In September 2014, I found myself out of full-time work again for the fourth time since earning my bachelor’s degree in marketing and management. In my short career, I was one of the fortunate graduates to have held jobs related to my degree.
There was just one problem: even I didn’t want a job related to my degree. I wanted to do public relations.
And I didn’t just want to do public relations. I wanted to master it.
With that, I started my APR journey in July 2015 by enrolling on campus as a master’s degree student in public relations at the S. I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University. There, I would meet my first APR: my program chair, Dr. Rochelle Ford. She would offer a few of us in my cohort the unique opportunity to earn our degrees by dually working towards completing our APR.
The coursework I would complete as part of my master’s program would serve me well in taking the first steps towards earning my APR. They delved deeper into the introductory knowledge of PR I already had from my undergraduate and freelance experience, and the material from my APR study guide would help me advance even further.
I started seriously preparing for the APR in late 2016, and worked closely with a professional assigned by Suzanne Lundin Ross, the APR chair of the PRSA National Capital Chapter. For the Readiness Review, I presented a campaign from my brief time with McKinney & Associates, my first job in DC. Even though I didn’t develop this program, I did the best I could to tie my portfolio and candidate questionnaire answers back to the knowledge, skills, and abilities (KSAs) that I would be evaluated on. All in all, my presentation lasted close to an hour, with 20 minutes of discussing the program and 40 minutes of questions and answers from my panelists. The moment after I left the room to let the panelists deliberate on their decision came the longest four weeks of my life: waiting on my results.
They would arrive in the mail in late July 2017. I didn’t advance.
Admittedly, I took the news pretty hard, but still I knew I needed to request feedback addressing where I went wrong. I only missed passing by two points, mostly because I didn’t have enough management experience.
More determined than ever, I worked with an additional coach to make revisions to my questionnaire and presentation. Going into my second attempt, I demonstrated my management skills by approaching it as if I were presenting two programs: the first based on what actually happened; and the second based on how I would do things as the creator of the program. My aim was to control the narrative by bringing my program full circle. Whereas the Q&A portion of my first presentation felt excruciatingly long, the second time it felt like a breezy 10 minutes. I had a much better feeling leaving the room this time.
I received my advancement letter in December 2017. The final hurdle would be the computer-based exam. To prepare for it, I re-read chapters from Cutlip & Center’s Effective Public Relations, 11th Edition – a book I was required to get for one of my first courses at Newhouse – during my work commutes. The entire process took me three months to complete, with a few days of vacation in LA in between!
And on a Friday in early April, I did it.
Earning my accreditation gave me the deeper knowledge of public relations that I was looking for almost four years ago. Back then, I thought my endgame was to land media placements and increase social media followers. Now, I know that true public relations professionals are consistently monitoring the environment for opportunities and threats, and encouraging their organizations to proactively adapt to these changes. I’m looking forward to the ways I can influence behavior change for meaningful missions.
What a difference four years makes!
Find out more about #TheAPRDifference at http://www.praccreditation.org/
Cedric Brown, MS, APR
Senior Account Executive
This piece originally appeared on LinkedIn. You can view it here.