By Edward M. Bury, APR (aka The PRDude)
A few years ago, I asked a friend — a successful and very accomplished public relations agency vice president — why she hasn’t pursued earning the Accredited in Public Relations (APR) credential.
“There’s just not enough time,” she said. “It’s not like the days when you were in the agency business. Clients expect us to be available any time of the day … and night.”
Ah, the agency business.
I left my last agency position in 1998. Public relations professionals (and the rest of the world) communicated through email and maintained web sites back then. But cell phones were just taking hold, social media as we know it wasn’t invented, and Google hadn’t even been launched.
If a client failed to reach you during business hours, the question or issue often had to wait until the next business day. As noted by my friend, that’s apparently not the case today, and indeed, it might be a road block to Accreditation for some.
In late December, 2014 PRSA President Joe Cohen, APR, published a post that outlined steps to strengthen the APR. One measure on the table: A proposal to grant the credential to PR professionals who have 20 or more years of experience and “who have demonstrated a record of commitment to lifelong learning, and adherence to practicing the enduring principles of public relations.”
These 20-year-plus professionals — from the agency arena, private sector or association/non-profit — would not have to take and pass the online Comprehensive Examination.
That’s a game-changer to me and the hundreds of other public relations practitioners who earned the credential since 2003. We had to go present and defend a PR plan based on the four-step process, complete the Readiness Review and ultimately, pass the Comprehensive Examination.
I trust an underlying factor to the proposal is to allow those who might not have the time to commit to the months of study the opportunity to join those Accredited members who are committed to the ethical practice of public relations, the profession and lifelong learning.
Clearly, something needs to be done to boost the numbers of professionals earning Accreditation and the status of the credential in today’s business communications landscape. But I am not convinced that this proposal is the answer.
Will those who are “granted”Accreditation actually respect and recognize the value of the APR as much as those of us who earned it? Will they be champions and promote Accreditation to their peers? Is there even any research that shows there’s a demand by senior-level professionals to become Accredited?
Fortunately, the PRSA National Board of Directors drafted and approved these realistic, attainable measures to bolster the APR. The “20-year” proposal is just one of many suggested directives. I trust the debate will continue well into 2015, as it should.
Finally, a shout out (note the modern language) to my agency friend: I trust you’re billing clients for all of those after hours and weekend client tasks.