Todd Felts, assistant professor of Strategic Communications at the Reynolds School of Journalism, received the APR designation last month at the Public Relations Society of America Sierra Nevada Chapter's Silver Spikes awards ceremony. The designation, which stands for Accredited in Public Relations, is only earned by 20 percent of PRSA members nationwide.
"The designation of APR confirms the PR professional's commitment and adherence to best practices and ethics in the industry, demonstrates leader and mentorship in the field and conveys a cultivated approach to addressing shifting public relations climate," Alison Gaulden, APR, lecturer at the Reynolds School and VP of professional development at the Public Relations Society of America Sierra Nevada Chapter, said.
There's a reason why the group of professionals who obtain the accreditation remains elite. The process to receive it can be grueling, especially for busy professionals. The APR accreditation process typically takes about a year, and equates roughly to gaining a master's degree, according to Gaulden.
In order to be considered as a candidate, applicants must present a plan they have ideally implemented and evaluated. They are allowed to edit plan and highlight the elements of Research, Planning, Implementation and Evaluation (better known as RPIE) they would have done differently if money, time and/or policy were not an issue. The plan is presented before three area APRs. In addition to assessing the plan the panel are assessing the knowledge, skills, abilities (KSAs) not readily verified in an exam. If approved, candidates must then pass a 200 question exam.
While Felts breezed through the process over the past year, it took 15 years after he submitted his first application before he was able to devote the time the accreditation process requires. As Felts's career continued to take off in addition to earning a master of arts in international communications from Georgetown University and a doctorate in education management from Drexel University, there simply was no time.
"After the doctoral degree ended I thought to myself ‘Okay, I have got to get this done,'" Felts said. "So, about a year ago I resubmitted the application, and kind of locked myself away and started studying."
Felts worked hard in that year, creating a campaign for his hometown in North Carolina, a small town with a revitalized moonshine distillery industry, titled "Where the Moon Shines Still" as part of his application in addition to passing the 200 questions skills-based test on the first try. According to Felts, the benefits to becoming an APR abound.
"I learned so much throughout the entire process," Felts said. "Even though I've been teaching it for 10 years full-time and practicing in some way or another, this put a framework around the knowledge I have. In some ways this process made the most sense to me. It's worthwhile, and a great learning opportunity. It's also helps you get a new credential after your name. You become an APR and you join a group of people who kind of think the same way as you do."
While professionals must be at least five years into their career to qualify for the APR credential, there is an option for students and recent graduates offered through the Public Relations Student Society of America. Students can earn their Certificate in Principles of Public Relations within six months before or after their graduation date. Felts feels strongly that students should consider pursuing the student certification as it can help them stand out in an increasingly competitive job market.
For more information on how to become an APR visit the Public Relations Society of America website.