Many public relations professionals will talk anecdotally about why they worked to earn the Accreditation in Public Relations (APR), or why they plan to soon. Several years ago, I and Kaye Sweetser of San Diego State University decided to look into that question more systematically. In other words, we wanted to know what characteristics of professionals correlated with the various reasons to earn the APR. (Full paper in Public Relations Review at: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S036381111400188X )
We examined responses to a nationwide survey of professionals who had taken the computer-based exam while in pursuit of the APR. The data had been collected by the Universal Accreditation Board. The respondents were 80 percent female and 78 percent white. But they were mixed in terms of how long they had been in public relations and employer type (education, military, nonprofit, agency, corporate and independent practitioners).
A basic review of data showed the most common reasons for seeking APR, with the top three being more altruistic: personal satisfaction (82%), desire to be a better practitioner (80%), and greater confidence in strategic management (72%). There were also some practical motivators, although less frequent: job promotion (33%) and to obtain a new job (26%).
Some statistical analysis revealed the most interesting results, in which specific characteristics of public relations professionals could be associated with specific motivations to seek APR:
Younger professionals are more likely to be motivated by external factors, such as the potential for a job promotion;
Men are significantly more likely than women to be motivated to pursue the APR in order to earn respect from an employer or client;
Those professionals who have been in public relations their entire careers (as opposed to transferring from other fields) are more likely to be motivated by salary increase and promotion;
Those who work in a “technician” (i.e. tactical) role are more likely than those in a management role to seek APR when they are looking for a new job;
Those who work in a manager role are more likely to be motivated to seek APR when they want a higher salary;
Of the various employer types, professionals working at agency, nonprofit and government/military were the most motivated to seek APR to gain respect from employers or clients.
These reasons may not be the same for all. But they may resonate with PR professionals who have earned and maintained the APR. For those thinking about pursuing accreditation, these results may give just the motivational nudge they need.
By Tim Penning, PhD, APR, Fellow PRSA
Tim Penning, PhD, APR, Fellow PRSA is a Professor and Coordinator of the Advertising and Public Relations Program in the School of Communications at Grand Valley State University.