The Accreditation in Public Relations Credential: Still Has Value A Decade Later

By Edward M. Bury, APR (aka The PRDude)

Ten years ago this month, I returned from a wonderful Canadian fishing trip to find a large envelope on my desk at home.  It was confirmation that I satisfied the requirements to say I was among the best public relations practitioners in the nation.

Sounds lofty, perhaps haughty. But to me, it holds true.

APR certificateI’m referring to receiving my Certificate of Accreditation and a nice letter stating that I had passed the Comprehensive Examination, the last step before being granted the Accredited in Public Relations credential.

In the ensuing decade since that day in July of 2004, I’ve championed the APR every chance I can.  Next to getting the APR logo tattooed on my shoulder, I can’t think of what else I could do to promote the value behind earning Accreditation.

Over the past 10 years I’ve:

  • Served on the Universal Accreditation  Board for two six-year terms.
  • Helped develop and facilitate APR training courses as a Board member at PRSA Chicago.
  • Published many, many blogs — through this forum and others — promoting the positive impact Accreditation had on my career.
  • Participated in a 2006 podcast on Accreditation.
  • Promoted the credential at PRSA Chicago Chapter meetings.
  • Contributed to many online forums on the subject of Accreditation.
  • Bent the ear of just about anyone who would listen to this statement: “After I earned the APR, I transitioned from a tactician to a strategist.”

A key word in the items above is “earned.” Having the right to put those three letters after my name took a lot of effort, study, time and dedication.  At times I was frustrated — hey, I failed the Exam twice — with the process.

But I maintained a decade ago that earning Accreditation was the best professional achievement of my career.  I feel the same way today, a decade later.  I pursued Accreditation not because it was easy, but because it was hard.

I anticipate I’ll feel the same way a decade from now.


Ron Culp Shares Thoughts: Five Replies to a Q and A

By Edward M. Bury, APR (aka The PRDude)

Today, The PRDude continues a time-honored (well, sort of) tradition: A Q and A with a fascinating figure from public relations.

But rather than run down the very, very impressive list of credentials earned by subject Ron Culp, I’ll make it easy: Visit Ron’s online biography and spend a few minutes reading about this consummate pro. You’ll learn how he cultivated a truly remarkable career highlighted by stellar professional achievements and outstanding volunteer contributions to public relations. And, now, the author of the very popular Culpwrit blog has charged forward to nurture the next generation of communicators.

From the “full-disclosure department,” Mr. Culp has graciously re-blogged some PRDude posts over the past few years, and I’m honored to know that along with public relations, he also has a fondness for the towns and lakes of southeast Wisconsin.

Here’s Mr. Culp’s erudite responses to five questions.

1. You’ve successfully navigated the corporate and agency sides of public relations.  What were specific public relations challenges faced in each arena?

Ron CulpAfter working for four major corporations, I discovered that the critical communication processes are remarkably similar no matter if you’re producing pharmaceuticals, office equipment or consumer products. At Sears, I was blessed with an extraordinarily talented team of public relations pros who got to know every aspect of their respective businesses. As a result, the PR team became an integral part of the business. Leaders running major business units sought out counsel on everything from product promotion to internal communication. This relationship with my team allowed me to know critical information about every aspect of the business, which provided me with a unique vantage point within the organization. Without a doubt, the bigger the company the greater the challenges and we were inundated with “opportunities.” Due to the size of the business and promotional nature of the store, we worked with a large number of agencies–nearly 50 at one point during the “good old days.”

Only after I joined the agency world did I fully appreciate challenges facing consultants, especially those who only receive one-off tactical projects. Their access to information is often limited to what is shared by the corporation so they must make assumptions that are sometimes correct and often wrong. Agencies that enjoy longer-term relationships with clients normally deliver the best and most cost-effective results. Agency client directors and teams who fully understand their respective businesses and convey a sincere client-first commitment become top-of-mind when additional assistance is needed. Creating that special esprit de corps is one of the key challenges facing any agency leader today.

2.  Public relations, like advertising, could point to “legendary” figures who shaped the profession from its founding days to not too long ago. Who’s at the pinnacle in today’s digitally-driven world?

We wouldn’t be where we are today without the legends who got us to this point of respectability for what our profession can help organizations achieve. I remain in awe of the contributions to the profession by some of the greats that I’ve been honored to know and work with over the years–Al GolinHarold Burson, David Finn, Dan Edelman and, of course, Betsy Plank. Today, I think the leaders of most large agencies and the CCOs of many of the top corporations are led by incredibly talented and innovative individuals. While there is consensus around Richard Edelman being a current day pioneer thinker in our profession, several of his peers and certainly corporate leaders like Jon Iwata (IBM) and Gary Sheffer (GE) also are significant players in raising the bar of respect and influence for our profession. 

3.  You made a very cool transition from leading a major agencyDepaul logo to leading the PRAD Master’s program at DePaul University.  How did you land that gig and what’s your biggest take away?

While heading Ketchum’s Chicago office, I signed up with the Plank Center for its academic fellows program that places PR profs in a dozen or so corporations and agencies during the summer to gain real-world insights to then share in their classrooms. Luckily, my office was assigned Teresa Mastin from DePaul. At the end of her two weeks of engaging with the Ketchum team, she asked me if I would consider teaching a class. I agreed to do so for one quarter and instantly got hooked and was happy to become an adjunct. When they asked me to help find someone to fill a newly created position of professional director for the grad program, I volunteered after another candidate I tried to help recruit turned down the offer. While I’ve enjoyed every phase of my career, I can honestly say this is the most rewarding work of my life. My DePaul colleagues and I draw incredible inspiration from seeing our students land their first jobs and then excel in them. Realizing that we’re helping train the future of this amazing profession provides a great deal of personal satisfaction.

