Public Relations Tactics

Getting Better Together

October 31, 2013

Our mission and vision statements may differ, but nonprofit membership organizations (such as PRSA) share many things in common with for-profit companies: We’re all subject to the same economic conditions, and we’ve all got to watch the bottom line. Today, both types of organizations have to innovate and adapt to remain relevant and competitive.

However, I’ve noticed associations and membership organizations often equate “innovation and adaption” with doing something completely new.  At PRSA, we’ve tried to remember that “better” isn’t always synonymous with new. Sometimes, “better” simply means – well, “better.”

In recent years, we’ve changed the business model for our lineup of webinars to bring members better value, changed how we deliver our publications to give members better ways of getting the same content, and changed how members can pay their dues to offer better choices and greater flexibility.

Each of these changes had a common starting point:  a close look at an existing PRSA program that started with a simple question, “How can we make this program stronger?”

One of our longest-standing programs is our Accredited in Public Relations (APR) Credential. For nearly 50 years, PR practitioners have demonstrated their command of PR skills, knowledge and abilities by successfully completing a rigorous process administered by a group of volunteers who comprise the Universal Accreditation Board (UAB).

As part of our ongoing interest in strengthening legacy programs, earlier this year, we decided to take a close look at the APR program to see how we might strengthen it. 

During the APR’s existence, the profession has evolved. Certification programs have come and gone, and the overall number of APRs has declined. PRSA itself has changed in many ways. Even today, the program has both passionate supporters and critics within our own membership.

After extensive interviews, surveys and an analysis of existing research, our independent consultants completed their review this past August. The Organizational Performance Group (OPG) have presented their report to the PRSA Board of Directors, the UAB and the PRSA Assembly. It is also available on the PRSA website.

If you care about the future of public relations, then this report is important reading — whether you hold an APR credential or not.  In the report, OPG identifies the potential benefits for the profession if we were to strengthen the credential, identifies common characteristics of successful credentialing programs, and presents three possible strategies for the future.

So where do we go from here?

First, the PRSA Board wants to hear from you. We’re opening up a two-month period of public comment on the report, ending on Nov. 22.  Visit the PRSAY blog to post your comments or send them to (See “The Road Ahead for the APR” by Stephanie Cegielski from Sept. 26.)

We will review your input with the 2014 PRSA Board of Directors during their first meeting in January.  Then, we’ll know more about the future of the APR process, which means that we can identify the steps to take to get from here to there.

You can expect to see more marketing of the credential, as recommended by the OPG report. The APR designation turns 50 next year, offering a great opportunity to celebrate its history and raise awareness about its value. The UAB has already prepared a detailed marketing plan, and identified funding to support their efforts. 

Beyond that?  It’s up to you — let us know what you think, and what you’d like to see happen next.

William (Bill) M. Murray, CAE, is the chief executive officer of the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA)
Email: william.murray at


Sarah Rasmussen says:

Hi, Bill, I posted very shortly after Stephanie's post appeared and requested the full methodology. No one from PRSA has responded. Can someone please share the full methodology used in the APR research? I also asked a question about showing 2004-2012 and 2008-2012 as comparison years on Slide 38. These overlap by four years, so I don't understand what this is trying to illustrate. Can you answer my questions, or direct someone on staff to do so? Thanks, Sarah Sarah Rasmussen, APR, LEED AP Immediate Past-President PRSA Colorado

Nov. 7, 2013

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