On This Last Day of April, Thoughts on Participation on the Universal Accreditation Board

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

Cold, bleak and rainy here in Chicago, this last day of April. Perfect conditions to take on lots of productive tasks indoors, like publishing a post.

But what topic?

Ah, April is Accreditation month, the 30 days when many in the profession charge forward to promote the value behind the Accredited in Public Relations (APR) credential.

Well, The PRDude has commented on Accreditation quite extensively, including in past Aprils, as noted in this post from April of 2014.

tactics_large_bannerAnd, I had an article published in PRSA Tactics in April of 2010 on APR mentoring best practices from Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) chapters around the nation.

But, this space hasn’t shared enough thoughts on the board that administers, markets and confers the APR, the APR+M for military public affairs officers and the new Certificate for Principles in Public Relations for college graduates.

I’m referring to the Universal Accreditation Board (UAB), the appointed body of Accredited members from eight public relations organizations, including PRSA, of which I’m a member.

Source: The Universal Accreditation Board web site.

Source: The Universal Accreditation Board web site.

From 2006 to 2011, I served as a member of the UAB. To say is was an honor is an understatement. The same goes for how my experience on the UAB elevated me personally and professionally.

All self-deprecation aside, I was kind of  a PR mutt when I was appointed to the UAB. I earned Accreditation in 2004, and had served on the newly formed PRSA Accreditation Marketing Committee (of which I later chaired.) During my many years at agencies and with an association, I had not been and active participant — much less a volunteer — in the public relations profession.

For the record, I was not a “joiner,” unless one would count being a Chicago Cubs fan and beer aficionado.

Serving on the UAB elevated me as a business communicator because I got to actively participate and make decisions on something I cared about and something I believed in. At each meeting, I had to hold my own with a body comprised of smart, experienced PR strategists from academic, agency, military and non-profit disciplines.

Frankly, during my first block of meetings held at PRSA headquarters on Maiden Lane in New York, I was a little intimidated. Hey, I was the new guy and lacked the pedigree of most — okay, perhaps all — of my colleagues!

Soon I became acclimated to procedures, and after a while, understood the acronyms that often surfaced in Board meetings. (KSAs — yes, the knowledge, skills and abilities tested in the CBE, the Computer Based Exam.) And, I contributed, first conducting an audit of the old UAB website, then co-chairing the MarCom (marketing communications) work group.

Perhaps the most lasting reward from my UAB service: The bonds and friendships I forged with many colleagues, many who remain my friends still.

From another perspective, that’s what public relations is all about: Building mutually beneficial relationships.

 

 

 

 

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Thoughts on Accreditation from Anne O’Connell, APR: A Q & A

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

For the past few years, one way I gave back to the public relations profession was to help nurture professionals who were pursuing the Accredited in Public Relations (APR) credential through my volunteer work on behalf of PRSA Chicago.

I’m pleased and proud to share these thoughts from Anne O’Connell, APR, a Chicago area communications professional who participated in the Chapter training program in 2014 and earned the APR earlier this year.

Here’s Anne’s unedited replies to my questions regarding the APR challenge.

1.   Congratulations again on earning the Accredited in Public Relations credential. What was the most challenging part of the APR process?APR 50th

Thank you, and again, I appreciate your help. It’s hard to pick just one most challenging aspect as the overall process is taxing.  At first, I was worried about the timing of the research and my case study.  How would that mesh with my readiness review and the timing, based on the year, during which to take the examination?  Michael Henry (of Online2Learn, producer of the APR online study program) also was helpful in reassuring me that my timeline was doable. The case study does require a lot of mental energy, but it’s worth it. 

 2.   How do you plan to use the knowledge, skills and abilities learned from the APR process in your work?

I already have been using the KSAs in my current position.  I have been informally mentoring my staff in the best practices I’ve learned.  I work at an all-girls private high school and have started a club for students interested in public relations, journalism, graphic design and related fields.  I have shared some of my new knowledge with these students, as well.

ChgPRSA150325EdwardBuryAnneO'Connell-1

Anne O’Connell, APR, was recognized for earning Accreditation by PRSA Chicago at the Chapter breakfast March 25. Oh, and that’s me at left.

 3.   Can you provide a brief overview of the experience at the ProMetric Testing Center? Were you intimidated in any way by the rigid testing process?

