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Accredited in Public Relations (APR): Does it serve its purpose?

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  • 1. Accredited in Public Relations (APR): Does it serve its purpose? August 2013 BETTER STRATEGIES. BETTER LEADERS. BETTER ORGANIZATIONS. Public Relations Society of America
  • 2. Overview  APR’s current context  Three possible paths forward  A few lingering notes 2 | PRSA
  • 3. APR needs a better PR. - Anonymous survey respondent 3 With copyright permission | PRSA
  • 4. What is the purpose of the APR?  “APR is a mark of distinction for public relations professionals who demonstrate their commitment to the profession and to its ethical practice, and who are selected based on broad knowledge, strategic perspective, and sound professional judgment.” (UAB website)  Accreditation defines and legitimizes the profession, sets industry/professional standards, builds accountable ethics and legal knowledge (UAB, You, APR)  Accreditation is the “science” of public relations (UAB, You, APR)  Recognized Standard. Promotes Lifelong Learning. Career Enhancement. Positive for Public Relations. (PRSA website) 4 That’s a lot for one credential to deliver. | PRSA
  • 5. Why are we here? PRSA hired OPG to:  Examine how the APR could be enhanced  Conduct benchmarking  Conduct a meta-analysis of the industry  Present a detailed report of findings  Outline actionable recommendations OPG  Conducted 22 interviews and one focus group  Collected data and analyzed two surveys (750 respondents)  Analyzed internal data  Benchmarked APR against 3 credentials  Examined the certification industry in general 5 | PRSA
  • 6. First, getting the terms right Source: Durley, C. C. (2005). The ICE guide to understanding credentialing concepts. Washington, DC: Institute for Credentialing Excellence. CREDENTIALING An umbrella term for accreditation, licensure, and professional certification. ACCREDITATION  A time-limited recognition granted to entities (institution, organization, or business)  Based on predetermined and standardized criteria  Voluntary  Given by a non- governmental agency PROFESSIONAL CERTIFICATION  A time-limited recognition and use of a credential given to an individual  Based on predetermined and standardized criteria  Voluntary  Given by a non- governmental agency LICENSURE  A time-limited permission given to an individual to engage in a given occupation  Based on predetermined and standardized criteria  Mandatory  Given by a governmental agency 6 | PRSA
  • 7. Second, identifying the context 1 Gallup .(2012). Business and industry sector ratings. Retrieved from http://www.gallup.com/poll/12748/Business-Industry-Sector-Ratings.aspx. PR was combined with advertising. 2% did not have an opinion. ... is more of an art than a science ... is negatively perceived by the public (35% negative; 33% neutral; 31% positive)1 ... contends with negative stereotypes about the profession THE FIELD OF PUBLIC RELATIONS ... 7 | PRSA
  • 8. Second, identifying the context 8 THE FIELD OF PUBLIC RELATIONS ... Qualitative Quantitative SCIENTIFIC APPROACH Applied Theoretical SCIENTIFIC APPROACH Positive Negative PUBLIC PERCEPTION Maximum Minimal GOVERNMENTAL/LEGAL OVERSIGHT Maximum Minimal BARRIERS TO ENTRY | PRSA
  • 9. Third, facing reality Source: PRSA data. ... the number of PRSA members with accreditation has declined THE ACCREDITED IN PUBLIC RELATIONS (APR) CREDENTIAL 25.47% 21.32% 18.43% 0% 10% 20% 30% 1994 2004 2012 9 | PRSA Data indicates that 48% of SHRM members are certified
  • 10. The APR is viewed with moderate favorability. 0% 10% 20% 30% 40% 50% Not at all favorable Slightly favorable Moderately favorable Very favorable Extremely favorable 4% 21% 42% 24% 8% 7% 21% 38% 24% 10% Non-APRs Employers 10 What is your opinion of the APR credential? Non-APR = 481; 96% of respondents were members of PRSA Employer = 258 | PRSA
  • 11. The APR is not seen as worth the investment of time and money. 0% 10% 20% 30% 40% 50% I have not had the time I do not think it will advance my career It is too time-consuming I receive mixed messages about its value It is too expensive I do not want to commit to paying the membership fee every year to keep my APR I’d rather get more experience in the field than get the APR I am discouraged by the process I simply have not thought about it I hold or I am studying for an advanced degree in PR/communications 49% 46% 24% 24% 22% 16% 15% 14% 11% 10% 11 Top ten reasons for not pursuing the APR Respondents = 454 (could choose 3 reasons) | PRSA
