NEW YORK: The Public Relations Society of America is launching an effort to boost the profile of the Accredited in Public Relations (APR) credential.
As the number of professionals seeking the APR credential declines, the PRSA decided to examine how to improve the program, said Mickey Nall, MD at Ogilvy Public Relations Atlanta and chair and CEO of the PRSA. Next year will mark the APR's 50th anniversary.
“It's the time to be introspective and look at [the APR], to see what its value perception and strengths are so we can do more with it and make it more valuable to our members and to the industry,” Nall said.
The Universal Accreditation Board grants the APR credential, one of two national post-graduate certification programs for PR professionals. The other is the ABC credential offered by the International Association of Business Communicators.
The PRSA has hired consulting firm Organizational Performance Group to conduct data analysis, surveys, interviews, focus groups, and benchmarking of the APR credential. Based on the firm's recommendations, the PRSA will present a report at its national board meeting in October and develop its own action plan to enhance the APR beginning in 2014, Nall said.
APR candidates must complete a questionnaire, interview with three professional peers, and pass an examination. The process measures a PR practitioner's knowledge and skills in 10 areas, such as research, planning, ethics, business literacy, and crisis communications.
The number of professionals with the APR credential has declined from an average of 256 per year between 1993 and 2002 to an average of 157 per year between 2003 and 2012. In the PRSA, members accredited by the UAB have fallen from 21.3% in 2004 to 18.4% in 2012.
Nall, who holds the APR credential, said he does not require it of employees.
“[The APR] doesn't make one practitioner better than the other. I have a lot of peers and colleagues who are not APR, and they are phenomenal at what they do,” Nall said. “But it doesn't matter if technology has changed or if social media is a new form of practice. Some standards, such as research, planning, implementation, evaluation, and ethics, remain the same.”
Of the PRSA's 21,537 members, 3,800 hold the APR credential. Another 30 members have the enhanced APR + Military credential, which is available to military personnel and defense department contractors.