I checked out the ProMetric center prior to my testing day.  The staff were helpful and explained how things would work.  I wasn’t intimidated.  In fact, one thing I found slightly amusing, on the morning I took the exam, was the staff told me if I went into the testing center with my zip-up sweatshirt on (over a T-shirt), I’d have to keep it on for the duration of the test.  Other tidbits were I could not take Kleenex into the testing area, nor could I take a couple of cough drops I had in my sweatshirt pocket. Now, I would not cheat, but even if I were so inclined, there is no way one could put cheat notes on a cough drop wrapper! 

All that aside, the test itself was situation after situation – very much process based, as all had indicated.  Each screen gives you a scenario and then multiple-choice answers.  I took a break to get a drink of water about half-way through.  The time seemed to go quickly, though I did not feel rushed and had extra time than I needed to finish.  I found some of the answers to slightly contradict what I had learned, but I chose the most logical answers that were closest to being what I considered being correct. I only marked a few questions to return to ponder further, but when I did so, I left the answers as I originally had them.

4.   The numbers tell the story: The APR program has been in decline, and PRSA has launched a concerted program to boost participation by professionals. What do you think needs to be done to get more professionals to pursue Accreditation?

I’m not up on what has been considered or done, but perhaps college/university professors could be engaged to help encourage students to pursue the APR once they are eligible. It occurs to me, though, having just met a young professional that the timing is interesting.  Once graduating from college, s/he needs five years in the profession.  That timing roughly puts people around the age of getting married and then perhaps having children.  Maybe there is a way to quantify that the APR enhances one’s earning potential, and that could be promoted extensively.

5.   In 50 words or less, give a shout out on why all serious PR professionals should consider earning the APR.

I highly recommend that serious PR professionals earn the APR.  I am much more strategic, valuable and confident.  I wish I would have pursued my APR earlier in my career. One of my goals now is to directly encourage colleagues I know and then mentor them through the process.

Certificate Great Step Forward for Public Relations Profession

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

In October, I received a letter offering some truly welcomed news for those of us who are serious about advancing the public relations profession.

College students can now complete a program that may offer advantages when seeking out that first job after graduation. That’s tremendous, but I’m hoping the program provides the inspiration for students to go even further in the study of public relations.

The Certificate in Principles of Public Relations was just initiated by the Universal Accreditation Board (UAB), the consortium of public relations organizations that confers the Accredited in Public Relations (APR) and the APR+M for military public affairs personnel.

Let me get the disclosure stuff out of the way: I served on the UAB, was on the Board during the early planning stages for the Certificate program (and the APR+M for that matter) and donated a few bucks to a fund needed to get the program started.

APR 50thThe letter I received regarding the Certificate — sent by my friend Susan Barnes, APR, Fellow PRSA, UAB Immediate Past Chair — stated that a “soft launch” proved successful. Of the 52 students who took the Certificate examination, 46 or 90%, passed.

A more robust effort is scheduled for fall of 2015.

But what’s truly exciting about the Certificate program is its potential to inspire future PR professionals to better grasp the foundations behind modern, strategic public relations and hopefully someday pursue the APR, the best post-graduate professional decision I ever made.

In this increasingly digitally-driven age, I’m concerned that young professionals may not get the same opportunities to develop into true strategists.

Not too many years ago, agency account staff and in-house communicators were basically generalists.  Everyone had to know how to craft messages, pitch stories, manage budgets and lots more.  Those dedicated to the profession eventually (well, hopefully) grasped the value behind public relations programs structured around sound strategies, research and measurable objectives.

Today, young professionals at large agencies are charged with a singular task, like monitoring Twitter feeds or handling media relations. I know: The decision to breed PR specialists may be necessary these days, especially in the big shops that represent global brands.

But is this practice good for the long-term growth and expansion of public relations and its practitioners? I think not.

* * *

Yes, The PRDude has written about the Universal Accreditation Board and Accreditation.

 

Chilling With PR Peers: Skyline Awards & DePaul Graduate Showcase

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

Last week culminated in two outstanding events that featured some of the smartest, most engaging and fascinating people I know (or got to know).  At both events, I refreshed relationships with old colleagues and nurtured relationships with new ones.

I’m referring, as you may ascertain, to gatherings of fellow public relations professionals.

