In a desperate attempt to resuscitate a credential that flat lined long ago, the Public Relations Society of America recently announced a significant effort to “enhance the profile and prestige” of the oft-maligned Accredited in Public Relations (APR) designation.
On the off chance you've never heard of the APR, it's the PR industry's pale imitation of an M.D. or C.P.A. (or passing the bar to become a practicing lawyer). To earn an APR, one needs to “…complete a questionnaire, advance through a readiness review with three professional peers and pass a computer-based examination.”
That's it. That's the extent of the process. It has no rigor, no merit and, sadly, no credibility whatsoever with client-side decision-makers.
According to the PRSA, some 3,800 members hold the APR credential (that's less than 18 percent of total membership). But, fewer and fewer members are bothering to even take the exam: the number of annual applicants has dropped from 256 in 1993, to 157 in 2012.
I've never bothered taking the APR. And, no one I know in my agency, or in most of the best firms in the business, is accredited. I've never heard of any human resources manager requesting a job candidate successfully complete the test in order to be considered for a job. And, clients aren't even aware of its existence.
The APR is the true horse-and-buggy of PR. Created in a kinder, gentler and much slower world, it has no relevance in a world dominated by such speedy 'automobiles' as social media, content creation, trans-media communication and customer experience.
The APR IS important to practitioners in the hinterlands, who see it as an industry version of a Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval. And, maybe it does help attract the local Buffalo, Wyoming, Jiffy Lube account. But, it has no bearing whatsoever on ANY decisions made by ANY public relations professional in a genuine position of significant authority.
Unless, and until, the PRSA can devise a truly rigorous examination that matches those in the fields of medicine and the law, they should stop spinning wheels and spending member dollars pretending to be modern-day alchemists. The APR is a rusted, worthless credential.