5 Secrets to Outrageous Success in the APR Process

By Ben Butler, APR

[ This is the fourth post in the APR Journey Series exploring the Accreditation in Public Relations credential and the journey to getting it. Check out the introductory post here. ]

So, by now you understand the process, you’ve checked your qualifications and you’re rip-roaring, ready to go. You’re probably wondering, “What’s the best plan of attack to momentously completing and succeeding at getting your APR credential?”

Here are 5 secrets to help you achieve success:

Secret 1: Set a Steady Pace

Just like a run, pace is the most important aspect at achieving success. In the APR process, you’ll need to set a pace that’s repeatable for the duration and gets you across the finish line.

Your first step is to submit an application. Once you receive approval to engage the process, you’ll have exactly one year to complete the journey. That may sound like a long time, but it’ll go far quicker than you think.

You’ll need to maintain a disciplined routine and high-tempo pace if you hope to finish. I’d recommend trying to complete this as soon as your schedule allows. If you happen to have the time available, this is especially relevant. Use availability to its maximum potential because you never know when a work or life event will disrupt your flow.

Secret 2: Start Studying for the Exam before You Present Your Panel Review Presentation

This piece of advice — given to me by former PRSA Pittsburgh Accreditation Chair Jeff Worden, APR — was a game-changer for my APR journey.

When given approval to start the APR process (Step 1), dive into the recommended texts and the official study guide. Be well-versed in that content before you even prepare for your Panel Review Presentation (Step 2).

The study process takes the longest to do, so it’s best to begin early and not save it for last (exam is Step 3). More than that, however, it’s a great refresher on the full scope of the practice of public relations. Shaking the dust off the full range of considerations for public relations will help frame your mentality through the rest of the process.

You’ll also be able to move from successful completion of your Panel Review right into the examination with serious momentum. That will pay dividends in the end.

Secret 3: Get a Study Buddy or Study Group

Entering the process with a buddy is worth considering. Together, you can study and hold each other accountable through the process.

Secret 4: Book Time Weekly for APR Activities

Doing APR activities on a “whenever” basis won’t work, especially with what needs completed. I recommend allotting one day a week to hunker down on the studying and preparation. Evenings and weekends seem to work best with most schedules.

Secret 5: Lean into Your Accreditation Chair

Leaning into your Accreditation Chair is the best decision you can make. Yes, you’re going to have a lot of questions, but I’d take things a step deeper.

  • Before you begin, consider having them review your application.
  • Ask them to review your materials and preparation work through the process.
  • Ask them for feedback on your Panel Review Presentation before setting it up. They’ve been there, they know the grading code and they can help make sure you’re successful.
  • Ask them for study tips and connections with relevant professionals who can help mentor you in expertise areas you’re curious about.


Need help making this a success? Get in touch with me — I’m happy to be your sherpa.


Ben Butler, APR, is the client services director for Top Hat, an award-winning marketing communications firm in Pittsburgh, and the Accreditation Director for PRSA Pittsburgh. In his past life he served as a public relations guy for a motorsports complex, director of inbound partnerships for an inbound marketing agency and head of communications for a software startup. He’s been named a Top Under 40 Communicator and is Accredited in Public Relations (APR)—a distinction held by less than 20-percent of all practitioners.

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