Three percent of nothing is nothing

PouponU_diploma_largeHaving just learned the PRSA's Universal Accreditation Board's pass rates rose in 2011, I was reminded of a now legendary story from Peppercom's early days.

We were recruiting Peter Harris, then a promising account supervisor from a large agency, and had promised him a three percent equity stake in the embryonic Peppercom. When he spoke to the large agency's CFO, she sniffed and said, “Three percent of nothing is nothing.”

Today, that very same promising account supervisor is one of the top corporate PR strategist in the country, (albeit with another firm) and his three percent stake in what has become a $16mm business would certainly amount to a handsome pile of cash.

That said, had the CFO in question been speaking of the PRSA accreditation process, I would have been in total agreement.

According to their press release, a total of 212 souls earned their Accredited in Public Relations (APR) credentials, which equates to 71.43 percent of the total number of test takers. Lovely.

I congratulate the newly-minted APRs, but suggest they use their sheepskin to, say, decorate a bathroom wall, use as a dart board or file away in some deep, dark recess of their basement. Why? Because the APR is totally worthless.

It proves nothing, qualifies you to do nothing and is totally overlooked by employers in the recruitment process (and most assuredly by prospective clients in an agency search mode).

All of this wouldn't be such a big deal IF the PRSA didn't charge serious cash for taking the test or making participants endure a 'readiness review' prior to the actual exam. And, it wouldn't be such a big deal if the PRSA, and the ever-dwindling number of accredited PR professionals, didn't pass this ersatz title off as our industry's equivalent of passing the bar exam. It isn't. It's a sham credential that proves nothing.

PR is one of those fields where real-world experience counts for everything. Prospects are hired not based on three letters after their names, but the actual experience they bring to the table. And, clients retain PR firms not because the entire team handed out highly embossed business cards that included the APR accreditation. They make hiring decisions based on an agency's sector expertise, creative thinking and chemistry. Period.

I began in this business when Grover Cleveland sat in the Oval Office, and I can tell you that, in all the years since, not one client, prospect or agency has ever asked, much less required, me to have an APR.

It's time for the PRSA to do one of two things:

– Stop charging good money for a bogus credential
– Drop the APR program completely

I'd recommend the latter, and would paraphrase the large agency CFO's words in addressing the newly minted APRs by telling them: '212 of nothing is nothing.'"

2 thoughts on “Three percent of nothing is nothing

  1. Nicely turned, Jim. Maybe the PRSA and the American Banking Association should consider a co-branded partnership?

  2. I always wondered why all those PRSA people had the abbreviation for Annual Percentage Rate after their name. Now I know, kinda.