Monday, May 17, 2010

Discussing the APR requirement for #PRSA national service

One week after news of an effort to eliminate the APR requirement for PRSA national officers and board members and what do we have? Another argument about the value of PR accreditation.

What could be a worthwhile discussion appears to be spiraling into another tedious argument amongst ourselves that reminds me that PR people are sometimes like star-belly Sneetches by Dr. Seuss. (Read through the commentary on the PRSAY blog and others.)

Instead, we could be discussing how to better encourage and enlist non-accredited PRSA members (who make up approximately 80% of membership) for national opportunities up to and including board and officer service. This seems to me to be the crux of the group's argument. They want to have a more democratic approach:
We do not believe that democracy is being served in PRSA so long as only a small minority of its members can hold elective office.  We believe that many worthy members of PRSA who meet national leadership criteria in many other ways are being deprived of the opportunity to serve the organization.

For the record, I'm not accredited. Yet.

I have the professional short-term goal of getting my APR because I see the value in it for me. It's not for the magic letters behind my name, it's for the time, dedication, and preparation that I believe getting accredited takes that will help me be a better public relations professional. In short, I think it's worth it.

Bill Sledzik, APR, and PRSA Fellow wrote last week on this topic as well as left an insightful comment on an older post of mine:
"...The value is personal, and it comes from preparation for the exam, not from those silly letters you put on your business card.

And that's the other side of the issue. The APR doesn't communicate much to people outside of PRSA circles. It's inside baseball. The APR might make you more a effective and well- rounded pro. But it's unlikely to get you a job or a promotion.
The more important debate this week is about the rule within PRSA that restricts non-APRs from holding national office. I favor repeal of that rule so the 80% of PRSA members who don't have the magic star on their bellies can participate in governance of the society."
For me, this is about PRSA governance. We shouldn't limit ourselves in this way. I've gone back and forth this week on this week-old effort and I've come to the conclusion that I don't want PRSA to become a weak-old organization. I believe we have highly qualified APR and non-APR members serving at the local chapter levels who have the skills, desire, and time to devote to PRSA at the national level if given the opportunity. We should critically look at opportunities to adapt and change PRSA for the benefit of all members. This is one of those times for that type of discussion. I think the suggestion by Don Bates, APR, Fellow PRSA on the PRSAY post sums it up nicely:
"...I don’t think the issue posed by the petitioners should be resolved by an all or nothing approach. The PRSA board should form a task force to look at options that will allow the Society to open up the ranks of needed leadership without undermining the concrete professional value of the APR process and APR status."

I hope it doesn't continue to devolve further into the APR haves vs. have-nots argument and we keep perspective on the issue of governance.

What do you think? I'm asking my PRSA member and non-member readers to share your thoughts on this. As always, the comments are yours.
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