Jul 19

RepMan, APR

So, did you notice those little three letters that follow my blogging nom de plume above? Pretty 
Nero-JPG
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.

Jul 27

The comma and those three letters mean nothing to me

Today's guest post is by Ed Moed, RepMan's partner and co-founder of Peppercom, and author of the blog, MeasuringUP

John Smith, APR. Over 5,000 public relations practitioners are Accredited Public Relations professionals who Apr
use this moniker (highlighted in red) after their name and title.
According to the PRSA, APR means that these professionals take a
variety of courses, tests and workshops to ensure that they have the
knowledge, skills and abilities to practice PR effectively in today’s
business arena. My partner recently wrote on his blog that this accreditation isn’t worth a dime in today’s fast shifting marketplace. (I think he actually used the word bogus.) I completely agree.

Many
practitioners wear their APR credential like a badge of honor. I see
this when meeting my peers at networking functions and never really
understood it. OK, I’m sure the path to accreditation offers some value
through understanding important tools to leverage in public relations
programs and by becoming acutely aware of certain set of guidelines
(mostly ethical) that practitioners should follow. But, as my partner
flatly stated, there isn’t an accredited program today that prepares PR
professionals with the instinctual savvy that is so needed to operate
and counsel clients in our new era of social media. Sorry, but APR is
no different.

I decided to conduct a little research to better
understand what practitioners actually learn as they are working to
become accredited. So, I went to the PRSA site. There, I listened to a
variety of Podcasts from accredited folks on the value they derived.
One woman enthusiastically discussed how she excelled at developing
important processes focused on campaign development and implementation.
She talked about the necessity of pre-planning for (as an example)
promotions with everything from proper research of target audiences and
venues to budget criteria. She claims that her accreditation was
critical to mastering this. Great. Awesome.  Except, we have a half a
dozen professionals in our special events/promotions group
(Peppercommotions) who have nothing to do with being APR accredited and
can do this stuff in their sleep. And, they do it really well.

My
point:  I’ve met hundreds of the most talented PR professionals out
there who aren’t APR accredited. Should they be looked at as being only
partially qualified because of this? On the same note, I’ve had the
fortune of meeting a variety of APR professionals who are really good
at what they do. And, of course, have met a few APR dopes throughout
the years as well.

I have two major problems with accredited
programs like APR in the public relations world. The first is that I
truly believe 90-95 percent of what we do is learned through hands on,
real life experience. A smart young account executive will find the
most talented boss or mentor out there and grow though complete osmosis
(that is watching, discovering and learning everything possible that a
mentor does from client counseling to writing to strategic planning).
While APR can offer great rules of thumb, theories and process tools,
its real value is minimal in our world because everything is so focused
on just getting that experience.

Sorry to be so blunt, but my
second beef with APR is that no one cares. Let me restate that. Of
course, those accredited APR people care. But, outside of that,
clients, prospects, business people, Wall Street, high level
governmental professionals, media, etc., etc., etc… can’t be bothered
with it. And, I know that because no one (and I mean no one) has ever
asked the question to me or my management team– are you APR accredited?

And,
why is that? I think it’s because the main concern is always focused on
what real experience do we have? Based on that experience, how smart
and creative can we be? And, can we deliver on those results we agreed
to based on having done it before for others? I really don’t see APR
playing a key role with any of these needs.

I believe that once
upon a time, our leaders felt it was critical to create real rules and
ethics to live by so that the public relations field would be seen as a
professional, respected industry. That is still important. But, I
question whether APR or any other accredited badge of honor is needed
(and more importantly) can maintain a PR person’s relevance in today’s
incredibly fast changing world.

Jul 24

Useless. Useless.

APR Logo bw 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.”