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When I earned my APR many years ago, one benefit I had not considered was that it would make me both a better compiler of PR/communications award entries and a shrewder judge for other organizations’ awards programs. I’ve become more astute about selecting which projects to submit, and about whether or not submissions I’m judging are award-worthy.
Earning your APR is a two-step process: a panel review in which the applicant submits a written case study of a successful PR/communications project and then presents it to a panel of APRs who will ask discerning questions, as well as a multiple-choice exam covering public relations/communications knowledge, skills and abilities (KSAs), including PR history, ethics, communications theory and more.
As I prepare award entries, I’m more intentional now about including written descriptions that speak to a more strategic and objectives-focused approach, rather than diving into tactics and results. Likewise, when I’m judging award entries, I’m more prone to deduct points for incomplete submissions (e.g., no measurable objectives or budget figures).
Here are five ways that APR Accreditation can help you when preparing or judging PR awards.
Accreditation (APR) gives you a foundational knowledge of goals, objectives, strategies and tactics. A goal is the desired outcome or state of being. Strategies address your overall approach to achieving your goal. Tactics are the individual actions you will take to implement your strategy. Objectives should be SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-bound). “Our primary objective is to secure at least 10 earned placements and 300,000 impressions in trade media by Dec. 30.”
APR solidifies use of the RPIE framework. APRs know well that RPIE stands for research, planning, implementation and execution. Relevant descriptions of each of these steps provide a narrative about what the challenge was, how you approached it and if you met it. Some awards programs specifically spell out these criteria, while others include sections for similar areas like “background,” “objectives” and “results.” Appropriate time and budget for research can be a luxury, but you shouldn’t neglect to include what primary or secondary research you conducted.
It helps you identify and eliminate fluff. I still remember my APR panel presentation in front of three Accredited practitioners. Compiling my case study forced me to focus on the information I thought they would want to know, while eliminating extraneous and irrelevant minutia. In other words, I cut out the fluff. Since most awards programs have word- or page-length limits, it forces you to be concise and direct.
It helps keep you up to date on new trends and developments. As part of the APR renewal process, you must document and submit at least 15 continuing education units (CEUs) every three years. These can be earned by attending conferences, seminars and workshops; writing articles about PR/communications; serving on your PRSA Chapter’s board; mentoring APR candidates; serving as an APR panel reviewer, and more. In the process, you should be exposed to new trends, tools, case studies and research that can help you better prepare or judge award entries.
Some PRSA Chapters request that at least one APR review each entry. This could make you a sought-after judge and earn you CEUs to renew your Accreditation. Judging award entries is time-consuming, but your reward is seeing, recognizing and rewarding excellence in PR and communications.
When judging awards now, I can often sense whether or not the individual writing the submission is a knowledgeable practitioner or a novice tasked with throwing something together before the deadline. I shudder when I see submissions that include sentences like, “Our strategy was to draft a press release” or “Our objective was to secure as much earned media as possible.”
Although not a guarantee of winning an award, having an APR participate in the submission process can improve your chances of impressing the judges. If your organization doesn’t have one, then perhaps you can reach out to an APR in your professional network and ask for their review and feedback. Good luck!
Glenn Gillen, APR, is a regional PR and communications manager for accredited online Western Governors University. He presently serves as ethics chair for PRSA’s North Carolina Chapter.
[Photo credit: albert chau]
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