Posts Tagged ‘prsa’
Today’s post is brought to you by Arik Hanson, APR, ACH Communications. Arik is a talented PR pro that shares a ton of great PR and communications insights at his blog Communications Conversations and on Twitter. If you’re a PR professional looking to get ramped up in how social media is changing our profession, I suggest you add Arik to your list of mentors.
There’s been a lot of talk recently―both online and off―about the value of accreditation for PR professionals. And it’s not just idle chatter. Just ask Patrick Evans. He had an interesting post about APR accreditation recently (his blog has since been taken down) that spurred a passionate conversation between those both for and against it (Note: If you’re interested there’s a Twitter conversation today at 1 pm EDT-To join in, follow #accredchat.)
The question on many minds: Is APR certification worth the effort and expense?
In the spirit of transparency, I earned my APR four years ago. And I think there a number of reasons to pursue the designation. If you’re on the fence and contemplating taking the exam, here are three benefits to consider:
- It’s about the journey, not the outcome. For me, earning my APR was far more about the process than the outcome. During my studies, I met so many wonderfully smart PR professionals-many of which I now consider good friends, trusted colleagues and mentors. The process also forced me to take a step back from my day-to-day PR role and focus on the basics, the building blocks of any successful PR program. I’m talking about the four-step PR planning process. I learned from case studies, real-life examples outside my industry and proven PR veterans.
- It opens up opportunities you never had before. The APR designation will open up all kinds of doors for you-especially within PRSA. You’ll be asked to lead committees. Sit on your chapter’s board. Participate in Readiness Reviews. Coach mentees. Judge Silver and Bronze Anvils. And along the way, you’ll build meaningful relationships with some incredibly smart people. Again, I argue it’s all about the relationships.
- It will lead to new jobs/work. Just not the way you probably originally envisioned. See, it’s not necessarily the three letters that matter-again, it’s the relationships you develop throughout the process (are you seeing a trend yet?). As part of the APR fraternity, you will rub shoulders will a different strata of PR pros. You will have access to folks you never thought you’d meet before (for me, it’s been Peter Shankman, John Beardsley and Dave Mona, for example). And, as a result, you’ll be considered for jobs you never thought attainable before. Speaking from experience, my last two jobs were a direct result of people I met through my APR process.
At the same time, I can understand my colleagues’ reluctance to start their APR journey. For many of the reasons Patrick-and others-have extolled, the accreditation process and designation do have their drawbacks. But, it’s incumbent upon us, as the PR professionals who make up PRSA, to do something about it. So, here are three areas I’d like to see improved in the APR process, and my basic thoughts on how to make that happen:
- Shift the focus of the test―again. With social networks and new technology playing a bigger part in today’s PR environment, why is it that just 1 percent of the test focuses on new technology? And, as Patrick Evans points out, with our business partners questioning our ability to understand their businesses, why does just 10 percent of the test revolve around business literacy? I know PRSA just revamped the test a few years ago, but with the industry changing so rapidly that might be something we need to do every few years now. Suggestion: Re-evaluate the test and adjust to better reflect the new changing PR industry and business climate.
- Help our business partners understand the importance of accreditation. Unlike CPAs and other professional certifications, APR does not necessarily resonate with most employers. Yes, it’s a conversation starter and it’s incumbent on us to change that mindset, but for the most part many C-suite executives think “annual percentage rate” rather than “accredited in public relations” when they hear APR. The PR profession at large needs to work to change this perception (that means all of us). Suggestion: Take 5 minutes with a senior-level executive this week and talk about how APR has helped you better serve your clients/organization.
- Take another look at maintenance. I thought Patrick Evans nailed it in his recent post when he suggested we re-evaluate the maintenance program. In my mind, it’s not so much that the maintenance program doesn’t look at the right things. I’m more concerned it’s not doing its job. Is it pushing us as APRs to further our PR education? Are we incented to learn new skills? Are we encouraged to develop existing talents further? Are we asked to push our boundaries? In it’s current state, I’m not so sure. For someone who’s actively involved with their local PRSA chapter like I am, it’s relatively easy to accumulate the 10 points needed. I’d argue it shouldn’t be that easy. I don’t want it to be easy. I want to challenge myself-I want PRSA to challenge me, too. I think we have some work to do here. Suggestion: Re-evaluate the point system. Put more emphasis on learning new skills and improving business literacy.
I’m curious―if you’re still on the fence, what are your barriers to taking the test? If you have your APR, how can we improve the process? Let’s get all the issues out in the open so we can learn from one another.
[Image: James Sarmiento]
Even More Goodness! Related Posts:
Yes, there’s another PR upheaval going on folks. By now I am sure you’ve heard about Michael Arrington’s Death to the Embargo post over at TechCrunch. If not, go take a read…I’ll still be here, pacing around while waiting to hop on my soapbox.
And after reading Valeria Maltoni’s post The Break up: PR and Media on News Embargoes and Jason Falls’ post Is the Future of Advertising Public Relations? (BTW, both excellent reads if you haven’t already), I felt the need to jump in and share my opinion.
