PR Pride: PRSA Georgia’s Journey to Grow Member APRs

October 2, 2017

Becoming accredited in a particular field of expertise raises the bar — for the individual, his or her company affiliation, and the profession at large. It’s a reflection of true commitment to one’s craft with a focus on advancement.

In the height of the Great Recession that began in the late 2000s, Atlanta was one of the cities hit particularly hard. The leadership of PRSA’s Georgia Chapter considered ways to help its members thrive in this economic climate. We conducted an audit of members with Accreditation in Public Relations (APR) credentials and discovered abysmally low numbers. It wasn’t a focus for the Chapter, and it wasn’t always something that received the respect it deserved. So, we needed to institute a sea change.

We focused on building a comprehensive program designed to help APR candidates prepare for and earn accreditation, while simultaneously changing the vernacular among membership to build the APR brand locally. Our motivation to advocate for the APR process was to help colleagues gain leverage to create better careers for themselves. Now the question was how.

The first class was a group of 12, representing the verticals of agency, education, manufacturing, nonprofit, supply chain and technology. We called them the Pride of 2007, a reference to a lion’s pride dedicated to protecting themselves and helping each other thrive across the African savanna. By holding one another accountable within the pride, we could share our joys, encourage our preparations for the APR battle, and lift one another up to success.

We experienced it all — study sessions, late-night coffee shop shifts, pop-up Saturday morning presentation practice gatherings, one-on-one coaching. We learned about each other. We shared best practices. We celebrated even little steps in our progress. The result? All 12 received their Accreditation within that first year.

One of the Georgia Chapter’s early champions in this program, Elizabeth McMillan, APR, has since gone on to advocate for APR on a national level.

“Overwhelmingly, research tells us that APRs pursue Accreditation for themselves, to grow internal pride, to invest in themselves, for their own development,” says McMillan, immediate past chair of PRSA’s Universal Accreditation Board.

Continuing to take ‘Pride’

We’ve continued this journey with each new Pride and currently there are 131 members in the Georgia Chapter who have earned their APR. As more Prides went through the training, colleagues formed life-long allegiances through meet-ups at the monthly luncheons, annual conferences and special interest groups. It was accountability to one another and to the profession we loved that caused the change.

What’s particularly interesting is the comparison before and after we focused on actively promoting Accreditation. PRSA Georgia has been a recognized Chapter for 65 years. In the decade of time between 2007 and 2017, we have pinned 59 members with their APR. For comparison, over the 55 years prior, a total of only 72 members were Accredited.

We realized that the ramifications of success with this first set of candidates were priceless for the Chapter and for the APR. In all of our PRSA Chapter cities across the country, there are the most capable, intelligent and inspiring PR professionals who may not have even considered Accreditation. It is our responsibility as Chapter leaders to help inform members of the value of an APR credential and support their journey. By raising us up as individuals, we enrich all of PRSA.
 

Elyse Hammett, APR

Elyse Hammett, APR, is vice president of marketing and communications for the Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta. She is 2017 president of PRSA Georgia. Follow her on Twitter: @elysehammettPR.

Comments

Barbara B. Nicol, APR says:

Thank you, Elyse - both for highlighting the importance and value of the APR as our PR industry's professional credential, and for offering tips to help other organizations and chapters grow their APRs!

Oct. 4, 2017

Edward M. Bury, APR says:

What a tremendous account of taking a strategic approach to building the number of Accredited members in your chapter. I am awed by the results; as the current APR Chair for PRSA Chicago, I will share this story with the chapter leadership.

Oct. 10, 2017

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