is the “real” value of titles/labels/accreditations?

    From my experience working with “real” clients and “real” students, those designations add as much credibility to a practitioner’s profile as his or her grades — pretty much zero.

    That being said, the more education/strategies/tools that professionals can add to their repertoire the more value they offer to clients.

    That being said, I am interested in hearing from people who have recently studied for their APR certification . . . AND what they learned about Social Media and PR 2.0. If the answer is “Not very much,” then, personally, I would think the APR accreditation means little.

  8. I agree that the APR process needs more recognition, and the professional associations tied to the UAB (governing board) should do a better job promoting this invaluable professional development process. I am APR, as well as accreditation co-chair for my local PRSA chapter. I recognize that I’m biased, but I believe that the process that APR candidates go through to earn those three letters is more valuable than the letters themselves. The process provides candidates with an understanding of the strategic side of public relations that is often missing for newer professionals. For me, earning my APR focused me on where the true value to clients and organizations can be derived — through strategic coaching and mentoring. If anyone goes into the process thinking that it’s about money or prestige, they will be sorely disappointed. If someone enters the process believing that it’s another step in our lifelong pursuit of education then there is value and the APR will mean much more to the candidate.

  9. Obtaining my APR has been so valuable to my career. To me the experience was not about prestige or raises, it was about investing in my own professional development, which is so important to becoming a successful PR practitioner. By participating in prep sessions, completing the portfolio and readiness review and then studying for and passing the exam, I increased my strategic knowledge significantly. Since earning my APR designation, my career had taken off — not because of the three letters after my name or others recognizing what the letters mean, but because of the knowledge and confidence I’ve gained by participating in the APR process.

  10. This is a great post Jeremy; and you’re right about this being a hot topic. I am not an APR, but a candidate for one going through the arduous process. I am also the Assembly Delegate for the Akron Area PRSA Chapter in Ohio, and we regularly debate how to increase visibility of the APR, how it can help practitioners and its overall value in the profession.

    The APR has struggled to build a strong brand and reputation in our industry, hence the lack of attention and recognition it receives. I agree with you that a PR pro can certainly practice PR and be extremely effective as well. But I must preface that statement by saying that many unqualified “PR Pros” are looming in the streets right now with a title or job responsibility surrounding public relations. These people typically do not have the requisite education and expertise to be truly qualified to practice PR. They are asked to do something probably beyond their scope of abilities and hack at it like I do on the golf course with my driver. They are the people who give us a bad name among journalists, other “real” PR practitioners, other related professions and the general public.

    With that said, I do believe that the APR holds a great value for PR people who want to do everything you said above: make more money, gain more respect and help advance your career.

    But I do think there is something more to the APR than just those you listed. I believe that by seeking out and successfully attaining an APR, you develop a mentality that is slightly different than other professionals.

    From my perspective, I feel that I am striving to continually be the best at what I do, and this is really the pinnacle of achievement and recognition – not to others, but to myself. I believe I will be more apt to take on challenges I might have been hesitant to before, feel more confident in actuating my campaigns for clients and have greater theoretical background in PR to reinforce my application of PR program planning, execution and evaluation.

    Again, this was a perfect post to elicit an important conversation among practitioners. I am just one of many PR pros out there, but feel that much like a CPA, MBA or other abbreviated title given to industry pros across the wide professional expanse, we can justify our qualifications and expertise in our profession with the APR.

  11. Enjoying this discussion (thanks to a link from Judy Gombita). Regarding those 3 points you drew from the PR Week discussion.

    * You’ll earn more money with an APR. Would love to examine the data from this study. If the survey is valid, that’s one helluva case for earning your APR, and PRSA should be shouting it from the mountaintop. I’m skeptical, but I plan to check it out.

    * People will take you more seriously. The APR isn’t a widely known credential, and I can’t recall ever seeing “APR preferred” in a job description. I stopped using the letters after my name because I got tired of explaining it. Sorry, but I did same with my PRSA Fellow designation.

    * You’ll be more respected by your peers. Your peers within PRSA, maybe. Beyond that, I don’t think anyone really cares. Not being negative, just realistic.

    I earned my APR 23 years ago and have served twice as a chapter accreditation chair. I’ve never seen the APR as a credential that would change perceptions of others. But the PROCESS of preparing for the exam is truly valuable — especially for those who didn’t study PR in college and are unfamiliar with the literature and theoretical foundations of our field.

