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Setting and Achieving the APR Goal

By Katie Thomas, October 14th, 2015

For a few years now, achieving the APR credential has been a goal of mine. I originally started studying after I received my master’s degree, figuring I was already in study mode from school. Unfortunately, life got in the way and that goal was put on hold.

Fast forward to 2015—I go into study mode again, when I receive word from PRSA that I’ve been selected as a beta tester for the new examination. I find myself essay-jedi.net on a three-month timeline to complete the Readiness Review and take the exam. The results would be emailed a month later. With a typical APR exam, you know (unofficially) right away if you pass.

On September 30, at 12:25 p.m., my heart raced as an email, subject line, “Notification for Beta Examination,” hit my inbox. I clicked it open and saw, “Congratulations!” I did it! I received my APR.

If you’re interested in pursuing your APR, here’s my advice for preparing for the exam:

  • Contact our chapter Accreditation chair. I met with Kara Allison when I was first thinking about the process. She was helpful in thoroughly explaining the process and going over the knowledge, skills and abilities (KSAs) that would be on the exam. It’s important to work through each KSA and see where your strengths and weaknesses are when you begin preparing for the exam.

  • Study first—then apply. This helps in case those life events come up and throw your studying off track. You have a year to complete the Readiness Review and exam after your application is approved.

  • Set aside designated studying time—and stick to it. Going into this process, I knew to succeed I would need designated studying time. My husband was supportive in my schedule and did whatever I needed to help me stick to it. Since I was on a three-month timeline, I studied about 10 hours a week. The amount of hours per week depends on your timeline. I also enrolled in the APR Online Study Course. It’s divided into 10 self-paced modules with suggested readings, assignments and sample questions written by fellow peers so you get a better feel for how the questions will be worded on the exam. The course also offers a weekly call with peers and APRs where you can present notes on the readings or a case study. As part of the course, you can connect with APRs who can review your case study or answer questions. I highly suggest writing a practice case study and having it reviewed by an APR. It helped me take the concepts I was reading about and apply them more effectively.

  • Read Cutlip and Center’s Effective Public Relations. And read it again. Go ahead and buy the book. This book was helpful in my studying and has contributed to my growth as a PR professional. I now keep it at my desk at work.

  • Use the resources of APRs in our chapter. I am grateful to Kerry Francis, APR, who continually encouraged me on my APR journey and checked in to on my progress. My Readiness Review panel was also wonderful in their support and encouragement. Find someone to be your cheerleader or answer any questions you have.

  • Don’t give up! It takes time to achieve this credential but it’s well worth it. I feel I am a much better PR professional now. Make a goal and stick to it. You can do this!

Katie Thomas, APR, is a senior strategist-consumer marketing at Nationwide Children’s Hospital. She is currently chair of the Central Ohio PRSA Programs Committee. Contact her at katie.crabtree@gmail.com.

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