Up until a few years ago, there was absolutely no certification in public relations. Pretty much anyone could go out there, put up a shingle, and say “Hey, I’ll be your publicist!” In fact, when I was in college in the late 80s and early 90s, I don’t believe there was even an academic focus at most major colleges and universities for PR. Yes, there were marketing classes and advertising majors, but PR was a subject often ignored by academics and folded into a curriculum in the form of a course here or there.
The point is that although PR has been around since, arguably, the first time a caveman tried to become head of the cave, it has still been a misunderstood profession. Today, the Public Relations Society of America offers professional PR people the chance to become Accredited in Public Relations (APR) certified. The issue of certification has been hotly debated for decades. But the bottom line is that I think it’s a good idea. It forces PR people to come clean about their knowledge and experience in the profession.
PR people get a bad rap in the public eye– sort of like personal injury lawyers or car salesmen. It’s ironic that our profession still struggles with being perceived as a valuable and legitimate part of the business process. Hollywood loves to villanize publicists and portray them as heartless, greedy liars. Honestly, I know those people exist, but I don’t know them. Who I do know are an incredibly conscientious and talented group of professionals who are amazing writers, excellent communicators and profoundly talented strategists.
Though I am not APR certified, I’ve been meaning to do it. The cost for taking the test is almost $400, but I’m sure it’s worth it. According to the PRSA website:
What is APR?
APR is 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.
Well, I guess I have something to look forward to.