Public relations is a serious profession. We are entrusted with the good names and reputations of our employers and clients, and if we bungle the job, the results can be catastrophic.
So it’s worth doing right. But what is that, exactly? It’s just a matter of good people skills and common sense, right?
Not really, no. Much of what we do can be downright counter-intuitive, and it often goes against what untrained people are certain they know. When this is the case, we may have trouble getting our clients and employers to do our jobs right.
One approach is to take the easy way out by compromising the principles of sound public relations, and telling our clients what they want to hear. Go along to get along, as it were. Over time, we may even forget (if we ever knew) that there is really a right way and a wrong way to “do public relations.” We ignore the profession’s body of knowledge, and thereby diminishes what we do.
The APR designation addresses the two critical needs we all have: (1) knowing the right way to do things, and (2) gaining the confidence of our employers/clients so that we can do a proper job.
It’s been my pleasure over the years to play a small role in helping fellow professionals earn the APR. Over that time, I’ve found that the biggest obstacle is (wait for it) the failure to take it seriously. I’ve heard older non-accredited colleagues advise others, “Oh, you and I could pass it without even studying,” and wanted to start throwing things. I’ve seen candidates show up for a readiness review with no visible sign of having been mentored or trained. I’ve seen some jump in too soon, before they logged any real experience in the profession, treating it as some sort of entitlement or automatic step, like walking across the stage for their diploma. I’ve seen others procrastinate and have to rush up a Readiness Review in order to get to the Computer Based Exam before the clock runs out. (Aside: When you do this, and three accredited professionals drop everything to sink a half day or more in an expedited Readiness Review and you show up unprepared, you’re not scoring any points.)
And I’ve seen others who worked hard, took sound advice, studied and passed the examination. They wear their APR pins proudly, and use the designation at every opportunity. More importantly, they have earned credibility. They’ve taken themselves and their profession seriously. As a result their clients are more likely to listen to them and take their advice.
They have the knowledge and the professional “weight” to stand firm when their employers want to pursue a course that could be damaging to their own best interest. They refuse to lie, work through “false fronts” and offer payoffs, because they know the Code of Ethics and understand why it matters.
So here’s my challenge as we move into the holiday season: Take yourself and your career seriously. Take your profession seriously enough to do it right, and earn the respect it takes to make that happen in the real world. Your colleagues will appreciate it, because you represent them as well. Some of us get downright mad when you mess things up and bring a bad name on the profession to which we have devoted our lives.
You wouldn’t like me when I’m angry.
So let’s do it right. If you’re at the right time in your career (I recommend at least five years of full-time experience, though it’s no longer required), talk to one of your accredited colleagues about pursuing the credential. I’ve never known an APR who would turn down a colleague who would say no to helping you.
Barring a write-in vote, I’ll be serving as Alabama PRSA co-chair for accreditation in 2015, along with Ashley Fulmer, APR. We haven’t nailed down our plans yet, but I know Ashley shares my passion for the program, and we’ll be doing whatever we can to help our colleagues advance their careers — and their profession — by earning the APR. I hope you’ll feel free to call on either of us.