  • 12. Employers are not using the APR as a hiring guide. 0% 10% 20% 30% 40% 50% 60% 70% Not at all Slight extent Moderate extent Large extent Great extent It depends on the certification 63% 17% 10% 8% 3% n/a 20% 22% 28% 15% 4% 13% APR Professional Certifications 12 1. To what extent has the APR influenced your hiring or promotion decision? 2. Across different positions in your company, to what extent do you consider professional certifications when making a hiring decision? APR = 260 Professional Cert.= 235 | PRSA
  • 13. Where do we go? “When you come to a fork in the road, take it.” - Yogi Berra Let it be LOW-KEY CHANGES Live and let die DISCONTINUE THE APR Revolution OVERHAUL THE CREDENTIAL 13| PRSA
  • 14. Let’s look at each option. Let it be LOW-KEY CHANGES Live and let die DISCONTINUE THE APR Revolution OVERHAUL THE CREDENTIAL 14 | PRSA
  • 15. Discontinue the APR POSSIBLE REASONS FOR THE DECLINE OF A CREDENTIAL Market saturation Demographic changes Contraction of profession Strong competition Decline in perceived value Weak marketing Changes in the nature of profession POSSIBLE REASONS FOR THE DECLINE OF THE APR Market saturation Demographic changes Contraction of profession Strong competition Decline in perceived value Weak marketing Changes in the nature of profession Source: Knapp (2008). When the business of certification falters. Professional Development Forum Online. 15 | PRSA
  • 16. Discontinue the APR “Abandoning Accreditation is not an option that PRSA is willing to consider.” PRSA website Overhaul of the APR would require significant resources. Are there reasons to continue the APR without implementing major changes? 16 | PRSA
  • 17. Discontinue the APR PROS  Resources could be devoted to other initiatives  30% of certifying programs discontinued or being considered for discontinuation CONS  Political, emotional fall-out  Certification important to the profession Source: Knapp (2008). When the business of certification falters. Professional Development Forum Online. FINANCIAL RESOURCES POLITICAL RESOURCES 17 | PRSA
  • 18. Where do we go? Let it be LOW-KEY CHANGES Live and let die DISCONTINUE THE APR Revolution OVERHAUL THE CREDENTIAL 18 | PRSA
  • 19. Low-Key Changes  Position APR as a professional development tool  Redefine the relationship between PRSA and the UAB  Facilitate effective communication between UAB and PRSA  Devote resources to marketing  Set expectations to match reality 19 May help but unlikely to turn things around because of fundamental underlying issues with the credential that are limiting its potential | PRSA
  • 20. Low-Key Changes PROS  Certification important to the profession  Politically feasible  Improved relationships CONS  Requires moderate financial resources  Unlikely to significantly increase number of APRs Source: Knapp (2008). When the business of certification falters. Professional Development Forum Online. FINANCIAL RESOURCES POLITICAL RESOURCES 20 | PRSA
  • 21. Where do we go? Let it be LOW-KEY CHANGES Live and let die DISCONTINUE THE APR Revolution OVERHAUL THE CREDENTIAL 21 | PRSA
  • 22. Marks of successful credentials SUCCESSFUL CREDENTIAL Independent accrediting body Demonstrated value Well-defined purpose/ focus Relevant and updated contentStandardized assessment Regular evaluation Maintenance requirements Validation of content Source: Institute for Credentialing Excellence. (2010). Defining features of quality certification and assessment-based certificate programs. 22 | PRSA
  • 23. Four recommendations for overhauling 1) INCREASE APR’S CREDIBILITY • Obtain a third-party accreditation • Make the UAB an independent organization • Strengthen the relationships • Unify the leadership behind the APR 3) IMPROVE THE CREDENTIAL • Reevaluate the Readiness Review • Reevaluate maintenance requirements • Conduct a new practice analysis 23 2) INCREASE APR’S VALUE • Re-evaluate value and purpose • Develop and implement a robust marketing plan • Develop strategic partnerships • Provide toolkits, redesign websites 4) EXPAND • Open the APR to non-members • Promote the entry-level credential • Consider expanding globally | PRSA
