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Celebrating APRs: How the APR Changed my Career

I became President-Elect of the Orange County Chapter of PRSA in the fall of 2018, meaning that at the start of the new decade I would become the first African-American president of our Southern California chapter. I don’t take this distinction lightly and I know that there will be people who think of me as the “token” and that I progressed to this level in our chapter due to check a box so to speak.

My 14-plus years of experience in public relations, six years on the board of directors, one year prior to my board service as a member of the Diversity Committee, and countless hours working alongside my colleagues to advance our Chapter—won’t necessarily count as qualifications for this role. That’s the state of America my friends.

I’d been putting off perusing the Accreditation in Public Relations (APR) for years. I got married in 2013, started an MBA program later that same month, am raising my stepson with my husband and then had a baby in 2017. I also started a new inaugural communications and events director-level job at a prominent university during this time. I was busy and tired, and tired and busy.

But flash forward to the Fall of 2018 and I knew the time had arrived to get on the APR train. Our Chapter hasn’t had many presidents as of late with APRs. Not to say we haven’t had brilliant leadership, but those three letters mean something to seasoned professionals and to the future of advancing our profession.

In February 2019, I joined our Chapter’s APR Study Course alongside two other members of our board of directors and three other colleagues. OCPRSA has hosted this prep course as long as I can remember. The course is a 10-week intensive session to prepare you for the panel presentation and the computer exam. The APR Chair at the time, David Cordero, APR, had been leading it for a few years. He had a perfect track record of producing new APRs in Orange County. I didn’t want to mess that record up his last year on the board.

Every week, a professional with an APR leads a lecture on the material, gives insights into the panel rubric and exam format and serves as an advisor to the cohort. At the end of 10 weeks, each cohort member presents to a panel of APRs that decide if they can advance to the computer examination or not. Following that, each cohort member is encouraged to take the exam as soon as possible.

I passed the panel presentation and set my sights on the exam in May of 2019. I knew the computer exam would be the challenge for me. I’ve never been a good test taker and of course work and life were as busy as ever during this time. Eventually in the summer of 2019 I passed the exam and received my APR.

Today as president of the Orange County chapter, I see the value at every event, meeting and interaction. I have a new understanding of this profession and what it means to practice ethically and strategically. At work, my PR plans are now more comprehensive and include the RPIE (Research, Planning, Implementation and Evaluation) elements as often as possible. I also understand the history of the profession and my futurist mindset allows me to envision how all APRs will be instrumental in protecting and advancing the profession in today’s challenging times.

My recommendation for anyone looking to pursue the APR is to really account for the time and commitment it will take. And to have a solid book of work under your belt to be able to pull from for the panel presentation. And lastly, if you take the exam once and don’t pass, don’t give up. Take notes on the areas you scored lowest on immediately while it’s all still fresh in your head. Study those more. Take practice tests if you can find them. I found practice tests on Quizlet.com which was something I knew about from homework with my then 10-year-old stepson. Lastly, take pride in knowing that you will soon join a group of professionals who have earned this distinction that positions you in an elite league of PR practitioners.

Go forth and earn that APR!

Charla Batey, MBA, APR is the 2020 President of the Orange County chapter of Public Relations Society of America (OCPRSA) and Communications Specialist for Cox Communications in the company’s California markets. She lives in Irvine, CA with her husband and two children. Charla can be reached on LinkedIn.

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