Journey Through the APR Process: Was It Worth It?

The journey

I have three little letters I proudly display after my name – APR. What do those three letters stand for? The short answer – Accredited in Public Relations.

I didn’t start my career working in public relations, nor did I focus on it in college. As my career progressed, I became more involved in PR and learned about the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) and my local PRSA Hoosier Chapter. I became a member of both and started attending local chapter meetings where I noticed several PR professionals with those three little letters behind their name. I was intrigued and wanted to find out more, so I visited the PRSA website and found the information I needed.

Once I learned more about APR, I was hooked. Pursuing the APR was a personal goal of mine – not one required by my employer at the time. Working as a public relations professional has all the elements I am most passionate about in a career and I was excited to have the opportunity to show my commitment to the profession.

The process took me almost two years. I applied for eligibility in the spring 2008 before I even began taking any review courses. It’s important to note here that you do NOT need to apply for eligibility before you take any review course. (Yes, I learned the hard way!) Keep in mind, you only have one year from the date you receive authorization from the Universal Accreditation Board  to participate in the Readiness Review and sit for the exam.

Due to my increased job responsibilities and travel schedule at that time, I found it difficult to meet the one-year deadline and I requested a six-month extension. In the fall of 2009, I presented my portfolio to the Readiness Review Panel. I’m not going to lie — it can be a rather intimidating experience presenting to a panel of your “peers”. The panel decides — based on your knowledge of the profession, portfolio presentation and PR work experience — if they think you are ready to move on to the exam. (I have since served on a panel several times and found that all I have served with really care about the candidates and try to make them as comfortable as possible.)

When I received word I had been approved by the panel (sighs of relief ensued), I immediately scheduled a date to sit for the computer-based exam. In December 2009, I passed the exam and earned the APR (followed by a happy dance and full-on celebration).

A few tips

When I decided to go for it, I spent hours searching online for anything others had written about their experiences — it helped ease the anxiety of what was to come. Here are some tips I picked up along the way:

Contact your local PRSA Chapter for guidance. I contacted members in my local Chapter and found out they offered free APR review courses to help prepare for the Readiness Review and exam. The 10-week review course was led by members who had been through the process and earned their APR – learning from their experiences was very helpful. The individual instructors were fantastic and the information was extremely valuable in preparing me for the challenge to obtain accreditation.

Find a mentor. Look for someone who has achieved accreditation and can offer you guidance and support. Ask your mentor to proof your Readiness Review Questionnaire for any errors, and ask for feedback and suggestions on your answers to the questions.

I was lucky to have a couple mentors, and am forever grateful for the expertise, guidance and emotional support they offered during the sometimes arduous process.

Read. Study. Read. Study. This isn’t an exam you can cram for the night before the test. Once you commit to the pursuit of the credential, you need to plan to set time aside each week to read and study.

There is a list of recommended books to read to prepare you for the exam. I bought four of the books from the list and began reading them months before I sat for the exam. A couple months before I planned to take the exam, I dedicated several hours a week to studying my stacks of flash cards (I used flash cards during my college days … they served me well then and are a hard habit to break).

One of the books I read from the recommended reading list offered online chapter review tests, which I found helpful. You also may want to take the APR online sample test to find out what it’s like to take the computer-based test.

Was it worth it?

It isn’t required to have the APR credential to work in PR. I know many knowledgeable and successful PR professionals who don’t have it. I also know many PR professionals who are very proud of their accomplishment in earning the APR and view it as a mark of distinction.

I learned so much about all aspects of the PR profession while pursuing the APR and it helped me to fill in the gaps in my education. I was told it’s like studying for a master’s degree, in less time. And, I know that earning the APR has made me a much better public relations professional.

So, was it worth it? Yes, for me it was.

PR pros, what do you think? Is it worth it to have those three little letters after your name?

Jenifer-Groth-headshotJenifer Groth, APR, is director of communication and outreach for the Indiana Department of Insurance. Her communications background includes working as a radio host (WIRE), columnist (The Daily Sun), associate producer (WTHR), new media marketing content producer  and online editor (Indianapolis Star), web editor (Indianapolis Woman Magazine), and public relations and social media manager for an association. Public relations is her passion. Groth is currently serving on the PRSA Hoosier Chapter’s accreditation committee as a co-chair and also serving on the marketing committee to promote the 2016 PRSA international conference.  She previously served on the communications committee as eblast chair. She’s an active volunteer with the State as well, serving as the wellness champion and State Employees’ Community Campaign (SECC) coordinator for her agency.

You can connect with her on Twitter at @jlgroth and LinkedIn.