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Why PRSA’s stringent APR rules need to change

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I want to start by making one thing clear: This is not a post designed to bash PRSA or the APR.

I was a PRSA member, committee member and board member for years. I earned by APR years ago. I might not be a current member, but I’m a huge PRSA supporter.

And, I earned my APR years ago. While it was stripped from me when I let my PRSA membership lapse (we’ll get to that in a moment), I am a big supporter of the APR, too.

But, I do have a beef with the APR rules.

My concerns revolve around two key areas:

  • The rule that once you’re no longer a PRSA member, you lose your APR designation.
  • The rule that you cannot sit on a MN PRSA board without the APR designation.

Let’s tackle those one at a time:

1: Once you’re no longer a PRSA member, you lose your APR designation

Found this one out the hard way about 7 years ago when I decided not to re-up my PRSA membership. The current MN PRSA president (I’ll leave names out of this) gave me a call. She said someone had called and said I needed to remove my APR designation from my web site and marketing materials. I wondered why–she said once you are no longer a member, you lose your APR.

I’m still a little surprised this is the policy of an organization that prides itself on advancing the PR profession.

Here’s what I don’t get:

  • What’s the upside of revoking former member’s APRs? What good does this do for PRSA? It’s always felt like a lure to keep members (read: you have your APR, now you have to remain a member forever or we’ll revoke your APR). Sorry, that’s just the way it comes across.
  • If you revoke former members’ APRs, does that make them less of a professional? Of course not, right? Then why revoke it? Does it lessen the value of those who are members and have the designation? Of course not. Then why do it?
  • Isn’t one of the goals of the APR program to advance the PR profession? If so, revoking former member’s APR designations probably isn’t the smartest move. Why? Because now you’ve instantly frustrated former members who were once (and many still are) huge advocated for the profession. These people have spent years in the field. They’re well respected. They’re senior-level. Some are icons in the field. Why would you want to frustrate these people? Aren’t these the type of people you want representing PRSA–whether they’re members or not? I would say unequivocally, yes.

I understand a professional organization like PRSA needs members to survive. But, I also understand that membership doesn’t work for everyone at all points of their lives.

Let me throw out an example. A fellow solo here in Minnesota (again, leaving names out of this) is a friend, former client and a recent APR. She’s a big advocate of the APR and I believe she heads up the APR committee here in Minnesota. And, like I said, she is also a #SoloPR. What if, down the road, business dries up for her (hypothetical)? What if revenue comes to a halt. What if she had to cancel her PRSA membership as a result? She would then lose her APR. Is this person any less of a PRSA supporter? No. Does she still embody the qualities of an APR? Yep. Will she still advocate for the APR? My guess–yep. This scenario is a very real one and could easily play out for any number of people across the industry. And, it highlights perfectly why this rule should change.

2: You cannot sit on the MN PRSA board without an APR

I know this has been a point of contention for a long time within MN PRSA circles. And, I know there are a fair amount of people that agree with me–that you shouldn’t need an APR to sit on the board.

The pro-APR folks will tell you that we need APR candidates because they’re typically more senior, it shows their commitment to the industry, and it shows their commitment to PRSA.

I tend to think, if you use that logic, you’re going to miss out on a whole bunch of more-than-qualified people who could be leading MN PRSA in the next 5 to 10 to 20 years. In fact, here is just a short list of people I think would be OUTSTANDING board members down the road, but people who don’t currently have their APR (and therefore would not be considered): Sarah Reckard, Crystal Schweim, Mike Keliher, Alyssa Ebel and Maggie Habashy.

Now, I realize not everyone wants to sit on the PRSA board, but why not widen the net a bit? Having sat on the board years ago, I know how shallow the pool of local APRs is. So, why wouldn’t you open it up to all folks? Consider the facts:

1) You have a professional organization struggling to find qualified people to sit on its board

2) You have an opportunity to extend the PRSA brand further into the PR community

3) Fewer people are getting their APRs (this was true years ago, guessing it’s probably true now as well)–meaning the pipeline isn’t exactly full for MN PRSA.

I don’t know, seems like a pretty easy decision to me.

I want to close this post by saying again, I don’t write this to attack PRSA. I write it because I want good things for PRSA and the people who are a part of it. And, I think these are two of the more odd rules I’ve seen instituted across PRSA that, over the years, have impacted the reputation of the organization. And, I think both represent opportunities to make PRSA a better organization in the future.

Time for a change PRSA. Ease up on the APR rules. It’ll benefit us all–and, more importantly, the PR profession–in the long run.

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Why PRSA’s stringent APR rules need to change

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