    It would be easy to blame PRSA for not sufficiently promoting the APR, but that’s unfair. The problem lies with the product, not the message strategy. While the APR is useful, but let’s not try to compare it to, say, the CPA, which requires 5 years of undergraduate preparation and passage of a rigorous licensing exam.

    I often use the Boy Scout analogy: The APR is a merit badge. The CPA is an Eagle Scout. One is nice to have, the other a major life accomplishment. Don’t confuse them.

    My advice is two-fold: 1) Take the exam. You’ll learn a great deal from the process. 2) Never trust a Twitter poll.

    • Hey Bill,

      I suspect you were referencing me on the CPA comment. OK, maybe the APR doesn’t reach that level of “life accomplishment,” but my point was that, in our field, it’s something that does “attempt” to distinguish ourselves as competent professionals like a CPA, etc.

      It’s a reason to be proud of the work we do every day in our profession and if we are one day going to be truly respected, some kind of licensing will be necessary.

    • Ralph,

      Your comment posted after mine, Ralph, so the reference was not directed at you. But the “CPA” analogy is often used in relation to the APR, and I want to point out that it’s not a fair comparison.

      The CPA requires intense preparation and training, and it leads to a license and all the ramifications that come with being a licensed professional. Not so with the APR. (Disclosure: My wife is a CPA who has been certified in 4 states. I’ve seen the process up close.)

      But you make an excellent point in your comment that I failed to acknowledge. The PR biz is chocked full of charlatans, many of whom I’d love to strangle. Anyone who wants to call himself or herself a “PR guru” is free to do so; ditto for “social media experts.” Professionals who commit to the APR tend to rise above all that, as they are forced to study the literature and learn the importance of ethics.

  12. JP,

    Suck it up and get the APR…I’ve known you for years and can tell you that during the process of getting it you will say “wow” a number of times. It will make you a stronger strategic thinker and it is personally rewarding — which is many times more important than cash!

    • I was wondering if you’d comment (you were kind of in the post). I say “wow” all the time, but I’ll take your advice to heart.

  13. Jeremy, my paychecks will always be bigger than “you’re” paychecks (next to last paragraph) if you continue to make glaring errors like this. Some will call me out as the grammar police but this matters to a lot of my clients and it should matter to you, if only as a point of professional pride.

    “Your” is the possessive form. “You’re” is the contraction for “you are.” If you are ever stumped on which is correct, read the sentence with “you are” in place of “you’re.” In this case, “you are paychecks” is clearly in error.

      • Very gracious reply Jeremy and that speaks well for you!

        Now that we’ve got that addressed, I’m the APR chairperson for the San Diego Chapter of PRSA. We have one of the most aggressive, most well-marketed APR programs in the U.S. Our Chapter of 300 or so people has 55 APRs, and we expect to mint another 10 before the year is out. Many employment opportunities listed in our market specify “APR preferred.” As a sole practitioner, explaining to prospective clients that I take my profession seriously enough to have achieved accreditation and that as part of this I uphold a Code of Ethics has absolutely helped me win new business. I attach a copy of the PRSA Code of Ethics to all my contracts. I don’t know about the rest of the world, but in our little corner of the country, being an APR matters.

        I also have my master’s degree in mass communication, and I’ve seriously looked at pursuing an MBA, a PhD, and/or a J.D. (leaning toward the law degree). The master’s has been valuable because of the need to learn quantitative and qualitative academic research techniques which I actually DO apply in my real world; and the APR because I insist on strategic planning with clients which never, EVER fails to impress them and pay off with good ROI. If you are going to work with corporate America, the MBA is useful. Nonprofits, academia and government like the PhD, and everyone else values a law degree. Ah, so many choices!

        • This is great. Tangible evidence that that APR does work when applied. I like your approach to attaching the Code of Ethics. I’ve never heard of anyone doing that before.

    • It wasn’t a pro-APR article, which is probably why you thought the points were thin. As far as being more concerned about clients versus initials, I would agree with that (which you could guess by reading the post). I think your post had some great advice on how to be a better PR professional, but it’s not really a relevant counterpoint to the APR issue. Again, my post wasn’t a pro-APR piece (I wonder if you actually read it, or just jumped to the bullets?).