4.  You’re a fellow blogger with the very popular blog for “guiding the career in public relations.”  What prompted you to enter the blogging community?  And, what advice do you have for fellow PR bloggers?

I knew very little about blogging some eight years ago when I was approached by three Ketchum interns suggesting I consider starting a blog to provide advice for young people pursuing careers in public relations. Dressed as if they were going to an important new business pitch, they presented a persuasive PowerPoint case on why I should blog. They ended with the clever name, which was the brainchild of Kevin Saghy (now on the Cubs PR team). I have been blogging ever since, and I haven’t missed a week in all that time.

My advice to fellow bloggers is to find your passion, and post something regularly. Put dates on everything you write since this will remind you of the need to post at least once a week. 

5.   In 50 words or thereabouts, offer thoughts on the direction PR is headed.

Public relations (and I prefer those two words over the host of others that attempt to camouflage what we do) has never been in a stronger position as a profession. There is growing demand for talent, and colleges are turning out future professionals who are better trained than ever. However, as corporate and agency expectations for our services grow, there are two factors that concern me–writing and business intelligence. With few exceptions, educational institutions place too little emphasis on writing and business basics. Young professionals who can write usually are good thinkers, and those who understand how businesses operate are going to have highly rewarding careers.

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Want to know the thoughts of other PR heavyweights?  (Figuratively speaking, of course.)  Here are Q&A posts from:

  • Gerry Corbett, APR, Fellow PRSA and 2013 Chair and CEO of PRSA
  • Nick Kalm, President of Reputation Partners Public Relations
  • Chris Ruys, President of Chris Ruys Communications
  • R. J. Sirois, former PR pro turned successful real estate broker

For Chrissake! It Was Holden Caulfield Who Created the Baseball Cap Worn Backwards Craze

By Edward M. Bury, APR (aka The PRDude)

As an Accredited public relations professional, I certainly understand the value of research — both primary and secondary.

So later, I will post a short survey to develop some primary research on a subject that has been screaming for analysis: Why do people (mostly young men, I believe) wear baseball caps backwards?

Yes, in all seriousness, I have pondered this question for decades.  I want to know who initiated this practice and why people continue to support it.

After all, a baseball cap has a nice brim designed to keep the sun out of your eyes. Why turn it backwards, especially if the cap has that unsightly adjustable strip on the back, making the “backwards” practice unattractive to the wearer?

Catcher oneBut I stumbled upon evidence that provided some insight.

Look at the depiction of anti-hero Holden Caulfield from the cover of J.D. Salinger’s American classic novel,  “The Catcher in the Rye.”  This Signet paperback book — which has a original price of 50 cents — features an artist’s interpretation of Holden, suitcase in hand on some street in The Village, wearing his red cap — with the brim turned backwards.

As Holden notes in Chapter 3, “I took off my coat and my tie and unbuttoned my shirt collar, and then I put on this hat that I’d bought in New York that morning.  It was a red hunting hat, with one of those very, very long peaks.  I saw it in the window of this sports sore when we got out to the subway, just after I noticed I’d lost all the goddam foils.  It only cost me a buck. The way I wore it, I swung the old peak way around to the back — very corny, I’ll admit but I liked it that way, I looked good in it that way.”Catcher two

Eureka! Some evidence, and from the disturbed mind of a fictional 16-year-old privileged kid from the Upper East Side.  Granted, Holden’s garment was a “hunting” hat and not a baseball cap.

Still the correlation makes sense: It had a brim and he wore it in an unconventional manner.

Now to the survey; please take a moment to complete what I maintain is the first and perhaps only survey regarding the “backwards” baseball cap practice.

I’ll share results soon.

By the way, on eBay, my vintage edition of “Catcher in the Rye” — the one featuring Holden wearing his “old peak way around to the back” hat — is worth $5.99!

To me, it’s priceless.

Before the beatniks, before the hippies, a fictional renegade named Holden Caulfield lived life — well 48 hours of it — his own way.  Including his preference of head gear.

Lessons Learned: One Year Later

By Edward M. Bury (aka The PRDude)

Tomorrow will be more than Monday, July 7, the start of the work week after the long Independence Day holiday.

At least for me.

Learning TwoIt’s the anniversary of my first year in my terrific new position handling public affairs for a major research university here in Chicago.  Working at an institution of higher learning, you might not be surprised to learn that I’ve learned quite a lot.

Here’s what stands out:

1. We Are Bound by the Quest for Knowledge. Chicago can certainly hold its own as a truly global city. The same goes for the university where I work.  Around one-third of the student body and faculty speak English as a second language.  Regardless, the focus on our campus is on learning, progressing and growing.  The atmosphere is supportive. The opportunities bound only by our drive and energies.  Language and customs so far haven’t come into play.

2. There are Nice, Cool People from Every Part of the World. Over Learningthe past year, I’ve made friends with smart people named Havan, Takanori and Moyin. They came to Chicago from parts of the world I’ve read about or gained insight from television, movies and online sources.  Their goal is to learn and experience life in the United States, in the City of Chicago. I’m proud to call them my friends, and I’m eager to share what I know about the city.

3.  I’ve Seen the Future of Communications and My Role In It.
And, frankly, the future is looking pretty good.  My role within our research unit involves around eight specific responsibilities.  Some skills, like website content development, social media management and how to plan large-scale event , I learned relatively recently. Others, like public relations strategies, project management and how to write effective, provocative copy, are skills I’ve built up over decades.  Collectively, my skill set is an ideal fit for our research unit or any small to medium-sized company or organization.  There will always be a market for communications professionals who can do a lot of things well.

What awaits in the next 12 months?

Watch this space and find out. As an Accredited PR professional, I’m bound to keep pace with the industry and learn.  And, I couldn’t think of a better place to do that than the place I’m at now.