Accreditation in the Time of COVID-19

I officially began my APR journey in the spring of 2019, but accreditation had been on my mind for a while. I had been encouraged to pursue the APR by a former supervisor more than 10 years ago, but busyness, life circumstances and a bit of procrastination kept me from focusing on it. But, this time I had recently relocated to Atlanta and while job searching, I thought completing the APR process would give me an opportunity to connect with colleagues in my new town and refresh my public relations knowledge and skills.

I completed the Jumpstart classes through PRSA Georgia and was encouraged and challenged by the courses and presenters. Some theories from my college public relations courses came right back to me, practices I’d implemented as a professional informed my preparation, and the study guide and reading materials grounded me firmly in the field of public relations.

I prepared thoroughly for my Panel Presentation and received great support from my assigned mentor and the APR committee members. My presentation was scheduled for mid-March 2020, but a few days before my Panel Presentation, schools closed, travel stopped, and COVID-19 entered our daily vocabulary. Without missing a beat, the APR committee transitioned my panel to a virtual one, and we went ahead. It was a lesson in adaptability and creativity – skills required of any PR pro.

Once approved to take the computer-based APR exam, the pandemic meant several months of scheduled and canceled exams due to closed testing centers, before a fully remote, proctored exam became available. That too was a unique experience, with a remote proctor observing me through a webcam in my home office. I completed my accreditation successfully that summer, and my supervisor from 10 years ago was the first person I shared the news with! A socially distanced parade of PRSA Georgia APR members surprised me with a celebration of the achievement, and I was warmly welcomed into the APR community.

The studying and preparation helped me through the exam, and also helped me refresh my knowledge and re-focus on the principles and practices of public relations in my day-to-day work. Having completed the Accreditation process, I feel more confident in my work knowing that I am grounded in public relations theory and best practice. I count myself lucky to have a set of new colleagues and friends in PRSA Georgia that I met through this process and now find myself serving on the APR Committee, helping others navigate their APR journeys.

Michelle Geiger, APR, is the director of executive communication and advancement with the National Court Appointed Special Advocate/Guardian ad Litem (CASA/GAL) Association for Children. An alumna of Louisiana State University, she has more than 15 years of experience in integrated communications roles primarily in higher education and nonprofit organizations.