      • I appreciate your quick response, but you should probably not accuse your readers of not reading. Take a look at my comment again. If you notice, I said I agreed with much of what you said (realizing of course that your post wasn’t pro-APR). Second, I didn’t attribute the three bullets to you, I simply said you cited them; and third, my argument is exactly the point. APR as a credential is nothing but a self-aggrandizing strategy for relevance. Once PR people understand that achieving relevance is about clients/business results and not about initials, then we stand a chance of improving the stature of our profession. Propping up APR is a flawed approach. That said, I appreciate your writing a thoughtful post and sparking a spirited dialogue.

  14. I see the APR vs. non-APR debate still rages. I am not an APR, but am planning to secure that designation. I do think work experience matters to clients, but APR shows that you are committed to the profession and I often come across job postings that say “APR preferred.” I feel sorry for those in our profession that don’t what it is and its value.

    Can someone please do some credible research on salary of APR vs non-APRs? I see you noted Korn-Ferry but how did they break down the research? Was it large markets, large agencies, buy industry, etc? I would love to see some detailed research.

    As of today, I think APR is still viewed as an elusive club “membership optional” vs. a must. PRSA doesn’t seem to do a lot to promote its value. If you go to any industry event you still get a “deer in headlights” look if you bring it up.

  15. Good article on a hot topic. I’ve been an APR for many years, have helped others through the process and I encourage all PR practitioners to go for it.

    Public relations is one of those professions that seems to always by on the defensive, and I’m not sure why. It’s also a term that’s constantly used inappropriately: I’ve seen want ads for escorts described as public relations (yes, the “l” was in there).

    A prominent PR guy that I know says APR stands for accepting personal responsibility. To me it has two sides: The personal improvement side and public face.

    It was the first formal training in PR that I had after coming into the business from the newsroom and working in the field for almost 10 years! The things I learned were incredible and changed how I practiced PR. It has helped me to be a better public relations professional and a better counselor.

    Unfortunately, those who say it’s not well known in the business community are correct, and I wish we could change that. But “APR” after your name is a conversation starter. You will be asked what it means…and that gives you a chance to talk about a committment to constant professional development and ethical behavior. It’s a conversation that helps raise your own reputation (and sell your services) in any setting.

    I’m proud of my APR. I urge all practitioners to pursue it. What have you got to lose?

  16. I consider myself a life-long learner and earned an MBA 4 years ago. It’s proven its value in my PR career over and over again. I wont list reasons why, but anybody’s more than welcome to reach out to me if they’d like my two cents.

    Not ready to go back to school, but wanting to further my education in my career, I considered an APR last winter. I thought it could serve as a differentiator as I was looking for a new job in a tough economy. I signed up for a PRSA prep class in December and then suddenly found myself engaged. Wedding planning took priority, but now that I’m married, I’m reviewing my consideration on going for APR. There’s been a lot of debate over it’s value. I started a new position 2 months ago, so I didn’t need the APR designation to help me stand out, nor in my job search do I recall seeing any job descriptions that listed “APR preferred” or something similar. I’m really not sure if going for APR is what I want anymore. For folks looking to get ahead in PR, I agree that an MBA should be strongly considered.

  17. Interesting discussion thread – essentially covers all the points.
    I got the APR 21 years ago when I started to do a lot of public relations work for clients (I am primarily a marketing consultant.) I got it for the same reason I got the LEED AP designation when I got into sustainability marketing and public relations – I realized there was a lot I didn’t know, and I wanted to compress the learning cycle. Both of these credentials accomplished that purpose. Sure, you can do it without these credentials (and many do), but you have no standardized benchmark of knowledge – what you learn from others as an apprentice can just as easily be wrong as it is right. And I see a lot of that in both the PR and sustainability areas.
    Sure – people can make money in PR without the APR, very few know of the APR (outside the profession) etc.., etc. But it tends to be an indication of someone who is serious about what they are doing. Frankly, not having it is an excuse. I’ve often wondered why agency heads didn’t get the credential, and after being on several readiness review panels (the oral quiz of candidates by several APRs prior to taking the exam) I realized why – I think most agency types (and other self-labeled PR “experts”) are afraid of failing the exam (or the oral review). Kind of tough to explain to clients and staff how they are an “expert” yet can’t pass an exam that they tend to be dismissive of. The readiness review exam alone tests the candidates on 16 Knowledge Skill Areas, on three dimensions (written submission, presentation skills and oral discussion.) I participated as an APR in the readiness reviews of candidates ranging from senior academic types to major agency AEs. I was surprised at times at who turned out to be the marginal candidates – those with very narrow knowledge outside of their day-to-day responsibilities.
    By the way, a few years ago I took their test-development training and helped PRSA develop APR exam questions, and also participated in a technical review of exam questions. I was impressed by the amount of work PRSA puts into developing the exam, and the rigorous review given to the questions both during development and the question performance in the test. That experience was almost as educational as the exam itself.
    On the remark about an MBA being more important in the practice of PR – I question that (I have an MBA.) PR is primarily communications theory and practice, an MBA is business theory. All education is worthwhile, but in the PR field, I tend to think the APR would be more appropriate if a choice had to be made.
    On a related note – the only reason there is any debate on this is that PRSA hasn’t done a very good job of promoting the APR credential. Not sure why they are so weak on this, but if they did even half of what the USGBC (US Green Building Council) has done with the LEED AP designation over the last decade – there would be a lot more recognition of the APR credential.
    As an aside, I often can open more doors (or get the conversation going) by mentioning in passing my general aviation pilot and flight instructor (CFII) credentials. Seems to fascinate folks. If it is a professional discussion, I quickly steer it back to either PR or sustainability issues – but goes to show that any credential is pretty much what you make of it. In aviation, unlike PR, you can’t be pilot-in-command without the appropriate license and ratings.

