Professional development is the cornerstone of competitive and impactful public relations (PR) practitioners. There’s perhaps no better professional development opportunity in the PR field than the Accreditation in Public Relations (APR) process. An internationally recognized professional standard, the APR asserts professional competence, knowledge of cutting-edge practices and demonstrates a commitment to professional excellence.

Fewer than 2% of public relations practitioners in the United States have earned the distinction. As a result, an APR-certified partner can take PR efforts to a new level.

At Lessing-Flynn (LF), Katie James, APR, recently earned the professional designation. The lessons she learned are transforming how public relations is practiced and measured at the agency.

“The accreditation process taught me that PR is a management function between an organization and its stakeholders,” said James, one of just 56 accredited PR practitioners in Iowa. “The practice is so much more holistic than the way many businesses currently use PR.”

With no formal requirements needed to practice PR, many practitioners rely on past experiences and sound intuition. Those are certainly strengths for those working in public relations. However, knowledge of research, measurable objectives and results tied to a business’s overall goals elevate PR to a new standard.


Changing the way we look at public relations

Many businesses think of PR as a way to earn media mentions. While there are specialized practitioners like press agents and media relations managers, PR is much more than one discipline. An accredited PR practitioner is well-versed in the wide breadth of knowledge and skills needed to build relationships with a business’s external and internal stakeholders.

It is the role of PR to counsel management on public opinion and communicate persuasively with all stakeholders. Arthur Page, former vice president and director of AT&T is viewed by many as the father of corporate public relations. He was the first practitioner to assert that PR should have a seat at the management table. Viewing PR as a management function instead of a tactical arm allows an organization to leverage strategic counsel on business-wide efforts.

“The APR process has broadened my view of what constitutes a stakeholder,” said James. “We always think of end-users first, but employees, policymakers, residents in your business’s neighborhood and more should all be considered in management decisions.”


Transforming how we measure PR

Publicity value, media mentions and news release distributions can provide a good gut check on the effectiveness of a campaign. However, they don’t provide the ROI necessary to move the needle on true business goals. Whether it’s sales, awareness or another consumer action, the APR challenges practitioners to think in terms of behavior changes.

“I love sharing earned-media values when I know our efforts are getting some good traction,” said James. “Now, I can create even more value for clients by connecting how our PR efforts are changing stakeholder behaviors or attitudes that directly impact business ROI.”

Accredited practitioners are well-versed in writing tangible, measurable objectives that target a key audience, include a behavior or attitude change, and involve a timeline. And with well-written objectives, evaluation is straightforward.


Leveraging research and time-tested methodologies

Research might not be the first word that comes to mind when thinking of ways PR can improve your business. But strong communicators know research and data can make or break communications plans.

Research — whether primary, secondary, quantitative or qualitative — can be a key component in a successful plan. Before diving into tactics, an APR first asks, “What is the problem? How do we know it’s a problem?” Pausing for this question and doing the research to find the answer creates more targeted strategies to drive meaningful business outcomes. Writing comprehensive, integrated communications plans is the crux of the APR process.

APR-certified practitioners follow the research, planning, implementation and evaluation (RPIE) process to author impactful PR plans. This framework provides a rubric that connects PR efforts to overall business goals, PR goals, measurable objectives, strategies and tactics. Perhaps the most critical part of the APR process, this training makes writing plans second nature and contains the data and expertise to back up the recommendations.

As a result, LF clients receive timely, comprehensive plans that directly add value to their overall business goals.

Interested in working with Katie and the LF PR team? Contact us here.