Why pursuing the APR is absolutely worth the time and brain space

Andrea FarmerRight now, you probably have an inbox full of unread emails, a checklist of to-dos yet to be completed and a boss asking you for an update on a project you haven’t been able to start. Maybe this is just me, but I digress. Point is: You’re busy, possibly stretched very thin in your professional and personal lives. Maybe the idea of pursuing your Accreditation in Public Relations feels like it will just take more of your precious brain space and time.

Or, maybe you don’t think the APR will help you reach your professional development goals or advance your career, and the idea of spending time doing something that doesn’t have an immediate payoff feels like a waste of time.

I’m here to tell you that going through the APR process, while time-consuming and brain-consuming, is 100% worth it.

When I started my career, my employer let me know pretty early on that it was expected I pursue my APR when it came time (at least five years into your career, as is recommended by the Universal Accreditation Board). So, I went into the process as more of a job requirement than something I thought would further my career. Boy, was I wrong.

Here’s what I realized:

1. Using communication theories and strategic planning templates to guide the creation and execution of campaigns make them so much more effective. Truth be told, I had completely forgotten everything I learned in college. As I write this, I am a bit embarrassed to say it; nevertheless, it’s true. While I had a fuzzy recollection of learning these things, I wasn’t able to remember, let alone apply them to my daily work. Obviously not ideal.

As a participant in the Hoosier Chapter’s APR readiness review course, I relearned everything I had forgotten and/or assumed was purely academic. It was SO MUCH easier to learn the concepts when I had actual work experience in which to apply them. Turns out I was already using these concepts – and working with mentors who were, as well – I just didn’t know I was doing it until the APR course helped me connect the dots.

2. Leaders in our industry who have a seat at the executive-level table are there because they know how to take communications strategies and tactics and ladder them up to organizational business goals. To be successful in our industry, you can’t just crank out tactical items if they don’t achieve the goals of the organization you work for or represent. Before I went through the APR process, I was entirely focused on outputs, not outcomes. It doesn’t matter how many media mentions or social media likes you get if you’re not achieving overall business goals. Guess where I learned to think this way? The APR process.

If you’re interested in a leadership role, you have to be able to describe how your PR and marketing activities affect the bottom line, whatever that is. If you want a seat at the table, the APR can help you get there.

3. Putting yourself through the paces of the readiness review process will prepare you for future leadership roles. As background, the APR process consists of two steps: the readiness review and an examination. Candidates must pass the readiness review before they are able to advance to the examination portion. The actual readiness review is a two-hour interview of sorts in which you walk three other APRs through a strategic plan you created and implemented, and you’re asked questions about the plan. These questions could ask about the research you conducted when forming your plan (and why you chose that particular form of research), how you settled on the measurements in your objectives, why you decided a particular strategy or tactic would best engage your target public, etc.

The experience explaining and defending your decisions is enormously helpful, especially when you’re making the case for something to your boss, C-level leadership, a client, board members – anyone in a decision-making role.

This may sound dramatic, but I can point to my APR experience as a key catalyst to my career growth. One role in particular, where I worked with many departments of a national organization as an in-house communications consultant designing strategic plans, was one I could not have effectively carried out without having gone through the APR process. In truth, it’s likely I wouldn’t even have been hired, and I would’ve missed out on a job opportunity that was pivotal to my growth.

If this isn’t enough of a full-throated endorsement of the APR process, I don’t know what is. If you’re on the fence, I highly encourage you to take the leap – I promise it will be worth it in the end!

Andrea Farmer, APR, Indiana Donor Network