  18. I am in the process of earning an Accreditation in Public Relations. The accreditation process is fundamental to building one’s knowledge, skills, and abilities in a variety of areas, including research, planning and implementation, business literacy, crisis communications, law, and ethics.

    People who have earned their accreditation and/or have attended accreditation preparation classes gain knowledge on what to research, when to conduct formal and informal research, how to conduct scientific research, how to develop measureable outcomes, how to move publics from awareness to adoption, what requires disclosure, and much, much more. With all this knowledge, APRs should have their clients’ back. I’d certainly want one in my corner if I were a CEO with critical business problem or opportunity.

    BTW, I would be interested in finding a good study partner for the exam. It’s a 3.5 hour exam–nothing to sneeze at. Please email me at writeang@hotmail.com if you’re interested.

  19. As a young public relations professional in my early twenties, I admire and highly respect professionals who have earned their APR. Eventually, I hope to have the APR distinction next to my name. The PRSA website mentions that “…seasoned practitioners should consider earning the Accredited in Public Relations (APR)…”, but what exactly does that mean? 5 years? 10 years? 15 years? Are there certain obstacles I should experience in the field before I am really ready? For those who are APR certified, I am reaching out to you. When do you think is the appropriate time for someone to begin the process?

    • Ashley,

      It is customary to have at least five years working experience before pursuing an accreditation in public relations. The time you spend practicing public relations prior to that time will be valuable as you prepare for your portfolio, readiness review, and exam. Much of the knowledge, skills, and abilities you acquire will help you in the cases presented by panelists and the exam.

  20. Some years ago, during my PR studies, my group and I did a study on the value of the APR and what we found is pretty much everything mentioned in all your previous comments…what value does it hold for the client that has no idea what it is? Yes, it will make us stick out amongst our peers, but our peers are not the only people that we want to impress with our credentials. Having a designation like an MBA will get you at the management table more-so than the APR which tells me that we as PR practitioners have a lot of work to do to raise the validity and credibility of the APR as a tried and true designation of the REAL PR professional. That’s not so say that those of us with our certificates, BA’s, MBA’s and PhD’s in PR are not REAL practitioners, but I certainly take my hat off to those practitioners that have gone that extra mile to raise the bar on our discipline by achieving their APR. If anyone is interested, here is a link to a short article on the CPRS Toronto website that one of my team members did on the study that we conducted: http://www.cprstoronto.com/resources/item.aspx?id=205. If anyone is interested in reading the full report, I would be glad to share that as well. Don’t hesitate to reach out!

    • Jeffrey, I don’t know how else to say this. The blog post in my earlier comment provides some ideas pertaining to what we can do as practitioners. Self-credentialing is not the answer. That’s not my opinion, it’s a well documented fact. It’s not that APR preparation is not a valuable professional development activity; it is, but it’s only one of many. It’s the overblown nature of the credential that’s the problem. I’ve worked with hundreds of PR professionals in my 25 year career, some APRs and most not. Some APRs were great, while others were terrible. Some ethical, some not – same goes for the non-APR crowd. (APR training may change what you know, but it rarely impacts who you are, hence the lack of ethical efficacy). Over the years, I’ve found no discernible difference in skill level, ethics, savvy, knowledge, etc. between APRs and non-APRs. That’s because there is none, and it shouldn’t be a big surprise.