What, you may be wondering, has me deciding to be vocal? Well, these two comments for starters:
Michael Arrington: “Tech companies are desperate for press and hammering their PR firms for coverage on blogs and major media sites. That in turn means that PR firms hammer us to get us to write about their clients.”
Jason Falls: “I say new-fashioned because old-fashioned is sending blast emails to hundreds of media outlets or bloggers and calling it a day. New-fashioned is reaching out personally to individuals to build a relationship and working with them to meet their needs and yours in symbiotic fashion.”
Fail! As in F-.
It’s the PR agency’s or internal PR person’s job to educate and advise the client or company on how to best reach any media outlet whether it’s print, on-line or a blogger. And this includes being able to stand up and just say no. If you don’t have the courage it takes to say no to pitching the wrong publications or outlets, to say no to CEOs and VPs who want to see their name in print for no other reason than vanity, to say no to spamming anyone, anywhere… you really need to rethink your career. You ARE the trusted advisor and you ARE the voice of the client/company and you ARE tarnishing both by not saying no (within reason and when it’s most important, of course).
It’s the PR agency’s or internal PR person’s job to build the necessary AND trusting relationships with journalists, reporters, blogger, etc. This isn’t anything new. This is, um, public “relations.” How difficult is it to understand YOUR audience/community? To read their articles or blogs? To learn how they think, understand what makes them tick? Know the industry and respect that they are stretched way thin and always awaiting a pink slip. How about giving them what they need so they might return the favor one day? Really, you don’t have an hour or two a week for relationship building? And if you work for an agency or company that won’t let you take the time to build relationships or understand the people you need to reach out to, you need a new job.
I should point out that the ‘fail’ isn’t reflective of Michael or Jason…just the notion of the comments. I know, trust and highly respect Jason. These comments are just symptomatic of what’s going on in our industry.
PR people, please step up and stop the madness!
Do you know how many years I have been hearing these complaints from journalists, reporters, etc? Seriously, Michael Arrington isn’t new to the complaint department; he’s just overly vocal because he has a line of people willing to take a ticket and listen to him. And this certainly isn’t a new challenge because of the advent of social media or blogger relations. Ask any print or online journalist and they’ll tell you the same thing. They have had this same issues for years. How have they responded? By deleting your e-mails, ignoring your calls and throwing out your packages. (Oh, and now, those on Twitter want a pitch in 140-characters a la TwitPitch. How’s that for pressure?!)
Oh yeah, and remember Whack-a-Flack (circa 2001)? I am sure anyone who’s been in this business longer than a blogger does (seriously it was all the buzz!). In case you aren’t familiar with it, here’s the introduction:
Tired of pushy PR flacks and overzealous young account execs huffing breathlessly over the virtues of the next Useless.com? Feeling bombarded by inane hype? Here’s your chance to give them a taste of their own… media kit.
Choose the PR agency that you’d like to give some comeuppance to. Let us know why they’re being whacked. Then have at ‘em with our Whack-a-flack Shockwave game.
My, how nothing has changed.
What are your credentials Beth Harte?!
Yeah, I know what some of you might be thinking. Who is Beth Harte and who the hell is she to tell the PR industry what to do?!
I’ve never worked for an agency. I’ve always been on the corporate side (until now). I’ve worked for companies where I was the PR lead (i.e. pitching, developing relationships, and writing all by my lonesome) and I’ve worked for the companies where I managed PR agencies and internal PR processes (private, public and a Fortune 500). I also teach PR at Immaculata University.
In case you are wondering if I can walk the walk, well, let’s just say I’ve almost lost my job twice for saying no on more than one occasion. In fact, given that I was eventually laid off from both those jobs, I’d venture a guess to say it had something to do with it. And I am okay with that…it’s called having professional integrity (and I take the PRSA Code of Ethics seriously).
I’ve carried media relationships with me from job-to-job and well, for obvious reasons, it’s very helpful. I’ve also been at the end of a journalistic rifle more than once. Having relationships in place helped neutralize potential crisis situations and spared me from being shot, fired or both.
Last thoughts while on the soapbox and before I duck flying arrows…
Folks, bad PR practices spread like a virus. And make no mistake our industry has always been infected…it’s just a virus under a giant microscope now and that’s not going to change.
And before you start loading the bow, let me just say that there are A LOT of agencies and PR people who are doing it right, they understand and respect the importance of relationships. (Example, Tim Hurley of Blue Point Venture Marketing who pitched me on his client’s latest news. Tim sent me a TwitPitch followed up by an e-mail.) As well, there are bloggers who don’t skewer PR folks for that day’s shish kabob lunch. The challenge is that we all need to work together to change the industry.
I know it’s a hard pill to swallow, but journalists and bloggers need to educate PR folks on how to get it right. And PR folks need to listen to them, HEAR what they are being told, and put it into practice (immediately, if not sooner).
Jumping off the soapbox for now, but sticking around to hear your thoughts. Can we pull this change off together?
P.S. Oh yeah, please don’t tell me what an arrogant ass Arrington (alliteration not intentional, it just is) is. Really. Pretty please? This isn’t about him. This is about opening up a conversation to make the PR industry, hopefully, move in the right direction. Maybe I’d have better luck with an ocean liner…