April 1, 2010
By Ferne G. Bonomi, APR, Fellow PRSA
April is Accreditation month at PRSA, a time to learn how Accreditation in Public Relations (APR) can take your career to the next level. APR is a voluntary certification program for PR professionals. APRs demonstrate their commitment to the profession and to its ethical practice by advancing the Readiness Review process and passing the computer-based APR Examination.
From all accounts, participants in the APR Online Study Course are having a good time. And results are impressive.
After five years, the Online Study Course has matured into an effective tool to help earn the Accreditation in Public Relations credential. Since its 2005 launch, 250 online candidates had passed the computer-based Examination. When we conducted analysis from June 1, 2008 to June 1, 2009, all candidates who completed 75 percent or more of the course’s activities became Accredited
The course currently has almost 200 participants. Most are candidates for Accreditation; some enroll for a refresher or simply to gain a more comprehensive overview of public relations. Participants may work at their own pace, but many join a group called a “cohort” to go through the 10 modules in three months. They may repeat that process if they wish.
The weekly Web conferences are substantial in subject matter but light-hearted and friendly in tone. Experienced coaches or subject matter experts critique candidate reports and real-life case studies, focusing on the planning process adopted by the UAB. They remind candidates to incorporate communication theory and research such as the diffusion of innovations, the process by which new ideas are adopted or rejected. Between 35 and 50 usually sign in to the weekly conferences.
Michael Henry, eLearning Producer with Point-Productions.com, a Kansas City-based company specializing in distance learning, created the program in collaboration with the Universal Accreditation Board (UAB). The 10-module online course spans the knowledge, skills and abilities (KSAs) identified as essential to professional practice and tested in the Readiness Review and the Examination.
The UAB originally created the course for candidates who lived too far away from a PRSA Chapter. While the online course still fills that niche, some PRSA members use the online course to supplement Chapter Accreditation programs.
In an interesting twist last year, Heidi Ketler, APR, Accreditation chair for the Blue Ridge Chapter, used the online course for her candidates scattered across western Virginia. She joined them for every session, supporting other facilitators.
Chuck Lionberger APR, of Roanoke County Public Schools, was the first member to pass the Examination in this special group.
“Earning the Accreditation in Public Relations is validation that I have become a true PR professional,” he says. “It required dedication and commitment, but it was and is well worth all the effort.”
Ferne G. Bonomi, APR, Fellow PRSA, coached Accreditation classes in central Iowa for 20 years, achieving a 93 percent pass rate. She served on the Universal Accreditation Board when the current Examination was launched. She is the chief professional facilitator for the online course. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.