I waded into quite a debate last week when I said earning your accreditation in public relations carried more weight than holding a master’s in PR/Communications. One local practitioner went so far as to call me “lame.” (Not sure how I’ll ever recover from that one.)
Despite where you stand in the school-yard fight over APR, age, experience and resume aren’t substitutes for accreditation, or so says a new blind peer-reviewed study.
Appearing in this month’s Public Relations Review, Dr. Bey-Ling Sha’s “Does Accreditation Really Matter in Public Relations Practice?” tests two hypothesis: 1) accredited practitioners engage more frequently in all specified work categories as compared to non-APR brethren and 2) APRs use their professional competencies (knowledge, skills and abilities or KSA) more frequently.
The survey polled almost 10,000 practitioners in 12 different categories and 10 professional competencies, controlling for a multitude of factors to ensure the data accurately reflected APRs vs non-APRs as best it could. Following academic protocol, the study was submitted anonymously for peer-review.
The result? APRs outperformed non-APRs in seven of the work categories. According to Ann Peru Knabe’s, APR + M, writeup in this month’s PRSA Tactics, those categories included account and client management, strategic planning, PR program planning, and crisis management among others. For the KSAs, APRs outperform their counterparts in seven competencies including research, planning, ethics and legal issues.
For the remaining categories, there was either no discernable difference or non-APRs outperformed APRs.
What’s this all mean? Well, APRs seem to be more well-rounded practitioners, but I’m not ready to chock this up to either “correlation” or “causality” yet. Individuals who pursue APRs may very well just be a different breed of practitioner. One with a personal inclination towards the academic and teaching side of the field as opposed to an agency owner concerned with professional and monetary success only.
And you know what? Neither is right or wrong.
Let the debate rage on…