Does APR Elevate PR Industry?

An accountant isn’t worth much until earning the three magic letters at the end of his/her name: CPA. Industry accreditation is the standard necessary for an accountant to achieve success.

In public relations, the three magic letters are APR. Although not as popular as a certified public accountant certification, the APR, also known as accreditation in public relations, is continuing to grow in significance to help standardize the industry. It’s not as rigorous as a lawyer’s Bar examination or the CPA certification, but as Bob Pritchard, APR, says, “The knowledge, skills and abilities that are studied and assessed during the APR process cover the full gamut of competencies that are the hallmark of professionalism in public relations. The process requires candidates to commit to a significant amount of study in order to successfully demonstrate their mastery of the material.”

First established in 1964, the APR program is the only certification program for the profession. In a post-graduate exam, practitioners demonstrate their understanding of communications theory, strategic planning, ethical conduct and other industry-specific skills. The test is overseen by the Universal Accreditation Board but is endorsed by the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA).

In recent years, APR has gained traction and is increasingly a minimum requirement for upper level PR jobs. Additionally, to serve as a national leader in PRSA, one must have their APR. However, less than 25 percent of practitioners have this certification. Currently, there is an industry-wide debate regarding the APR: Is it an accreditation worth pursuing?

In my opinion, the APR is necessary and should be demanded by more employers and clients. The accreditation holds our industry accountable to ethical guidelines and promotes a level of professionalism that is otherwise absent. APR provides practitioners an opportunity to prove their competencies in PR best practices.

In a presentation to ASU’s PRSSA chapter last semester, George Couch, State Public Affairs Officer for the Natural Resources Conservation Service, emphasized the importance of the APR and took a stance. “I hope we can get APR to that standard [of the CPA certification],” he said.

Did you know about the APR? Do you plan to go through the process? Do any of your internship bosses have their APR? Do you think it’s a good way to standardize the industry?

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6 Responses to Does APR Elevate PR Industry?

  1. kdoyle3 says:

    I have heard the APR mentioned a few times in classes, however, it has never been strongly suggested. It has always been more of an option instead of something completely necessary. I do think it would be a great way to “master the skills” of PR, but I don’t know if it is something I think could help me score my dream job. I think it is a mix of knowledge and work experience that helps someone get a place in PR, and the APR would be a great addition.

    • afleisha says:

      It isn’t discussed much in academia, is it? Do you think it’s because professors are more likely to endorse higher degrees than the APR? As to it not helping you land a dream job, I disagree. Anything that sets you apart from your competition, industry specific, is an advantage, I think.

  2. dbaxley says:

    I’m not going to lie when I say I know little about APR certification. My last internship boss did not have her APR, but she had worked within the profession for 25 years. She currently owns her own PR agency and although it may be small, I still consider her to be very knowledgeable and successful. Like anything else in life, increased knowledge and experience will only help towards the mastery of a specific skill. With that said, I think an APR may would be a tremendous accomplishment, but shouldn’t necessarily be required as a measurement of success.

    • afleisha says:

      It’s difficult to justify the APR as a required measurement of success since PR is such a campaign-based, results-driven industry. There are many examples of practitioners just like your last boss that have immense field experience but no interest in jumping through the APR hoops because they feel their experience speaks for itself.

  3. jlsteph2 says:

    I have never heard of the APR specifically, but I had heard that some PR professionals had attempted to create some form of accreditation. Honestly, I think it’s a little silly. Yes, public relations professionals should conduct their work within certain ethical guidelines. However, I think that each specialist can manage this fine individually without all the rigid rules and guidelines. Public relations is very important. But, it does not come along with the life-threatening risks that other accreditation jobs require. Doctors could kill people. Barbers could cause life-threatening infections. Lawyers must adhere to strict ethics in order to maintain justice. But PR? Not so risky for mankind. Let’s just let public relations professionals do their job and not worry about accreditation.

    • afleisha says:

      The APR is more of an assessment of skills and mastery of the industry rather than a strict code of ethics. The same argument could be made for CPAs. No one has died because they didn’t find every potential tax deduction and write-off. However, the APR is aimed at improving our industry and the public perception of it. For more information about the APR: http://www.prsa.org/Learning/Accreditation/

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