The most significant bylaw discussion to occur at the 2010 PRSA National Assembly in October revolves around the role of APR in PRSA Governance at a national level. There is a proposal before the Assembly to eliminate the requirement that candidates for national office and the national board of directors be APRs (all other requirements will remain and the nomination and election process will not change).
The PRSA Northeast District Board firmly believes that an informed member base is the best member base. This is an issue that impacts all members of PRSA. Not just Assembly Delegates or those considering running for national office.
We wanted to make sure all PR pros in the Northeast District have a chance to hear both sides of the issue. Therefore, we invited two of the most passionate and visible people to make their case (ideally in 500 words or less) which we would then post without any editing.
As of now, the PRSA Northeast District Board of Directors has not yet taken a position on this issue. We want to hear from you about what you think. Chapter presidents and leaders, please feel free to share this with your membership to find out what they think. Members, please let your delegates know how you would like them to vote.
Without further ado:
Expanding the Path to PRSA Leadership
One of the hallmarks of the Public Relations Society of America is the broad inclusion of communications professionals. Our more than 21,000 members represent a staggering range of institutions, corporations, non-profits, agencies of all sizes, government entities, associations, regulatory bodies, the military and educational institutions. And because there is no single defined path to enter our profession – such as mandated licensing for law or medicine – our members have a rich array of backgrounds and experiences.
As PRSA prepares for the upcoming International Conference in October, a very important decision will be made at the Leadership Assembly. Delegates will vote on a bylaw amendment that will expand the paths to leadership in our society.
Currently, there is one path to PRSA leadership at the national level. To serve on the national board, members are required to have their Accredited Public Relations (APR) certification. While other factors then come into play – such as length of involvement in our profession, service to the Society, leadership skills, etc – the APR is the sole standard for national service. Approximately 4,000 PRSA members have earned this certification.
We support a bylaw amendment that will create three paths to leadership in our society. Support for this bylaw in no way diminishes the value of APR in our profession. Indeed, every member of our society should respect and applaud the PRSA members who have taken the time to earn this professional distinction.
By the same token, we ask those who have earned the APR to value the leadership skills, industry qualifications and desire to serve that exist among the 80 percent of our members who have chosen not to pursue the APR certification. APR is a hallmark for professional improvement, but not a standard for good governance.
Earning an APR is a professional distinction, and it is strong enough to stand on its own merits. It should not be the sole gatekeeper for those who seek to serve PRSA. All members of PRSA – regardless of which type of organization they represent, the path they took to enter our profession or what voluntary certification they chose to pursue – should have an equal opportunity to serve on the national board.
Certainly, there must still be high standards for those seeking a national board position. The proposed bylaw upholds those high standards by requiring that a nominee for the national board is a member in good standing and have at least one of the following qualifications:
- A previous leadership role in the Society, including, but not limited to, served as a member of a Chapter, District or Section board of directors, chaired a national or local committee or task force, or served as an Assembly delegate.
- At least 20 years of service as a public relations professional, with increasing levels of responsibility.
Under this amendment, the value and stature of APR is preserved while the value and stature of other forms of leadership are recognized. The Nominating Committee will continue to vet all candidates to ensure the very strongest leaders will be brought before the Assembly each year. With this amendment the pool of potential leaders will be broadened. In recent years, there have been many board positions that have only had one candidate to be considered by the nominating committee.
As each PRSA chapter prepares to send its delegates to Washington, D.C. for the Leadership Assembly, we ask that they discuss, evaluate and support this critical bylaw amendment. Making this change will require a two thirds vote of the Assembly, and it continues the discussion that was held last year on this important issue. The changing of bylaws should not be taken lightly. But we strongly believe that the long-term health and viability of PRSA is dependent upon having a broad, diverse and committed stable of leaders who may, or may not, have earned a voluntary professional certification.
Deborah Radman, APR, Fellow PRSA
Rene Henry, Fellow PRSA
Dave Rickey, APR
Art Stevens, APR, Fellow PRSA
Monty Hagler, APR
Why I am opposed to dropping the APR requirement for national PRSA leadership
By Steven L. Lubetkin, MBA, APR, Fellow, PRSA
Managing Partner, Lubetkin Communications LLC/Professional Podcasts LLC
Past PRSA National Board Member, 2003-2005
Past Member, Universal Accreditation Board, 1997-2003
With great respect for the leaders of the proposal to decouple the APR credential as a requirement for national leadership of PRSA, I still disagree strongly with their contention that they are not devaluing the APR credential with their amendment.
I think if these “deep in their career” professionals who don’t have the APR truly want to lead our Society, they would demonstrate their commitment to professionalism and leadership, and leading by example, would study for and obtain the APR, to show other, junior members of the Society that they value credentialling as a way to preserve professional standards.
If they truly want to be leaders of the Society, they would not be seeking a shortcut to the leadership chair, they would gladly submit themselves to this demonstration of their knowledge and ability.
The message that’s sent by the amendment is that if you want to be in charge of something but you don’t meet the requirements, change the institution and remake it to your own liking.
That approach, rejecting and attempting to circumvent a standard that we dislike, reinforces some of the baser elements of the PR profession today. It’s manipulative, hypocritical, and damaging to professional development goals.
I don’t think that’s in PRSA’s best interests, and I don’t think our membership believes that either.
Requiring APR for PRSA leadership is not about proving their competence. It’s about individuals who wish to lead the organization making a tangible, personal sacrifice and public commitment to the credential that says, “Being credentialed by the organization where I want to be a leader is important. It shows my commitment to professional development for myself, and shows that I am personally willing to put my neck out there and take the time to prepare for an examination to test my abilities as a PR practitioner.”
All major professional organizations with credentialling programs require their leaders to be — at the very least — minimally involved in the organization’s credentialling programs.
Why do the leaders of this amendment drive think that PRSA leadership should be disconnected from its own credential? What’s the big deal about earning it?
The leaders of this amendment will argue that this is a debate over democracy. They will say that the APR requirement prevents 16,000 members from running for national office. I suggest that it gives them a challenge to demonstrate their own commitment to professional development if they want to lead.
The supporters of the amendment claim there are “world class” agency presidents unable to serve as leaders of PRSA because they don’t have the APR. I’ve never seen one of those people actually raise their hands and say “I want to be a PRSA national leader.” It’s all based on rumor and supposition.
I challenge the supporters of this amendment to publically explain why they prefer to do away with the requirement for APR.
I challenge them to say to our younger members of our organization, “You know, APR is a good thing to have, it’s really a mark that distinguishes someone who is willing to keep learning about PR from those who slime the ethics of our profession, and I am taking the exam to show younger practitioners that this is a way for them to stand out and create a positive reputation for themselves.”
The bottom line for me is this: If we as a Society that claims to value professional development don’t full-throatedly support our OWN credential for people who want to lead at the very top of our profession, how can we ever expect anyone else to take it seriously?