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Meet an APR: Gayle Saunders

Gayle Saunders is CEO of The Saunders Company, a public relations firm. She secured her APR in 2007.

What prompted you to pursue your APR? Put another way, what's your WHY for being an APR?

It really is about demonstrating excellence in our profession. Getting accreditation is another way to demonstrate the rigor of public relations. Our profession is not always considered a science, but there are metrics that demonstrate our work.

The science is real. How we demonstrate our values through metrics and measurement is so important. Accreditation helps to underscore that public relations truly has a process, guiding principles, rules and methodologies.

As an African American in the public relations industry, I believe it is important for people of color to be recognized in our profession. There is a lack of awareness of and support for the great talent that exists among people of color in public relations, and I want to raise that level of awareness and support. Having my APR projects credibility and accountability to clients, peers and others and gives me additional leverage to help mentor others along the way.

Looking back on the process, what would you say to your pre-APR self—or anyone else thinking of taking the plunge—to help you better prepare?

First, if you are not a member of PRSA, you should be! There are such great tools and resources online through the organization, and these are very valuable.

Secondly, I like to remind people to reach out to those you know, who have gone through the process recently, and pick their brains. See what they did to study and be successful.

Next, remember what you have at your disposal—your own plans and campaigns that you have created during your career. Use these as you assemble your portfolio and prepare for the panel presentation. As you pull those out, look at what you did to make the communications effective. And think about what you could have done differently, with more time or budget. These are critical considerations as you go before the panel.

Lastly, I remind people to go through the study process. Use the chapter’s study group or a boot camp. Gathering with a group of people planning to take the test, getting together in person or via conference calls, all help in ensuring success in earning your APR.

Remember that you are not alone. Where you may have strength in one area, your peers will have strengths in other areas. And you will help each other.

What have you been able to do because of the APR that would not have been otherwise possible? Why does it make a difference?

It makes a difference to me. To maintain my accreditation, I have to demonstrate how I have stayed in tune with PR trends and submit what I’ve done over the course of every three years.

This process holds me accountable. It benefits me, and in turn my clients and others I serve.

How did you prepare for the portfolio process? Which resources did you find most helpful?

I highly recommend purchasing or renting the Cutlip and Center text (Cutlip and Center’s Effective Public Relations), and be sure to download and use the APR Study Guide.

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