APR Prepping: Mentors can help

Posted by PRSA_MelissaMY on 04/16/2020 12:08 pm  

By Robert E. Sheldon, APR, Fellow PRSA
Chapter Accreditation Chair

Whether you’re sheltering-in-place with little to do, or trying to work from home using Skype or Zoom, you shouldn’t totally forget about the quest you started toward getting your APR. There’s a good chance that this pandemic is going to be with us for a while and we need to stay safe while doing our jobs effectively and moving forward with our career development.

One of the best ways to keep making progress toward your APR is to have a mentor, an APR-accredited colleague who can help you be a successful APR candidate. Christi Goodman, APR, Communications Manager of the Intercultural Development Research Association in San Antonio, puts it this way: “It's so easy to let your preparation get lost in the demands of your work and family life. Your mentor can help you set a timeline and adjust it where needed so that you'll be ready when the big day comes.”

Besides keeping you on schedule and helping you make progress, a mentor can help you in really specific ways throughout the process.  Todd Vician, APR, Director of the Air Force's Public Affairs Agency, who just recently received his APR had this to say: “My mentors helped me select my campaign for the panel presentation. Their feedback as I neared the presentation date focused my sometimes-wandering drafts on the important aspects needed to demonstrate my readiness for the exam.”

This is echoed by recently successful APR candidate, Leanne Libby, APR, Director of Communications for the Corpus Christi Independent School District, who says: “Having a mentor is critical. When you begin the process, it can seem overwhelming. A mentor will use her experience to help you prioritize as well as give you valuable feedback as you begin to work on your questionnaire, when you are preparing for your panel presentation, and as you approach your test date. Being brave enough to ask for help was one of my best decisions.”

Other successful professionals who have earned their APR have benefitted not only from mentors, but from fellow APR-seeking colleagues in informal study groups. Bob McCullough, APR, Communications Director of Morgan’s Wonderland, adds this large bit of wisdom: “One of my all-time-favorite bosses had a small sign on his desk that declared: ‘All of us are smarter than any of us.’  When I was prepping for the APR exam, I benefitted from an outstanding professional mentor with years of experience, along with dedicated colleagues who also were eager to earn accreditation. Our preparation for the exam was akin to a graduate-school seminar.  We collectively learned from each other and encouraged one another. In my view, our mentor was key to helping us get organized and ultimately achieve APR success.”

When you first start looking over the steps you need to cover in the APR process it can seem a bit overwhelming while trying to make a living, raising a family or trying to have some kind of a normal life in this time of social-distancing. But a mentor will be there for you to answer questions, help focus your thoughts and help you develop confidence.  Steve Harmon, APR, Director of the Office of Public Relations, Marketing and Information Services for Texas A&M International University says it like this: “The accreditation process can be both complex and daunting.  Having a seasoned professional to help you navigate your way is a mighty blessing indeed.”

When you start off on your personal journey toward your APR, you may need to adjust your point of view.  The APR testing processes, in many ways, forces to you to look at communication in a different, more formal, way than you may be used to. Frances Stephenson, APR, Principal at Step In Communication, offers this: “For many practitioners, making the move to pursue your APR involves shifting your thinking.  A mentor who has gone through it can help you adopt the APR mindset which will help you achieve the credential.”

And finally, Gretchen Roufs, APR, Principal at AMS Public Relations, Public Involvement and Marketing Communications wraps it up this way: “My APR mentor was like a triathlon coach, coaching me through each of three hurdles: (1) deciding to pursue the APR, (2) getting ready for the panel presentation, and (3) preparing for the computer-based exam. Along the way she gave me strategic advice to motivate me, and at the same time, she was my go-to person when I had nagging questions on how to do things better.”

If you’re currently studying for your APR and need to connect with a mentor who can help you stay on track, contact me at [email protected] and I’ll help you get started.