National Capital Chapter

Five Tips About Pursuing APR

by Min Xiong, APR

The process of earning your APR could take from a few months to a few years, depending on your study pace. It involves two parts: the first part is a panel presentation and the second is a computer-based exam (CBE).

It took me seven months to complete my accreditation.  Here are five tips:

1.  Start With the Study Guide and add at Least one Book to Your Study Later.

The Study Guide covers six groups of Knowledge, Skills, and Abilities (KSAs), along with study tips, case studies and links to other study materials. You can download a copy from PRSA.org. Lots of candidates use the Study Guide as the principal study material.

The KSAs are:

  • Researching, planning, implementing and evaluating programs (a.k.a. RPIE)
  • Applying ethics and law
  • Managing issues and crisis communications
  • Understanding communication theories, models and history
  • Leading the public relations function
  • Managing relationships

As you prepare for the panel presentation, you should carefully read this guide and apply it to your presentation. The Study Guide recommends a list of other texts. After I passed the presentation, I added one book to my study: Cutlip and Center’s Effective Public Relations (EPR), Broom, G.M., & Sha, B-L (2013). It helped me to pass the CBE.

2. Find a Study Group Early on.

Self-studying requires lots of discipline. Having a study group can help you to keep going. The group can be as small as three people so long as everyone aims for similar APR timelines. Two weeks into my APR study, I decided to find a study group. My group met once a week and discussed content in the Study Guide. Later, I had my group review panel presentation slides and sit for a mock interview. To form a study group, you can go to the PRSA Open Forum and your local chapter.

3. Attend APR Webinars

APR webinars are organized by PRSA local chapters. The lecturers are usually APRs. Attending the webinars is a great way to interact directly with the APRs.

I enrolled in an online APR webinar organized by a PRSA Iowa chapter. This live webinar took place on six consecutive Saturday mornings. I used it to resolve questions about the study content, and learn tips from the lecturers and candidates. The webinar greatly improved my readiness to become an APR.

4. Assemble a Group of Advisors

APR journeys are not meant to be lonely. It’s very helpful to have a group of advisors as you plow on. My advisors included one APR mentor, a handful other APRs and candidates. I had them review my questionnaire drafts, presentation slides, and sit for mock interviews. The questionnaire is a deliverable for the panel presentation. It had 14 questions and ended up to be 16 pages long with my answers.

This inclusive process helped me to pass my panel interview on the first try. I’m grateful for the unreserved support from the APR community. I recommend other APR candidates to tab into this resource.

5. Plan Your CBE Study Based on The KSAs and Percentage Tested

The CBE is a close book, multiple choice exam for three to four hours. It tests on the six areas of KSAs. PRSA publishes a three-page chart that lists the detailed KSAs, along with the percentage tested. I printed out this chart and placed it on top of my Study Guide. It dictated how I allocated my study time.

I also joined the APR Online Study Course. It offered module-based self-study resources and live webinars. Each module included reading, webinar and homework. This school-like approach helped to push me through the finishing line.

Today, I proudly add APR next to my name and display the APR pin in my bookcase. The friends that I met along the way have become valuable professional contacts.

Whether you are thinking about getting APR, or in the middle of the journey, I hope these tips are helpful. Contact Co-chairs of the APR Committee, PRSA NCC Chapter, Jennifer Strohm and Mark Erwin at accreditation.ncc@gmail.com to learn more.