The accreditation program of PR Society of America, which is on the griddle now because APR control of PRSA is under challenge, has seen participation fall to less than half of previous levels following introduction of the computer-based test on July 1, 2003.
APR costs 1982-2002
Only 904 PRSA APRs were created in the six years to June 30, 2010 (PDF of chart) vs. 1,623 in the previous six years and 1,782 in the six years before that.
The declines were 44% and 49%, respectively for the two six-year periods.
The drop in the 1991-96 period was even steeper since average membership in that period was 15,703 vs. 21,000 in the latest six-year period.
A factor that should have improved participation — the removal of five years of experience required before applying for APR — was shelved five years ago.
No experience in PR at all is currently required of applicants. The PR abilities of an applicant are examined in a "Readiness Review" process conducted by local chapter members. Applicants provide materials they say they have helped to prepare.
McCormick since Jan. 1 has addressed six other chapters but only one of them is in the top 20 — Hoosier, based in Indianapolis, with just over 400 members.
Not visited are any of the other 19 — New York, National Capital, Chicago, L.A., Colorado, Detroit, Minnesota, Houston, Puget Sound, Philadelphia, Central Ohio, Boston, Dallas, Maryland, S.E. Wisconsin, New Jersey Orange County and Cleveland.
Chapters McCormick visited are Cincinnati (Jan. 12); Knoxville (Feb. 18); Richmond, Feb. 24; Hoosier (March 10); Miami (April 8-9), and Central Iowa (May 19-20).
On the program of the Atlanta chapter with him is COO Bill Murray, who is also making a rare public appearance. In office since Jan. 22, 2007, he has never addressed the New York chapter.
We’re hopeful he will live up to the definition of PR supplied by Prof. Tim Penning of Grand Valley State University who said it was “debate, dialogue and discussion.” (link, sub req'd)
McCormick, Murray and other board members are in town for a board meeting this Friday. The last meeting was in January since the board canceled its spring meeting without explanation, a first for a Society board. (link, sub req'd)
Only APRs have been allowed on the board since about 1975 even though they make up less than 20% of the membership (currently 3,870 of the 20,657 members or 18.7%).
Critics of the program say it has driven away many top corporate and agency executives who have no intention of taking the $385 process.
Taking command of the Society in their place has been a succession of board members holding minor posts or who are in their own firms and who have not had sufficient time and/or managerial talent to properly supervise the staff, say the critics.
Program Is 46 Years Old
Despite strenuous efforts since 1964 to sell the APR designation to members, including losing $2,926,080 on it between 1986 and 2002, the percentage of APRs has remained below 20%.
At its peak in the early 1970s, about 35% of members were APR although nearly 900 had been “grandfathered” into APR by virtue of 15 years’ experience.
A move to accredit “uncles” (ten years of experience) was blocked.
Efforts to interest other organizations in APR have also not gone far.
The Universal Accreditation Board, founded in 1998, has eight other members but one of them, the Agricultural Relations Council, has never had a single member apply for the test.
Only one member has passed it from the PR Assn. of Puerto Rico, and two from the Religion Communicators Council. Five have passed in 12 years from the Texas PR Assn.
More active in the UAB are the Florida PR Assn. (75 APRs), Southern PR Federation (45) and the National School PR Assn. (43). PR Society members account for 83% of the APRs.
UAB Chair Dubois Is Hopeful
Anne Dubois, pictured, a principal of Dubois Betourne & Assocs., Palm Coast, Fla., chair of the UAB, said the second quarter results "reveal some very positive statistics in three key areas."
The percentage of approved applications by all members of the UAB jumped nearly 40% from 73 to 101 and the percentage completing the exam rose 37% to 92 from 67 while the percentage passing the exam rose 39% to 57 from 41, she said.
She did not return phone calls or e-mails seeking comment on the first six years of the new test.
Cody Again Blasts Process
Steve Cody, partner of Peppercom, New York PR firm with more than $13 million in fees and noted for its creativity, attacked the APR credential as “useless, useless” in his blog last year and reiterated his criticisms to this website this week.
He said that if anything he is even more critical of the process.
His view is that PR is an art and not a science and there are no "hard and fast rules and regulations, practices, policies or procedures” that can be mastered and tested in some sort of “PR bar exam."
His criticisms were touched off last year by announcement of a four-day "boot camp" for APR training at a cost of $585.
The Society is now conducting an APR boot camp Aug. 4-7 at a cost of $735 including $385 for the exam and $350 for three days of tutorials.