The similarities continue.

Both were held in cool venues, both had excellent food and beverage and both reinforced to me something about public relations and those of us who are in this business.  Want to know more?

Here are capsulized reports.

PRSA Chicago 2014 Skyline Awards.

The evening of Tuesday June 10 was a rainy one in Chicago. But that didn’t damper the enthusiasm of the more than 250 attendees at this annual awards gala and dinner. From the Grand Army of the Republic hall at the historic Chicago Cultural Center, the Chicago PR community met to recognize excellence, network and socialize. prsa chicago

My big takeaway: Collectively, PR professionals know how to work together and execute a tremendous event driven by volunteer time, energy and spirit.  (As a member of the PRSA Chicago Board, I played a small role in the event: I provided music for the Cocktail Hour.  No, not me on guitar and vocals, but cool modern and traditional jazz via CDs.)  A round of applause to all who made the evening a success, especially event co-chairs Lauren Brush and Sarah Siewert, who worked very hard and speaking of cool, were just that under pressure — even during those last minutes before the crowds arrived.

DePaul University Graduate e-Portfolio Showcase.

DePaulTwo days later, I was honored to attend the Graduate e-Portfolio Showcase sponsored by the DePaul University College of Communication.  Held on the rooftop deck of a vintage building that once housed a department store on State Street, the event provided an opportunity for 19 graduate students from the University’s Public Relations and Advertising program to present their creative work and projects in an informal setting to senior PR professionals.   For the record, I would have attended even if the agenda did not include hors d’oeuvres and an open bar because the invitation to participate came from Ron Culp, professional director of the program and a titan in Chicago’s public relations community.  (Full disclosure: Ron has re-posted a few PRDude blogs on his awesome Culpwrit blog, an outstanding resource for PR careers.)

My big takeaway: As a guest, I was invited to meet with the graduates and view their online portfolios. Clearly, by the talent and work presented, academic institutions are developing people who clearly are ready to lead the communications industry in the future.  I met with eight young professionals who demonstrated the knowledge, skills and abilities demanded to excel and sculpt communications programs in our digitally-driven world.  Frankly, I’m glad I won’t have to compete with these men and women in the future.  Wish I had time to meet them all.

Tomorr0w, I’ll join Chapter Board members for a rare afternoon meeting. APR 50thI’ll learn about how well the Chapter did financially from the Skyline Awards, hear reports from committees and provide an update on the training program I’m leading to help members earn the Accredited in Public Relations credential.

If you haven’t guessed by now, I really enjoy the public relations profession and the people who are part of it.

 

Shameless Self-Promotion: A Post on Accreditation Published by PRSA Chicago

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

This post most assuredly will be short.

Very short.

The reason: I want you to read this post, one published last week as the debut to Insights, a blog hosted by my friends and colleagues at PRSA Chicago.

APR 50thIn the post, “Get Serious About Public Relations and Your Career: Earn the APR Because You Want To,” I make a case for earning the credential and cite some personal thoughts and insight.

Accredited PR professionals — and I’m sure many, many other communicators — understand and support the concept of open disclosure in the ethical practice of public relations.  Here goes:  I’m the 2014 Chapter Accreditation Chair and hopefully my thoughts will inspire others.

So please read the post — the one noted above, I mean.  The post is relevant now because the APR turns 50 this year, and PRSA christened April at Accreditation Month.  But I hope all serious practitioners will consider Accreditation at some point in their careers.

If you’re Accredited, share why you pursued the APR.

If you’d like to read more of my musings on Accreditation, here are some other posts to consider:

 

APR Training Year Two: Guiding the Next Generation

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

Aside from getting a permanent tattoo of the APR logo, I can’t think of a better way to demonstrate my commitment to the Accreditation in Public Relations program and the public relations profession than by helping fellow public relations professionals earn the credential.

APR_logoStarting next week, I’ll have that opportunity through my position as Accreditation chair and board member at PRSA Chicago.  Yes, I’ll be co-teaching a six-session program designed to nurture, inspire, cajole — hey, threaten if I have to (kidding, of course) — local colleagues who plan to take on the challenge of the APR program this year — the 50th year of Accreditation.

One may ask, “Why?”  Why allocate time and energy to the APR? Well, regular readers of The PRDude have read often about my passion for the credential and my unwavering belief in its value to elevate a practitioner from a tactician who knows how to a true strategist, a valued counselor who knows why.

