National Capital Chapter

Intentionality and Leadership Influenced My APR Journey

By Tracy Schario, APR, Fellow PRSA
MITRE, External Communications Department Head

When I earned my APR in 2010, I was elated and proud. After months of study and collaboration with PRSA colleagues, the exam was behind me. One of my goals at the time was to run for the national board, on which I served in 2014 and 2015. Throughout the years, I’ve also mentored APR candidates, spoke at study courses, and incorporated the APR principles and PRSA ethics into my graduate-level media relations and issues management classes at The George Washington University.

As I reflect on the APR journey some 13 years later, I keep returning to the importance of intention. Goal setting is important, but planning your work to achieve that goal, and working your plan requires intention. To celebrate APR month, if you’re considering applying for the credential, know that it takes more than textbook knowledge and experience. It requires intentionality – a philosophical commitment to the profession and the channeling of your thoughts, beliefs, and desires to achieve your APR goal and contribute to the community.

I am proud to have recently become a Fellow PRSA. Administratively, no more APR maintenance requirements for me. Yet, the journey continues. I find my passion for the profession renewed and my commitment to fostering the professional reinforced.

What does it take practically to earn your APR?  Experience. Strategy. Results. Yet, it’s intentionality – your personal attributes and leadership traits – that can often make the difference in achieving your Accreditation in Public Relations credentials and fulfilling the maintenance requirements.

For me, this was demonstrating not only that I know how to execute the strategic planning process and apply various PR theories, but I know how to lead teams to achieve business outcomes. Here are four leadership pillars that I aspire to daily.

  1. People First. Really – put their needs before your own. It’s often said, “there is no I in team.” Yet, a team is comprised of individuals (“I”). Understand the strengths of the individual, what motivates them to do their best, and collaborate with that knowledge. You’ll find team productivity and satisfaction are stronger when you make the work about them and their professional growth, not merely results.
  2. Listen with Empathy. Active listening techniques are useful – “I heard you say ….” “If I understand, the problem is ….” But listening with empathy is more than restating what you think someone said. Spend less time talking and more time listening. And when you recap what you heard, demonstrate that you feel and understand their perspective.
  3. Courage.  I view my PR counselor role grounded in playing the “loyal opposition.” For example, having the courage to articulate that a company’s public response to a crisis may generate unintended risk or harm to reputation isn’t easy. Executives may not change their decision, but your counsel may influence the rhetoric and achieve a better outcome. And when the facts are bad, I won’t lie, but I can get behind decisions that I had the courage to influence.
  4. Keep it real. We all make mistakes. Learn from the big mistakes and don’t sweat the small stuff. When we lose our humanity and punish ourselves or others for a mistake, we aren’t putting people first. Afterall, it’s PR, not ER.

Wherever you are in your APR journey, know that being an accredited PR professional is more than the knowledge, skills, and abilities that you have demonstrated. It’s about your intention and leadership attributes. Being a member of the APR community signifies your commitment to continually strive for growth.