      The fact is, when times get tough PR people/budgets are among the first to get cut. During times where we should be walking by the CEO’s side, many PR pros asked to sit on the sidelines. There are myriad reasons for this dynamic – too many to cover in a comment. It’s not PRSA’s fault nor is it APR’s fault, but neither will solve the problem either.

      I think we have to come to grips with the idea that the shortest distance between two points is NOT a straight line. We should borrow a page from the best publicly traded companies. One could argue that the CEO is primarily responsible to shareholders and for shareholder value. To deliver the best results for shareholders however, the CEO’s order of priorities are employees, customers, communities, then shareholders. The CEO understands that by placing shareholders fourth on the priority list, they will reap the greatest returns. As PR people, if we want to improve our reputation, we need to focus on the people that will get us there. Only after we do so successfully will a credentialing program of any kind stand a chance of being credible.

      • Correction – I left out a word that altered the meaning of the sentence. Note the addition of word “are” before asked. Thanks, Leo

        “During times where we should be walking by the CEO’s side, many PR pros are asked to sit on the sidelines.

  21. It would help raise the credibility of the APR if there was some type of enforcement mechanism as well. As it stands, as long as you continue your dues and get your continuing ed credits you can keep your APR. To me its like having the REALTOR designation, that you are a member of the National Association of REALTORS. Great to have if you want it, but no substitute for talent and no guarantee of ethical behavior.

    • We should focus on raising the credibility of PR not APR. The APR road has not and will not take us where we want to go. The sooner we all realize that, the better chance we have of improving the reputation of the PR profession.

      • Who is the “we”, where is it that “we” want to go, and exactly how are you proposing to get there?

        Not clear.

        There is always the option of working within the structure of PRSA to effect changes. But that would require a lot of heavy lifting to change the orientation of many constituencies and the status quo. And of course, an APR would be needed for credibility there.

        The criteria of what clients want is not necessarily a valid metric. Remember, many clients want non-credible “spin” (and will pay a lot for it) – not professionalism. Just like in hiring a good defense lawyer – not so much for “professionalism” – but to get the “results” that the client wants – regardless of the client’s behavior that got them there. Few would state that OJ’s legal “dream team” represented the best “professionalism” of the legal profession – but they got him off. That result, to this day, has caused a certain credibility issue for the judicial system – often stated as: the best justice money can buy.

        To a certain extent, many of the perception problems with the practice of public relations stem from a similar use of pubic relations by clients – and the practitioners who are willing to support them.

        Not clear how that can be changed.

  22. As a practitioner with more than 25 years of experience on both the corporate and agency sides without an APR (I’ve thought about it, but never have pursued for some of the very reasons many of the commenters have already covered), I think this is far from black and white. I do think this is a valuable conversation, however, and I’d like to weigh in on the original three points.

    APRs make more money. Like some of the other commenters, I’d love to see data on that. It’s certainly contrary to my experience, and I can tell you as president of an agency, APR/no APR would not weigh at all in my decision to either hire or determine salary. However, I’ll also fully recognize that might be different for someone in my position with an APR, and I’d like to hear from an agency head who does consider the APR in hiring/salary decisions.

    Do “people” take you more seriously? Again, perhaps those that feel the designation is important will. My agency works with many companies as the outsourced PR department, so in those cases we don’t report to an in-house PR professional. In those cases, the APR designation certainly doesn’t cause anyone to take our staff any more or less seriously since not many outside of the PR industry — unlike the CPA examples many have used in the comments — are familiar with the designation and what is required to get it.

    As far as respect from my peers, I have to side with those that have said “my peers in PRSA” may respect it, but not many others. In some cases, I have peers that are very active in IABC, which has it’s own certification, and they look for and recognize their own designation. Personally, I carefully examine experience, accomplishments and input from others in the industry far above any certification from any organization.

    While I have APRs on my staff, I also have to note that I’ve never been asked for that information by any potential client, nor do I typically include that fact in new business pitches. I can also say I’ve never been told I didn’t get a piece of business because the company valued APRs and we didn’t note that.

    In the end, I think this designation is a data point — and a positive one to be sure — but one that must be considered as a part of the whole person. I certainly don’t think it’s quite the deal maker (or deal breaker) this article implies.

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