Does Having an APR Designation Really Matter to Clients?

In an article posted a few weeks ago discussing the value of earning an APR certificate for PR pros, the author makes a compelling case for achieving the APR designation. But my perspective on the process, and what the designation means, is slightly different.

I pursued the APR designation in 2000 because I did not have a formal degree in public relations, nor had I had the opportunity earlier in my career to engage in a systematic study of the profession.That became increasingly important given my growing interest in teaching and training in the field, necessitating a command of the body of knowledge and the letters after my name to signify such mastery.

My subsequent marketing of the designation mattered a lot within my PRSA chapter (where at the time there were few active members with the designation) and the national organization. As an educator, stating I had an APR invited occasional questions in my classes on the topic of accreditation; as a consultant/trainer, my agency and corporate clients didn’t seem to care one way or another about it.

I recently completed my doctorate, and have seen that those initials make a difference in my personal marketing efforts. Likewise, as a professor and advisor in an MBA program, I’ve seen how that degree generally carries weight in the marketplace.

In short, I believe the APR designation and the process leading up to it provide a valuable educational experience that I’d recommend to others with objectives similar to mine.

That said, I believe the PR profession would be better served advocating for educational designations that demonstrably matter to business leaders and others with whom practitioners work.

About the Author
Mitchell Friedman, Ed.D. (@mitchellfriedmn) teaches management communication and related topics to MBA students. He has previously taught at the University of San Francisco, and in the future will be teaching at UC Davis and West Virginia University. In addition, he also provides professional development and education to public relations agencies. Mitchell’s recently completed doctoral dissertation explored leadership development in public relations. 

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9 comments on “Does Having an APR Designation Really Matter to Clients?

  1. Thanks Mitchell for your efforts. I was the author of the blog that’s mentioned on the benefits of APR. The path to continued education seems personal. APR can be an effective and efficient approach to continued education for some, while others might have the opportunity to purse an MBA. Recently, the PRSA Certification Task force issued a survey. I’d be interested to explore what was learned with that research and about the target audiences.

    Ironically, I’ve met some in my organization who hold an MBA that still call public relations advertising. Furthermore, I’ve seen articles were some felt that they weren’t able to effectively leverage the MBA designation.

    Nonetheless, I’m pleased that these virtual conversations are taking place — those alone will help raise awareness of APR.

  2. Thanks Beth! I agree that professional develpment often is personal, although I’d argue that if the PR profession is to advance it needs to move beyond that to a more objective standards grounded in the needs of employers as supported by research. The entire MBA arena is a complex one as far as education about PR is concerned. As I teach in MBA programs, I’m comforted by PRSA’s efforts to encourage coverage of PR by those degree programs. My fervent hope is that they respond; rest assured, I’m doing all I can to make that happen!

  3. I’ve learned Public Relations through two classes in Continuing Education at a well-known college and on the job experience. I’ve worked for Wall Street firms, trade associations, nonprofit groups and PR agencies. I now am a consultant.

    I have a Ph.D. in Literature and a Certificate in Business Administration.

    In 20 years, NO ONE has ever asked if I have an APR or a degree in Public Relations.

    Of the more than one hundred colleagues and clients I’ve worked with, only one had an APR.

    At 50+, I see no need to get an APR.

  4. I have been a public relations practitioner for 25 years. I did not sit for the APR exam; I have a master’s degree in mass communication. In the early days of my professional career, when the desire to continue my education was strong, I did not have enough years in the business to sit for the APR — at the time you needed to be in the business for 5 years.

    As you said, clients do not seem to care. Only once has it come up in a new business pitch and that was when the corporate communications manager had the designation.

    I encourage professional development, whether that be in an academic environment or through programs sponsored by PRSA and others.

    Mitchell, I am curious, though, since you do have the designation why it does not appear in your bio?

  5. Thanks for asking, Abby. I was hoping someone would :).

    My APR status is considered lapsed since I did not renew my membership in PRSA a few years ago. At the time, I didn’t see a need to do so. That may change, and if so I’ve been told I can reactivate my accreditation by rejoining PRSA.

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