Eligibility Amendment to Remove APR

Group – in case you haven’t heard, the National Board has proposed an amendment to the By-Laws that would remove the APR requirement from serving on the Board. I think this sends the wrong message about leadership, the APR and our promotion of the profession and the professional. Here’s what I have sent to governance as an amendment to their change:

Section 2. Eligibility.
(a) To be eligible as a director, the individual must be accredited, be a
member of the Society in good standing, and have at least one of the
following qualifications: (1) held a leadership role within
the Society, including, but not limited to, served as a member of a
Chapter, District, or Section board of directors, chaired a national or
local committee or task force, or served as an Assembly delegate;
(2) served as a public relations or communications professional for
20 or more years, with increasing levels of responsibility. 
Rationale
For as long as I have been a member of PRSA (10 years), the organization has referred to its accreditation – the APR – as a “mark of distinction for public relations professionals who demonstrate their commitment to the profession and to its ethical practice, and who are selected based on broad knowledge, strategic perspective, and sound professional judgment.” Those are the Society’s words. Webster’s defines distinction as “excellence” or “eminence.” It defines eminence with the words “superiority” and “high ranking.”

If the accreditation is truly a distinction that indicates a level of superior practice, strategic perspective, commitment to the profession and its code of ethics, doesn’t it follow then, that this distinction would be the very least of what we would expect of our leadership?

It has been said that removing the APR requirement is needed because it currently poses a barrier to leadership for well-qualified individuals who have not earned their APR. If that were true, how do you explain the record number of accredited candidates that submitted applications this year for leadership positions? As I recall, no one ran uncontested.

I do not doubt the APR requirement works as a sieve for the leadership. That is part of what it should do. There are undoubtedly hundreds of well qualified PR professionals who have not earned their APR who would make good leaders. But, they owe it to themselves and to the profession to earn their APR whether they ever decide to serve in a leadership position or not. The APR is still the best way to advance the professional and, in large numbers, the profession.

The members currently view the APR as an important part of what membership in the Society offers. In the 2009 Membership Satisfaction Survey, 63% of those surveyed said APR programs were most important (8-10 out of 10) when asked to rate the importance of different services the chapter provides. When asked to rank how well their chapter performs in delivering its services, 65% rated APR Programs the highest (8-10 out of 10) in services a chapter provides. This says that the APR program is thought of as one of the most important services a chapter can provide, and that we are doing well at providing it. The membership advocates for a strong APR program, because it believes in the importance of the APR, partly due to its emphasis at leadership levels.

Removing the APR as a requirement for leadership will, at the very least, send a message to all Society members that we are not serious about professional development and standards. To remove its requirement from leadership cheats the profession and the professionals who have earned it.

If the APR is a barrier to leadership – let’s work harder at helping our members achieve it, rather than giving them another reason to avoid it. It’s in all of our best interest.

I am surprised there hasn’t been more online chatter about this one at the membernet site. I would think there’d be great numbers to argue for and against the change. I am curious how you feel. Will you support it?

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One Response to Eligibility Amendment to Remove APR

  1. Of all the bylaw changes Accreditation and membership are certainly the most contentious. I am saddened by the direction that PRSA is going on Accreditation. What’s the use of being accredited if your own professional organization disregards it as their hallmark of leadership and professionalism? I noticed a big change when the twice annual examination changed to a self-study and at-your-leisure test. Prior to that, it was a predictable process and kept Chapters and members engaged.

    Sad as this is, I expect that the Assembly of Delegates will pass these changes and we will have to see what good come from them.

    One area that I’m concerned with is maintenance once a member is accredited. To remain accredited you have to be a member in good standing (pay your dues) and renew your accreditation (with a maintenance fee) every three years. As you know, many accredited members are grandfathered and maintenance is not an issue. Much of the criticism that I’ve heard is that once your accredited, it should remain with you whether you’re a member or not—much like other certifications or degrees. And what’s the purpose of maintenance other than to charge members an additional fee? If it’s not universally required, it would be fair to get rid of it. Membership and accreditation should only be revoked in cases of ethics violations.

    In Hampton Roads we are faced with the issue of fewer members to draw into the leadership pool due to accreditation. We are dealing with this on a local level as other Chapters around the Nation. That should not change; however, the National Board is another issue. Any member seeking a high-level leadership position must be held to the highest standards of the profession—and that means Accreditation! Personally, (and not as a representative of the Chapter) I think it’s one more step to dilute the importance of Accreditation and our members will likely see this as a sign that PRSA is not serious about professional development and standards.

    As for the issues of membership, I’m not so concerned about the definition of the public relations professional as I am with the process of accepting members into PRSA. My fear is that we fail to hold up to our standards and we have new members lacking true experience in public relations who can identify themselves professionally with us. What’s to stop someone from deeming himself a PR professional, gaining membership and using PRSA as a method of marketing himself? I would like to know how that process works and see some statistics on applications that were denied due to lack of professional experience.

    I will let the Hampton Roads delegates speak on behalf of the Chapter, but for me personally I think that PRSA is going in the wrong direction by not requiring accreditation for national leaders and an unbridled excitement about emerging media which I don’t believe have really passed the smell test. I strongly believe we need to stay with our “core values” and focus on those things that have made PRSA a recognized and established voice for the profession.

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