I am in the final stages of the year-long accreditation process with the Canadian Public Relations Society. It was something I had been intending to do for many years, but this year I finally bit the bullet. It begs the question "why?"
For me, the decision to pursue my APR back in January of this year was all about differentiating myself from the pack of "Information Services" or IS staff in the federal government. A quick scan of CPRS's list of accredited practitioners across Ottawa revealed that not many had taken the plunge before me.
What I learned throughout the process, however, surprised me. For those of you unfamiliar with the APR process, it begins with the submission of a work sample -- essentially, a case study drawn from your recent experience, describing your work on a PR campaign, right from the research stage through to the final evaluation. In my case, I chose to describe a project I did with Public Works and Government Services Canada to support a CRM initiative. Writing the case study consumed a series of seven full weekends, and many evenings, to get it clear and concise. In fact, it was probably the hardest piece of writing I've done in many, many years! Writing for clients is easy compared with the challenge this intense introspection presented.
The second and third steps involved a three-and-a-half hour (open-book) written exam, followed by a 45-minute oral exam in front of a board of three accredited examiners. These were, in and of themselves, highly revealing experiences. One can't "study" for such an exam -- you either know your four-step PR process or you don't! The written exam was largely a time-management challenge. The oral exam, if you've been through a job interview lately, is the "easiest" of the three steps -- it's a chance to demonstrate that you know your stuff.
At the end of the day, this was an invaluable experience for me -- a chance to reflect on my career, to stop and take stock of what I've learned over the last few decades, and to reconfirm my commitment to excellence as a PR practitioner.
I would highly recommend accreditation to anyone at that important mid-point in their career -- apart from the opportunity to differentiate yourself from many of your "competitors", it is a tremendous journey of self-discovery.
Now, the hardest part is just waiting for the results.