Now, here’s perhaps a better question: Why would anyone with right mind want to pursue public relations as a career?Stress

According to this article from a leading industry publication, “public relations executive” ranks as the sixth most stressful job in America.  This is purported to be a statistically valid report, but I don’t see underwater welder or long-haul trucker anywhere in the top 10 list. ( As far as I know, no one in PR is submerged and clutching a torch while working or has to motor mile upon mile in a vehicle that’s 50 feet long with up to 18 speeds.)

But, for certain, working in public relations for a few decades can result in a few grey hairs and facial wrinkles.

I won’t ask the four candidates why they’re in the profession.  I will ask if they understand the challenges ahead, and if they’re prepared to work hard to earn the APR.  Without question, I will point out that Accreditation was the best thing this former journalist did career wise.

And, I have the grey hairs and wrinkles to prove it.

Want more from The PRDude on Accreditation?

I Shook Hands with a PR Industry Titan, and a Strategy to Re-Launch the APR

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

The title of this post is quite long.  So, I’ll be relatively brief.

Al Golin

Al Golin, Founder and Chair of Golin Harris.

On November 21, I had the honor to shake the hand of one of the undisputed titans in public relations: Al Golin, founder and chairman of international communications firm Golin Harris, identified graphically by its lower case “gh” logo.

Mr. Golin was being honored by PRSA Chicago, along with Bridget Coffing, SVP and Chief Communications Officer for McDonald’s Corporation, at the Chapter’s annual fall Senior Leaders recognition reception.  The gathering, which attracted perhaps 70 of my town’s foremost PR practitioners, was held at the prestigious Racquet Club 0f Chicago, an old-line business and social club headquartered in the Gold Coast neighborhood.  That meant I had to don and jacket and tie, and be on my best behavior.

Not a problem, as I have colorful ties and sport jackets to last decades; and, I revisited guidelines for proper conduct at tony venues.  (For the record, I own a tennis racquet, but don’t think I could afford Racquet Club dues.)  Back to reality.

After some comments and a well-produced video about the 57-year-old relationship between GH  (or is it “gh?”) and the fast-food giant, I had an opportunity to meet Mr. Golin and shake his hand. He was very gracious, listening to my tenure in the agency world 20-plus years prior;  I noted my big take-away from his comments was that even after 57 years of outstanding service to an iconic global brand like McDonald’s, the GH team has to earn the client’s continued business every day.

I wish all of us in the industry would take these words to heart.  Every day.

APR_logo

Hey agency people: Wouldn’t this look good after your name?

Onto a few thoughts on the Accreditation in Public Relations credential.  Noted in this recent post following the 2013 PRSA Assembly, the APR is in need of an overhaul — a major one, in fact.

Leadership at the Public Relations Society of America is asking Society members and anyone who’d like to speak their mind to offer ways to revitalize the APR, which turns 50 next year.  Here’s my strategic contribution: Make a concentrated effort to promote Accreditation to the segment of the public relations business with the largest concentration of potential candidates — public relations agencies.

Makes sense, doesn’t it? During my six years on the Universal Accreditation Board, I took special notice of the business affiliation of newly Accredited professionals. The large majority were not from the agency arena, but from non-profit organizations, government, education and healthcare companies.

As an incentive to champion Accreditation, offer agency pros — or any organization or group for that matter — a “group discount” on the cost of the examination if, say, five or more employees enter the process at the same time.  To do their part, agencies could allow APR candidates two hours each week to study and prepare for the three-step process.

Need more?  Here are three benefits for each side:

Agencies:

1. Account team members who have demonstrated the knowledge, skills and abilities required for modern strategic public relations.

2. Employees who will be committed to lifelong learning.

3. Perhaps lower turnover, as employees might want to hang around an agency that nurtures Accreditation.

Account Staff:

1. Earn a credential that lets one evolve from strategist to tactician.

2. Join the ranks of thousands of PR professionals from all disciplines who are Accredited.

3. Hold the credential needed to participate as an elected officer within PRSA.

Okay, this wasn’t a “relatively brief” post, but one more thought.  If I have the opportunity to meet Mr. Golin again, I’ll ask his advice on how to re-energize Accreditation.