By:Debra Bethard-Caplick, MBA, APR
Chair, PRSA Midwest District/Immediate Past President, PRSA Suburban Chicago
“Personal satisfaction” has often been the answer given for why PR professionals should earn their APR, but to me, that’s a terrible reason to give, if that’s the only one. Yes, I got quite a bit of personal satisfaction out of earning my Accreditation, and still do. But that’s not why I did it, and neither should you. Personal satisfaction is not a valid business reason for the APR.
I chose to begin the Accreditation process for several reasons, chief among them the fact that I had held a succession of positions where not only was I the only person in the company to have a public relations background, but the organizations’ managers themselves had skewed ideas on what PR was, to varying degrees. After several years of this, I had begun to question myself, my education and my career choice. Did I get something wrong? Did I have unrealistic expectations of what working in PR was supposed to be? Did I need to change the way I was doing things?
In the summer of 2000, my chapter offered a series of Saturday morning study sessions over the summer, I signed up, more as a way to reassure myself that I wasn’t on the wrong track. At that point, I wasn’t sure I was actually going to go through with taking the exam itself. All I knew was that there was something not quite right with my career, and I thought perhaps going through the Accreditation process might help me figure out what I needed to change.
Boy, did it ever! The abstract bits and pieces of communication and persuasion theory still floating around in my brain from my college classes suddenly had solid experience to anchor to. It all finally made SENSE. And while there was a considerable amount of personal satisfaction in achieving accreditation, I found tangible business results as well. My employer, my colleagues, and later on, clients – all changed how they responded to me as a professional. But the biggest benefit was the improvement to my professional skills and confidence. I have a dual Masters/MBA, but earning the APR credential that now goes after my name meant that I have proven professional skills that not all PR executives have. It’s been of more practical value to me than the master’s degrees. It made me a better professional, with skills and practical knowledge that I have passed on to other executives over the past five plus years as an APR coach. I believe in the value of Accreditation because I’ve seen what it can do for those that have earned it. I’d encourage anyone who is interested in being a better, more skilled public relations manager or executive to earn accreditation. It’s one of the most practical investments you can make in your career – and it’s very satisfying, as well.