By Edward M. Bury, APR, MA (aka The PRDude)
Accepting change can have positive outcomes.
History offers innumerable examples, but this recent one immediately comes to mind: The initial and ongoing safety mandates and guidelines undertaken at the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic saved innumerable lives around the world.
Simplistic, perhaps, but this segues into the focus of today’s post, which does not impact the world at large.
As noted in a September 1 email message from Michelle Olson, APR, the 2021 Chair of the Public Relations Society of America, there is a proposed change in the organization’s Bylaws to allow members who have not earned the Accredited in Public Relations (APR) credential to be considered to hold positions on the Board of Directors.
The message states in part:
Proposals 21–02 and 21-03 move from a required minimum of PRSA leadership experience or length of time in the profession to competency-based qualifications that will build a highly capable and effective Board, improve the Nominating Committee’s selection process and result in a stronger and more diverse range of candidates. Included is a recommendation to revise the “must have” APR Accreditation to “strongly preferred.”
Ms. Olson points out that the proposal will not detract from the value of Accreditation: “I don’t believe I’d be where I am in my career today without having earned my accreditation years ago.” If you’ve read this blog over the years, you may know that I certainly can relate to that statement. And, to recognize the need for disclosure, I’ve served on the Universal Accreditation Board for eight years and on the PRSA Nominating Committee in 2010.
So, now my opinion.
If I had a vote at the 2021 PRSA Assembly — recently delegated to a virtual event due to the pandemic — I would support this proposal. Before hurling digital brickbats my way, let me share some reasons and rationale.
Over my 40-plus years in the communications industry, I’ve encountered many outstanding, successful professionals who did not hold the APR. (Although I actively encourage most communicators I know to pursue the credential.) Many I met and worked with as a board member of PRSA Chicago, where I served for many years as Accreditation Chair. These men and women demonstrated a commitment to the public relations profession and demonstrated their commitment to the goals of the chapter. One could ascertain non-APRs would do the same if allowed to serve on the national board.
Furthermore, allowing non-APRs to join the national board might provide the inspiration and incentive to take on the Accreditation challenge and encourage colleagues to do the same. From a similar perspective, participation by non-APRs might help grow national and chapter PRSA membership. And, like those Accredited, a non-APR would be vetted by the Nominating Committee; those not meeting standards would not be put on the ballot.
Assuredly, there are Accredited members who are not in favor of Proposals 21–02 and 21-03. Some are vehemently opposed. An email message from James Lukaszewski, APR is a case in point. (Note: I do subscribe to Mr. Lukaszewski’s crisis communications emails.)
Back to the premise that initiated this post, the practice of public relations has changed dramatically since I entered the profession in the mid 1980s. (We used to send pitch letters by U.S. mail in those days.) The Society needs to evolve and remain responsive to its membership. Qualified non-APRs should be considered for the board.
As I conclude this post, I scan the framed Certificate of Accreditation, which I earned in July of 2004. It was a personal accomplishment, and I still remember the day when I received the certificate. My APR will not be diminished if Proposals 21–02 and 21-03 become part of next year’s Bylaws.