  • 24. Step 1: Increase credibility 1) INCREASE APR’S CREDIBILITY • Obtain a third-party accreditation • Make the UAB an independent organization • Strengthen the relationships • Unify the leadership behind the APR IMPROVE THE CREDENTIAL • Reevaluate the Readiness Review • Reevaluate maintenance requirements • Conduct a new practice analysis 24 INCREASE APR’S VALUE • Re-evaluate value and purpose • Develop and implement a robust marketing plan • Develop strategic partnerships • Provide toolkits, redesign websites EXPAND • Open the APR to non-members • Promote the entry-level credential • Consider expanding globally | PRSA
  • 25. Increase credibility: accredit the accreditation  Professional certification programs accredited by independent, third-party certifying organizations undergo a rigorous review to demonstrate that their tests meet psychometric principles and standards, and the program structure is appropriately set up  PHR/SPHR accredited by National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCAA)  PMP accredited by American National Standards Institute (ANSI); also checked against International Organization for Standardization (ISO) Source: Institute for Credentialing Excellence. (2010). Defining features of quality certification and assessment-based certificate programs. Washington, DC. 25 | PRSA
  • 26. Increase credibility: an independent UAB  Best practices require that a governing body overseeing the certification program must be legally or administratively independent. It should control all critical decisions related to certification process and activities.  Although the intent was to make the UAB independent, it never came to fruition  UAB’s autonomy as a testing body would be required for third-party certification  The UAB would also benefit from additional training on how to work effectively  The UAB Board composition should reflect the needs and demographics of the greater PR profession  Even if the UAB is independent, the relationship between PRSA and UAB is symbiotic, in the deepest sense of the word; neither can benefit from the certification without the other 26 | PRSA
  • 27. Increase credibility: strengthen the relationships  A successful certification requires that the membership associations and the certifying body work well together in support of the credential  Although a majority of leadership interviews indicate that the relationships are working fine, there is an indication that they have deteriorated recently 27 | PRSA
  • 28. Increase credibility: stand behind the APR  The credibility of the APR is undermined by mixed messages sent by leadership about the credential’s value  The requirement to hold the APR for the Leadership Assembly was abolished and is seen as having contributed to a decline  There were motions to abolish the APR as a requirement for Board leadership positions  All other studied benchmarking credentials require the certification to serve in leadership positions Abolishing the requirement to have the APR to serve in leadership positions would further undermine the APR 28 | PRSA
  • 29. Overhaul the APR: Step 2 - Increase the APR’s value INCREASE APR’S CREDIBILITY • Obtain a third-party accreditation • Make the UAB an independent organization • Strengthen the relationships • Unify the leadership behind the APR IMPROVE THE CREDENTIAL • Reevaluate the Readiness Review • Reevaluate maintenance requirements • Conduct a new practice analysis 29 2) INCREASE APR’S VALUE • Re-evaluate value and purpose • Develop and implement a robust marketing plan • Develop strategic partnerships • Provide toolkits, redesign websites EXPAND • Open the APR to non-members • Promote the entry-level credential • Consider expanding globally | PRSA
  • 30. Increase APR’s value: re-evaluate value and purpose  The purpose and value of the APR are inconsistently presented and lack main focus (e.g., on the website, in communications)  Certifications should state explicitly the main purpose of the certification (e.g., to protect the public, to serve as a tool for identifying qualified individuals)  Certifications should also offer guidance to all stakeholders as to what inferences are appropriate about certification-holders 30 | PRSA
