What does the “APR” after your name mean?

A conversation with Sarah Erkmann Ward, APR

I’ve noticed the letters “APR” after your name. What do they mean?

APR stands for “accredited in public relations.” It’s a professional designation that shows a public relations practitioner has undertaken advanced training, including peer review and a rigorous exam. The best description I have heard is that it’s like a CPA designation for PR people.

Can you tell me more about what APR is and why it matters?

The Accreditation in Public Relations credential certifies professionalism and principles, setting practitioners apart from their peers and positioning them as leaders and mentors in the competitive public relations field. To have it demonstrates an extra level of commitment. If nothing else, the APR builds on the foundation of a PR pro’s educational degree, keeping them current on best practices and applications in the fast-paced communications world. Of course, it is not necessary to have an APR to be a qualified PR practitioner but having the certification:

  • Asserts professional competence.
  • Communicates professional expertise, plus personal and professional dedication and values.
  • Reflects progressive public relations industry practices and high standards.

What is the process for earning an APR?

It takes time and effort to earn the APR, and the result is not guaranteed. First, not anyone can pursue the APR. Five years of experience in the public relations field are required before beginning the process. Once that threshold has been met, an application can be made. Assuming it is accepted, studying begins in earnest. APR aspirants have one year from the date of being accepted to finish the process, so the clock starts ticking.

How does the APR peer review work?

The first formal step comes when the candidate sits for a panel review. This entails meeting with a panel of three, APR-certified PR experts and walking them through a portfolio of selected work. The portfolio includes a specific PR program or campaign the candidate managed or led. Panelists ask questions and make sure the interviewee demonstrates sufficient subject mastery to move on to the next stage, which involves preparing for the exam.

What is the APR exam?

The APR exam is a timed, computer-based program administered in a formal testing center. Candidates have three hours and 45 minutes to complete 132 questions. The first part of the exam covers such areas as the PRSA Code of Ethics, PR history, research, PR and the law, and industry terminology. The second section provides the candidate with a choice of case studies and directs him/her to draft a communications plan. To pass, 82 questions — 62% —must be answered correctly.  

Is APR a lifelong accreditation?

To renew Accreditation, practitioners must accumulate the required number of continuing education credits in the areas of professional development, ethics, professionalism, or service categories. This strengthens the value of the credential and keeps professionals active, up to date and involved in the profession.

April is APR month. You can learn more about it at the official APR website.