RepMan, APR

So, did you notice those little three letters that follow my blogging nom de plume above? Pretty 
darn impressive, no? The letters stand for Accredited in Public Relations. And, they are the subject of a surprisingly heated debate within the greater public relations hierarchy.

One earns an APR by successfully completing a three-hour, SAT-type test that probes one's views, actions and reactions to hypothetical crisis and brand challenges. Having successfully completed the test, a PR practitioner is considered accredited in public relations. Critically, he or she can henceforth have the APR letters printed on his or her business card.

I wouldn't bother writing about something so insignificant if it weren't for the following:

– An alarmingly large number of otherwise informed and intelligent PR executives actually believe the APR automatically implies quality counseling and leadership ability.
– This same cult believes APR is a critical component in making PR a more credible industry.
– The Public Relations Society of America refuses to allow anyone to hold a senior position without possessing said letters.
– The PRSA charges a hefty sum for individuals to take the test.

Here's the bottom line on the APR. It's a nice little test that agencies can use as part of an overall management training and development program. And, I'm sure it's an ego boost for John Smith or Jane Doe to add the APR to their business cards and correspondence. But, that's as far it goes.

The APR is not an M.D. It's not a Ph.D. and it's not even remotely close to being the equivalent of passing the bar or the Series Seven. In short, it's meaningless in the larger public relations and business worlds. Clients don't demand their agencies are staffed with APR-certified staff. In fact, the vast majority don't even know what it is. Those who do consider it worthless.

And, yet the tempest in the teapot rages on in the power circles of the PRSA. It's sad to see so many 'fundamentalists' hold on to their ancient, bogus beliefs and withhold leadership opportunities to the many highly competent executives who, like me, have never bothered to take the APR test. All this, mind you, while advertising, interactive and other marketing disciplines continue to blur the lines between what they and we do.

It's akin to fiddling while Rome burns.

20 thoughts on “RepMan, APR

  1. That’s really interesting, Geeps. Sadly, as you know, no written examination either proves or disproves a PR person’s ability to practice the craft. I do hope you’re successful in defeating the accreditation movement.

  2. Hi Repman, I read this entry when you first published it but thought about it today because of an organization in Malaysia (I’m Malaysian but practicing in Beijing) is driving to push a PR Act on the industry in Malaysia. The Act would make it mandatory for PR professionals to be accredited by the organization in order to practice. Tragedy? You bet. My ex-boss is leading the “opposition” but negotiations so far haven’t been optimistic. Anyway, thought I’d share, this is the link to the news article:

  3. I’d avoided the whole red state/blue state interpretation of APR up until now, ghostoofprpast, but you are 100 percent correct. An APR plays very well in Podunk. Not so well on Madison Avenue.

  4. Here’s how the job interview goes with firms outside the coasts:
    “I see that you’re not accredited with PRSA.”
    “No, but I have ten years experience working in New York firms with Fortune 500 clients.”
    “But you’re not accredited?”
    Rather than convey some type of significance or expertise, this suffix allows folks promoting the local dry cleaner’s July Madness (Four Starched Shirts for the Price of Three!) promotion to feel a certain level of security and smugness.

  5. Thanks Sandra. I’d strongly encourage any readers to sign the petition and share their views on APR. It’s not only antiquated, it’s disenfranchising as well. Bad stuff.

  6. Hey Steve, Thanks for sharing your POV. I share it and that’s why we starting the petition to remove APR from leadership requirements at PRSA –
    Maybe some of your readers would like to share their opinion as well and join the 350+ folks that have already signed.
    We need more great leaders in PRSA and APR should not be a barrier of entry.

  7. No hate whatsoever, George. Just concern. Concern that the PRSA is charging an outrageously high price for the test. And concern that APRs are refusing to share PRSA leadership roles with us non-believers. It’s not kosher. Speaking of which, go with the Second Avenue Deli. It always delivers on the brand promise.

  8. Wow, I can feel the hate. Other than the sandwich part, which sounds good.
    I have those three silly letters after my name, and that’s a good thing for me. I think it’s good for the PR profession as well. It’s more than just a three hour test. Drop me a line if you want to know what it involves.
    Being accredided doesn’t necessairly make me a better professional than a non-APR. I know it helped me grow professionally, and many others say the same. It’s a good standard for our industry. I’ll continue to support it. And I won’t think I am personally better or worse than those who don’t have it.
    Now, where can I get a good sandwich?

  9. Thanks Linda. Great blog on your part. Hard to argue the P.T. Barnum argument. The current version of the APR is half-baked. We should either euthanize it or start over from scratch.

  10. I totally agree, Julie. That’s what makes it so sinister. I wouldn’t mind if people took the damn test, slapped the APR initials on their business cards and went on their merry ways. Unfortunately, the PRSA charges hundreds of dollars for the test and card-carrying APR members use it as an exclusionary device with which to restrict leadership solely to themselves. Shades of Orwell’s ‘Animal Farm.’

  11. I truly believe that the PRSA uses the APR requirement as a fundraising tool for its own organization. All of the comments above explain why the APR “degree” is unrecognized and unimportant to clients seeking PR counsel.

  12. That’s very astute of you, bookandbloggeek. Our industry is indeed saddled by a group of old-time hardliners who grew up with the APR, believe it’s still relevant and refuse to share power with others who won’t pay the money to take the ersatz test.

  13. I have indeed addressed the APR subject in the past, Med Guy. Sadly, the issue keeps re-surfacing. This time around, I decided to post my POV on an internal PRSA e-group and ignited a real firestorm (it was similar to the ninth inning in yesterday’s Mets-Giants debacle). Re: your med supplies, please feel free to forward some. I know Ed’s running low on adult diapers.

  14. It’s a joke.
    Rep, these are people that feel so proud of what they’ve accomplished that they feel having the three letters is a means to making sure other people respect their work and position in the industry. When in reality, it is APRs loving other APRs.
    And, as the world turns, the rest of us tackle bigger problems like servicing clients and staying ahead of the competition – whether they are from our industry or those fighting for the same dollars

  15. rep- feel like u have written this exact blog before. maybe alzheimer’s is setting in and u need some med supplies?