  • 31. Increase APR’s value: develop a robust marketing plan  The main purpose and value around the credential should be carefully examined and developed  Once the purpose and value are clarified, a robust marketing plan should be developed and implemented 31 Right now, it seems the only ones who find value in the APR are those who already have it. - Anonymous survey respondent | PRSA
  • 32. Increase APR’s value: develop a robust marketing plan  Leverage the value of the APR  Focus on ethics; ethical behavior emerged as one important aspect of the profession and the APR  Code of Ethics is the most valuable PRSA offering according to 2011 Membership Survey  “Bound by strict ethical guidelines” – main reason listed by the UAB for the APR  However, the monitoring and enforcement of ethical standards are weak; disciplinary actions are taken only when criminal behavior reported  Educate employers 32 | PRSA
  • 33. Increase APR’s value: build strategic partnerships  With a university  For example, capitalize on PRSA’s MBA/Business School initiative  Both PMI and HRCI have strong relationship with academia (programs, conferences)  With other organizations  For example, SHRM 33 | PRSA
  • 34. Increase APR’s value: update the toolkit and website  The toolkit for individuals could be strengthened  Easily navigable checklists  Specific strategies on how to demonstrate the value of pursuing the APR to one’s employer  Information on how to leverage the credential with one’s employer or clients  The UAB website is dated and does not convey an image of a robust, successful credential 34 | PRSA
  • 35. Where is the APR?! 35 | PRSA
  • 36. Under “Learning” 36 | PRSA
  • 37. Overhaul the APR: Step 3 - Improve the credential INCREASE APR’S CREDIBILITY • Obtain a third-party accreditation • Make the UAB an independent organization • Strengthen the relationships • Unify the leadership behind the APR 3) IMPROVE THE CREDENTIAL • Reevaluate the Readiness Review • Reevaluate maintenance requirements • Conduct a new practice analysis 37 INCREASE APR’S VALUE • Re-evaluate value and purpose • Develop and implement a robust marketing plan • Develop strategic partnerships • Provide toolkits, redesign websites EXPAND • Open the APR to non-members • Promote the entry-level credential • Consider expanding globally | PRSA
  • 38. Improve the credential: re-evaluate the Readiness Review  The purpose of this extra step is to determine whether a candidate is ready to succeed on the test.  PHR/SPHR, PMP, and CMP do not have a similar procedure  It is not a common practice in the industry  The validity and reliability of the Readiness Review is unclear  IT is often mentioned as a barrier to obtaining the APR  Since public relations is a qualitative field, consider redesigning the Readiness Review to assess the “art” of the field and position the APR as assessing the whole person as opposed to only “textbook” knowledge  This approach would also strengthen the APR which is seen as measuring textbook knowledge Years (inclusive) Applications received Advanced to RR Passed CBT Number % of Apps Number % of RR % of Apps 2004-2012 2,755 1,912 69% 1,552 81% 56% 2008-2012 1,476 1,124 76% 997 89% 68% 38 | PRSA
  • 39. Improve the credential: re-evaluate maintenance  ICE requires that a person engages in specific activities designed to measure or enhance continued competence  Benchmarking analysis suggests that the maintenance criteria for the APR are not stringent enough (e.g., continuing education requirement can be satisfied by publishing two op-eds; one day seminar counts the same as a 2-credit college course)  ICE requires a disciplinary policy  The APR’s disciplinary policy does not address concerns of ethical violations  Because ethics is a critical part of the APR, consider strengthening disciplinary actions related to ethics (e.g., include procedures for examining ethical violations, require letters of recommendations to maintain the credential) 39 | PRSA
