The best of the best

Six years iWhile Repman beats back black flies, bats and mosquitoes in northern Maine, we thought we'd  reprise the very best (and most controversial) blogs in Repman's six-year run.

Today's blog first appeared on July 24, 2009.  It generated more than two dozen comments and prompted no fewer than three separate articles in O'Dwyer's. In the blog, entitled, 'Useless. Useless', Steve questioned the value of the PRSA's APR certification.

See what you think. BTW, we welcome fresh comments on a still highly relevant topic…

Useless. Useless.

I've just received an e-mail from the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) encouraging me to sign up for an intensive, four-day APR preparation boot camp.

For the unenlightened, APR is an ersatz credential that has been bandied about for decades as proof positive that one is, indeed, accredited in public relations. I've been reluctant to comment publicly about APR because, frankly, I didn't want to offend some industry leaders who actually believe the APR is meaningful.

But, the time has come to take off the gloves and enter the fray. An APR is worthless. It's never meant anything to any client organization I've ever encountered. Nor has it ever made one iota of difference in considering a prospective employee's strengths and weaknesses.

Created long ago and far away, the APR has always lacked any real teeth and is based on a false assumption: that a PR pro should master rules and regulations in the same way a doctor or lawyer must. But, because PR is an art and not a science, there are no hard and fast rules, regulations, practices, policies or procedures that a public relations professional must study and then prove competence in some sort of 'bar exam.' One earns his or her stripes in PR in one way, and one way only: through the School of Hard Knocks.

The APR is even more irrelevant in today's social media environment in which black has become white, and vice versa. Controlled, top-down, inside-out communication has gone the way of the carrier pigeon. And, no four-day boot camp or three-day written exam is going to help me learn to listen or react any better to the quicksilver changes being made by consumers who now decide with whom they wish to speak, as well as when and where.

I wish Dr. Kevorkian could euthanize this bogus test (and credential) once and for all. In the meantime, I'll continue to associate the APR with the immortal final words of John Wilkes Booth who, having been mortally wounded by pursuing Union soldiers, looked at his hands and uttered, “Useless. Useless.”

4 thoughts on “The best of the best

  1. I think the PRSA could use a good PR campaign… to explain to us all why they are relevant and what they do for the PR community.

  2. I have my APR and I couldn’t agree more. Part of the reason I did get it was so that if/when I wanted to comment about it it came from a position of actually going through and getting it. Also, having been involved in PRSA since my college days, I also didn’t want to offend others. But…it really has no use. In fact, I know some senior level people at large agencies in NYC that say they are skeptical of people who have it! (I guess that means me, too.)
    The APR exam does nothing to prepare anyone for the real life practice of public relations. And the biggest joke when I took it was that you really didn’t need to know how to apply PRSA’s ethics code, you just needed to memorize it to pass the exam….are you kidding?
    If they want it to mean anything, they need to completely, 100% revamp it with input from senior level practitioners who actually are responsible for P&L and can give input on what pros really need to learn. Even then, it still may not mean anything.