Achieving the APR

24 June 2019
(A version of this was published on LinkedIn on February 6, 2019)

At 5:49 pm on Friday, December 21, I received news that I successfully passed the Accredited in Public Relations (APR) exams. I spent the day anxiously refreshing my inbox, and when that email finally materialized, I was awash in a combination of immense pride and relief.

At 28 years of age, I became one of the youngest people in Canada to earn this designation.

My decision to earn the APR was driven by many reasons: as Co-President of CPRS Hamilton I wish to lead by example, as a Part-Time faculty with Centennial College it is important to demonstrate my ability to put theory into practice, and as a practitioner in an industry with minimal barriers to entry I wish to assure clients of my competency.

However, I also wanted to assure myself that I belong in the profession.

I’m not suggesting a certification from CPRS or IABC is necessary to lead a successful and rewarding career in public relations or communications management—the first sentence of my master’s thesis says as much—but it was important to me. As a relatively young practitioner who has always been the team’s sole communicator, having my abilities and knowledge peer-reviewed and deemed to meet an internationally recognized benchmark was fulfilling.

Earning the APR was intense—and that is not a term I use lightly. The year-long process involves the evaluation of a recent substantive project, a written exam, and a panel interview. I joined a study group led by the amazing Heather Pullen, MCM, APR, FCPRS and—much to the chagrin of my partner—spent at least one day each weekend in September and October writing full practice tests, participating in mock interviews, and contributing summaries of seminal communications research. This is in addition to the studying and practice exams I completed during the week.


This preparation—and cohort camaraderie—was essential for success.

During the 3.5-hour written exam, I wrote a fully costed communications plan on engaging northern and rural Canadian communities on an issue, answered scenario-based questions supported by the latest trends and literature, and reflected on my personal practice and ethical beliefs. With 10 minutes to spare and 12,000 words on my screen, it was time for the panel interview.

Three seasoned professionals sat across from me in a spacious office at McMaster University. I was posed with questions ranging from how I would manage communications in a sexual harassment case, for a municipal politician, and a company whose government rebates were being rescinded.

Completing these exams, and later reading my grades and feedback, gave me a measure of professional assurance which I found tremendously valuable.

The year 2019 arrived with a flurry of challenges and opportunities. After earning my APR, I was more than ready to meet them.