  • 40. Improve the credential: new practice analysis  To be relevant and perceived as reflective of the profession, the content of the test needs to be periodically updated and revised  The standard in the industry is 3-5 years  The “landmark” practice analysis was conducted in 2000, 13 years ago, and updated in 2010  There are concerns of how relevant and up-to-date the test is (interviews, surveys)  Given the potential changes in the profession, especially in terms of social media, a thorough practice analysis is recommended 40 | PRSA
  • 41. Overhaul the APR: Step 4 - Expand INCREASE APR’S CREDIBILITY • Obtain a third-party accreditation • Make the UAB an independent organization • Strengthen the relationships • Unify the leadership behind the APR IMPROVE THE CREDENTIAL • Reevaluate the Readiness Review • Reevaluate maintenance requirements • Conduct a new practice analysis 41 INCREASE APR’S VALUE • Re-evaluate value and purpose • Develop and implement a robust marketing plan • Develop strategic partnerships • Provide toolkits, redesign websites 4) EXPAND • Open the APR to non-members • Promote the entry-level credential • Consider expanding globally | PRSA
  • 42. Expand: open the APR to non-members  According to 2011 Membership Survey, fees serve as the main barrier to joining and continuing membership in PRSA  Cost is one of the main reasons for not pursuing accreditation (22% Non- APR Survey respondents)  PHR/SPHR, PMP, and CMP do not require membership in any association to pursue the certification  Removing the membership requirement will extend the reach and appeal of the APR 42 | PRSA
  • 43. Expand: create an entry-level credential  PMI and HRCI have corresponding early- career credentials  By implementing the entry-level credential, the APR creates a natural progression through professional development while attracting professionals in early stages of their career 43 | PRSA
  • 44. Expand: consider expanding globally  PHR/SPHR, PMP, and CMP are available globally; SHRM is in 140 countries  In fact, HRCI developed a new credential GPHR  Consider leveraging partnership with the Global Alliance 44 | PRSA
  • 45. Recommendations for overhauling 1) INCREASE APR’S CREDIBILITY • Obtain a third-party accreditation • Make the UAB an independent organization • Strengthen the relationships • Unify the leadership behind the APR 3) IMPROVE THE CREDENTIAL • Reevaluate the Readiness Review • Reevaluate maintenance requirements • Conduct a new practice analysis 45 2) INCREASE APR’S VALUE • Re-evaluate value and purpose • Develop and implement a robust marketing plan • Develop strategic partnerships • Provide toolkits, redesign websites 4) EXPAND • Open the APR to non-members • Promote the entry-level credential • Consider expanding globally | PRSA
  • 46. Overhauling considerations PROS  Certification important to the profession  Redesigned APR would meet credentialing industry standards CONS  Requires large financial resources  Requires political will  Moderate risk that even with changes APR will not be fully successful FINANCIAL RESOURCES POLITICAL RESOURCES 46 | PRSA
  • 47. So…where do we go? “When you come to a fork in the road, take it.” - Yogi Berra Let it be LOW-KEY CHANGES Live and let die DISCONTINUE THE APR Revolution OVERHAUL THE CREDENTIAL 47 | PRSA
  • 48. The overarching question: what is the purpose of the APR?  “APR is a mark of distinction for public relations professionals who demonstrate their commitment to the profession and to its ethical practice, and who are selected based on broad knowledge, strategic perspective, and sound professional judgment.” (UAB website)  Accreditation defines and legitimizes the profession, sets industry/professional standards, builds accountable ethics and legal knowledge (UAB, You, APR)  Accreditation is the “science” of public relations (UAB, You, APR)  Recognized Standard. Promotes Lifelong Learning. Career Enhancement. Positive for Public Relations. (PRSA website) 48 That’s a lot for one credential to deliver. | PRSA
  • 49. A bucket of other suggestions  Explore partnerships  Streamline the application process – make everything electronic  Information about the credential needs to be streamlined and transparent (e.g., validity and reliability information) 49 | PRSA
  • 50. Unanswered questions  Out of scope  Examining the content of the APR test (but some issues emerged)  Financial analysis of the various options  Limitations:  Time  We did not conduct a financial analysis 50 | PRSA
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