By Dr. Jacob Farbman, APR
Earning the APR credential over 10 years ago has created numerous professional opportunities for me. Since earning my APR, I’ve led or have been a featured speaker at workshops and presentations at the national, regional and local levels. I was fortunate enough to have an article published in Public Relations Tactics. The quality of my classroom instruction improved, and my students have benefitted by landing outstanding internships and jobs thanks to my expanded professional network. Most important, passing the APR exam gave me the confidence to go back to school and earn a doctoral degree.
One of the greatest rewards as an APR is the opportunity to give back to the public relations profession by serving as a mentor to other PR professionals on their journeys of earning their APRs. If you are considering obtaining the APR credential, then perhaps this blog will be helpful to you.
In addition to the study tools available via the Universal Accreditation website, http://www.praccreditation.org/apply/apr/, here are a few tips that I’ve shared with others on their way to earning their APRs:
Talk to an APR – Do you know someone who holds an APR? Talk to the person. This can be an informal informational interview. Learn about the person’s experience, and what advice he or she can offer to help you go through the process. If you have the opportunity, talk to more than one APR. This first step will give you valuable insight to the process, and reaffirm your decision to obtain the APR credential.
Get an APR Mentor – An added benefit that may come from talking with APRs is that some of them may offer to mentor you. For me personally, serving as an APR mentor is incredibly rewarding, especially when I get the news that my mentees pass the exam. In addition, APRs have to acquire at least 10 points every three years to maintain their credentials, and serving as an APR mentor can be applied as points for reaccreditation. An APR mentor will give you insights to the process that aren’t always covered during the in-person or online APR Prep Courses.
Start Thinking Like a Strategist, not a Tactician – Many of us in public relations got our start executing tactics, like writing news releases, media pitching, writing copy for a website, managing a social media account, designing or writing publications, writing speeches, etc. To pass both the APR Exam Readiness Review and the written exam, you’ll have to present a campaign you either led or contributed to during your career. Think about the big picture… what goals did your organization try to accomplish, and how did public relations contribute to those accomplishments?
Familiarize Yourself with the Detailed Knowledge, Skills and Abilities (KSAs) that the Readiness Review and Exam will Assess – The Universal Accreditation Board has identified six Objectives that make up the APR Exam:
- Researching, Planning, Implementing, and Evaluating Programing
- Applying Ethics and Law
- Managing Issues and Crisis Communication
- Understanding Communication Models, Theories and History of the Profession
- Leading the Public Relations Function
- Managing Relationships
Within each of these objectives are the KSAs that the exam will assess. And, each of the objectives are weighted differently, which gives you an indication of the most important aspects of the exam.
Take an APR Prep Course – PRSA national offers both in-person and online APR prep courses. Many local PRSA chapters offer APR preparation workshops as well. Take advantage of one of these resources. In the APR Boot Camp our local PRSA Chapter offers, we spend one Saturday in the fall teaching participants about the most important aspects of the APR Exam, including research, planning, evaluation, ethics, law, issues management, and crisis communication. We also offer tips for preparing for the Readiness Review, and our advice as to the best textbooks to use to study for the exam.
Read a Recommended Book or Two, but Really Reflect on Your Professional Practice – While I can’t tell you what questions are on the exam, I can tell you that the exam is unlike any other I had ever taken in college or graduate school. You’ll need to rely on what you learned from an APR Mentor, an APR prep course, the books you’ve read, and your own professional experience. As you are learning more about research, planning, implementation, and evaluation, think about the communication campaigns you’ve worked on throughout your career. Ask yourself, “Why did I do the work I did? What was the purpose?” As you prepare for the APR exam, it should become easier and easier to connect the work you did to public relations objectives. And if possible, connect the work you did to any formative research you or your organization may have conducted. This will show Readiness Review panelists the roadmap you used as a strategic thinker to guide your decision making.
Do a Little Bit Each Day – Some days, you may be able to dedicate two or three hours to studying. Others, you may only have time for 15 to 30 minutes. That’s OK. Just keep chipping away at it. And it is OK to take a day off from studying along the way. People who go through the APR process are working (sometimes more than one job), have family responsibilities, and other matters to tend to. Life doesn’t stop because you’ve decided to get your APR. Like anything else in life, you’ll have to make the time and commit to yourself that you can pass the exam.
One more thing… Celebrate the Small Wins Along the Way. As you move through the process, celebrate your accomplishments. Earning your APR is a marathon, not a sprint. It will take time get a good mentor, take a prep course, prepare and pass the Readiness Review, study, and take the exam. Each step you accomplish along the way is one step closer to adding “APR” after your name.
Dr. Jacob Farbman, APR is the director of communications for the New Jersey Council of County Colleges, the state association for New Jersey’s 19 community colleges. He is also an adjunct professor of public relations in the Communication Studies Department at The College of New Jersey. Follow Dr. Farbman on Twitter @DrFarbman
Watch Dr. Farbman discuss the real world value of research in public relations strategic planning in his TedTalk, How Organizations Succeed by Bridging the Communication Disconnect