Public Relations Tactics

Providing a Voice to All of Our Members at the National Board Level

By Joe Cohen, APR

September 1, 2014

Every year, PRSA members from across the nation come together at our National Leadership Assembly to discuss the State of the Society and the most pressing issues facing our organization. There isn’t a matter that is more important than the governance of our Society, which will be a central topic at the 2014 Assembly on Saturday, Oct. 11 in Washington, D.C.

For many years, there have been spirited discussions at Assembly on PRSA’s long-standing policy of holding the APR as a prerequisite to serving on our National Board of Directors. At PRSA, we hold APR accreditation as a mark of excellence that identifies those who have demonstrated broad business and communications knowledge, strategic perspective and sound professional judgment in the field. 

However, despite aggressive efforts to promote the credential, interest and participation in the APR continues to wane, and we face a struggle every year to source a complete slate of candidates to pursue national office.

The Assembly and the APR

In the past three years, PRSA conducted three independent studies by three separate groups — Kelton Research (2012), Organizational Performance Group (2013) and Ketchum (2014) — and all found similar results when it came to Accreditation. The majority of our membership sees the APR as a mark of personal achievement but not a validation of leadership ability.  And there is a loud and growing voice among the populace of our membership, the 82 percent who aren’t Accredited, to have representation on the National Board.

Following significant research and very careful deliberation, the 2014 PRSA National Board has reached consensus that a bylaw change needs to be enacted that will provide leadership opportunities to qualified members who are non-APRs. 

As a Board, we decided that an all-or-nothing approach of maintaining the APR as a prerequisite versus a full decoupling is not the solution. Through the Bylaw Change to Allow Non-APRs on the National Board of Directors, we have crafted a fair and effective solution that provides a voice at the National Board level to our non-APR members. The proposed amendment allows for members who are not Accredited, who meet all other requirements, to apply for the two At-Large seats on the National Board. The APR requirement remains for anyone applying for a District Director position or an officer position. The quota of non-APRs on the board will not exceed two of the 17 Director seats.

This approach enables PRSA to evolve the composition of our Board to provide representation at the national level to our 18,000 non-APR members, while allowing PRSA to tap into a much larger talent pool when sourcing future national leaders. We will continue to uphold the APR. This approach could create new senior-level APRs, as non-APRs who attain At-Large seats will be encouraged to pursue the credential so that they can advance to the next level of leadership by serving on the Executive Committee.

Many of us share strong feelings for the APR but we also have a shared responsibility to build a foundation of further growth for PRSA, an organization that we all care for so deeply.  As we prepare for Assembly, I hope you will join me in advocating for this bylaw change and in helping preserve a strong future for PRSA.



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