By Josh Hovey, APR, Martin Waymire Vice President

When working with clients who are not familiar with the public relations industry we often get asked “what’s with the APR after your name?” I’m a pretty casual person with a small town Midwestern upbringing so the tendency is to brush the question aside with a modest answer like “oh, that just designates that I’m an accredited PR professional” or “it’s supposed to let you know I know how to do my job” or something equally low-key or self-deprecating. The reality is, even though we don’t talk about the APR designation very often, it’s a pretty big deal in the PR profession.

For public relations practitioners, an Accreditation in Public Relations (APR) is our version of an accountant receiving their CPA. The accreditation designates professionals in our field who adhere to the highest ethical standards while demonstrating a strong command on the practice of strategic communications as a management function within an organization.

It’s an arduous process and not everyone passes on the first or even second try. First, only someone with at least five years of experience can apply for an APR designation. After practicing for five years, PR professionals must then fill out an application and be accepted to participate in a review panel where they present a case study portfolio in front of their fellow APR peers. This portion of the APR process is similar to when a graduate student must defend their dissertation to receive their degree. You are grilled thoroughly by people you know and respect, and whose job is to make sure only those who are truly worthy receive the credential.

If the PR practitioner passes the review panel, they can then sit for the final examination which is administered at an official testing center. To call the APR exam comprehensive would be an understatement. It. Is. A. Beast. The exam covers everything that an experienced PR professional should know to serve their organization well. To pass, you must know the PRSA code of ethics by heart, the PR planning process (research, planning, implementation, evaluation), communication theory, crisis communication and risk management practices, copyright law, and even the history of the profession.

The journey of achieving an APR does not end with the exam, however. Accredited PR professionals must renew their APR credential regularly through professional development and continuing education. As our industry is rapidly changing, this is a must.

It’s common for PR firms to have one or two APRs on staff, but we are proud to have five members of our team who have achieved their Accreditation in Public Relations: Elizabeth Battiste, Roger Martin, Angela Minicuci, Andie Poole and myself. It’s a rare feat for a firm of our size, and just one of the many signals of our commitment to excellence and continued learning.

Cheers to all of our fellow APRs out there!