Austin is a high-growth market where there is fierce competition between PR professionals for in-house jobs and consultancy contracts. Not many professionals seek accreditation. They would do well to reconsider.
Are there any limits to Austin’s growth? Surely there are, it’s just that they are not anywhere in sight today. A booming economy offers opportunities for PR professionals but also – as it pulls on new entrants – increased competition. I have been active on the Austin market for more than three years now and have met a great many talented people. I have also met plenty of people calling themselves PR professional or branding expert or a plethora of other things that look good on a business card (“change communications strategist” was an interesting recent find) but who do not have the skills (yet) to fulfill on their promise.
Only 9 percent is APR accredited
You would think that in a highly competitive environment where there is no licensure and no barriers to entry to speak of, PR professionals who meet the criteria would consider seeking either one of the two PR accreditations that are available on the market. The International Association of Business Communicators (IABC) offers the CMP and SCMP accreditations for experienced generalists and strategic communicators respectively. The Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) has its own APR accreditation. Alas, none are too popular on the Austin market.
Nationwide 19 percent of all PRSA members are APR accredited. In Austin, we are at 9 percent. What is the reason for this gap? I don’t know. I notice that often peers tend to overestimate the study work and the financial investment that come with acquiring the APR accreditation. It is also clear to me that many are yet to be convinced of the value of the program. But why would any of this then play a larger role in Austin? I wonder. Maybe the business topology of Austin is at play here. Austin is a city of start-ups, not large enterprises. There are less in-house professionally run communication departments in Austin to finance the APR accreditation of their staff or help them make it a part of their personal development plan. Also this is speculation on my part.
I do not have the numbers for the IABC accreditations, but knowing that there are only two accredited professionals on the Austin market, one can not say they crowd the streets.
Research at the core of APR
I think PR professionals in Austin are not only amiss to not pursue accreditation, I mean that specifically in the case of the APR accreditation the people who employ or hire staff are wrong to not seek out APRs. Would it not be logical that in a city where the tech industry, with its typical focus on data driven decisions, has such a strong foothold, a certification that shows proof of having the basics down of both the preliminary research that needs to take place prior to any PR campaign and the measurement of results afterwards, would give anyone who is APR certified a leg up. APR is a natural good fit for the tech industry.
But again, what should logically happen doesn’t. Demand is underdeveloped. Do most hiring decision makers even know what the APR accreditation stands for? It they are first and foremost marketers they most suddenly don’t, which is ironic because – as Philippe Borremans did not fail to mention in the interview I took from him on the state of corporate communications – marketing has led in measurement for many decades and has made it part of its DNA. Marketers ought to appreciate PR professionals who are APR accredited.
In 2019 we are still not where we need to be with PR accreditation in Austin. Maybe – I hope – this blog post will end up inspiring one or two peers and preferably also some employers to inform themselves about the value of the PRSA and IABC accreditations for those that accredited and the organizations that are served by them.
The information on the prevalence of PRSA members that hold an APR accreditation nationwide compared to Austin was shared by PRSA with me on May 22.