The pros and cons of proposed 2022 bylaw changes

Dear PRSA Oregon chapter member,

We’re asking you to weigh in on a very important topic this year. Your chapter board of directors has set an online vote of membership to ask you whether the current requirement that chapter presidents be accredited in public relations (APR) should be removed, so that non-APR professionals can serve as chapter president. This requires a change in our chapter bylaws. The changes that will be made, if members approve, are shown in this PDF.

Online voting will open by noon Wednesday May 18 and close at the end of the day Wednesday June 15. Members should receive their ballot via email. If you have not received a ballot by May 18, please contact Joshua Romero at admin@prsaoregon.org

The board itself is not taking a position on this issue: It’s up to you. Two former chapter presidents—who happen to be both APRs and members of the PRSA College of Fellows—present initial pro and con arguments in this blog entry. We urge you to read them closely and then comment on this post with your thoughts.

We will also hold two virtual (zoom) listening sessions for you to state your opinion and listen to others. These listening sessions are scheduled for Monday May 23 at 5 p.m. and Friday June 10 at 5 p.m.  See your ballot email for information on those sessions.

We are hoping for a large turnout between May 18 and June 15. Please take the time to learn about this issue.

—Judy & Dave

Argument against changing the bylaws to allow a chapter president to not be accredited in public relations

Dave Thompson, APR, Fellow PRSA

I believe that if you want to be President of the PRSA Oregon Chapter you should be accredited in public relations. Please vote NO on this bylaw change.

I could list the individual benefits of earning your APR all day long: It improves your skills and knowledge, boosts your confidence, and can help advance your career by establishing a solid framework for lifelong learning.

But the question we face in our chapter isn’t about these personal benefits of obtaining your APR. Bluntly stated: Does the APR mean you’re a better leader than you would be without it?

Yes, indeed it does.

I fear that people misunderstand the APR as just a useful tool for an individual to improve an otherwise faulty background in public relations. Since many of us enter this field without academic training—a polite way of saying we fell into it and are learning on the job—the APR is a great way to “fill in the gaps” in our learning and become the practitioners we should be.

This is indeed a huge benefit. But ask anyone who’s earned their APR, even ones who had 10 or 15 years of PR experience before becoming accredited: They’ll tell you it changed their life. Not just their profession; their life. Accreditation in Public Relations is transformative.

Somewhere along the way in studying for and earning your APR, you start thinking about everything you’re doing quite differently. You realize you can demonstrate your relevance and your impact on your organization’s bottom line—meeting its mission or making it money. Strategic thinking and insistence on measurable results open doors by delivering value to your organization and the people it serves. It opens minds in your C-suite. It absolutely demonstrates your leadership, even as your horizon expands to better understand the obligations of being a leader.

But the argument remains: There certainly are amazing people in our chapter who are wonderful leaders but don’t have their APR. Why can’t they serve as the chapter’s ultimate leader?

I argue: Because they can’t stand as a supporting example of the importance of the APR to the public relations profession—a pinnacle of professionalism. If they aren’t willing to go through the process themselves—which should be easy, given their level of experience—how can they then sell the idea of elevating the profession to others?

We shouldn’t water down all the APR stands for in our profession by removing the requirement to be accredited to act as chapter president. Yes, it sets a high bar. The bar should be high.

I believe that if you want to be President of the PRSA Oregon Chapter you should be accredited in public relations. Please vote NO on this bylaw change.

Pro Side for Bylaw Change, Let’s Say Recommend APR, not Require

Judy Asbury APR, Fellow PRSA, Past-President, PRSA Oregon

PRSA Oregon by-laws currently have the requirement that the president of the Chapter must have an APR. That requirement has been a barrier to leaders in our profession who would be exceptional presidents for PRSA Oregon. We need to change our bylaws to say we RECOMMEND the APR for our President – not require it. Please vote Yes on the bylaw change.

On the face of it, the APR requirement seems simple. APR was developed by PRSA for PR professionals to “certify your drive, professionalism, and principles, setting you apart from your peers and positioning you as a leader and mentor in the competitive public relations field.” Of course, we want our chapter leader to be all of that.

The Effect of Requiring An APR

However, when we require that our president have an APR, we block PR leaders who want to help lead our volunteer chapter. The vast majority of the directors of PR agencies, corporate communications and nonprofits do not hold an APR. Yet, that does not mean that they do not have strong ethics, principles and professionalism. It simply means that they did not take the APR exam when they were in their early to mid career years. 

If a current PR professional has a decade or more experience and their leadership has been verified by peers, clients and employees, why should we block them from leading the chapter?

We Will Always Promote the APR

As a chapter, we remain committed to promoting the APR to our fellow PR professionals who have five years of experience or more. We know the value of the APR for early/mid-career professionals. We do not need our president to be accredited to continue that promotion of the APR.

The Commitment to be President is Substantial: 3+ Years

Let’s consider what we ask of someone when they consider taking on the presidency. It’s at least three years of your life. You agree to serve as president elect, president and past president. You’ve also likely had some prior board experience, so you have been volunteering for the chapter board for a year or more before we ask you to step up to lead the chapter. People who are willing and able to give that kind of commitment are few and far between.

We can’t afford to turn away any outstanding PR leader who wants to serve, just because they don’t have an APR. 

Please vote yes for the bylaw change.

7 thoughts on “The pros and cons of proposed 2022 bylaw changes

  1. Accreditation ensures public relations professionals, no matter where they went to school or how they entered the profession, practice PR using strategic thinking and delivering measurable results. By keeping the requirement that presidents of our chapter are accredited in public relations, we ensure those leading our association have the knowledge, skills, and abilities necessary for a transformative career in public relations and a transformative term while they are in office. Please vote NO on this bylaw change.

  2. Please vote YES on this bylaw change! I hold a master’s and earned my APR in 2012. I also market credentials for a living at one of Oregon’s public universities. I highly value the life-changing benefits of education, including opening doors and providing opportunity. And I believe that requiring APR of chapter presidents does the opposite: it closes doors and eliminates opportunity for those who would benefit from holding the position, and benefit the chapter through their leadership.

    This is my fourth time serving on PRSA Oregon’s board. While I’ve never been president, I’ve been close to the role: success in the position simply does not require APR. Endorsing a credential and holding a credential should not be conflated. I successfully marketed a large portfolio of graduate business degrees, of which I hold none. Was I unqualified?

    Moreover, standardized testing and credentialing are rooted in the suppression of non-dominant cultures — they require the privilege of time, money and social capital. APR is no different. Just because APR was right for me at a certain point in my life, I’m not going to presume it’s right for you at any point in your life. Nor does lack of APR make you any less qualified to lead.

    I hope PRSA Oregon prioritizes our value of inclusion over exclusion by voting YES on this bylaw change. Let’s knock down barriers by considering APR A qualification, not THE qualification.

  3. Please vote NO on this bylaw change. I want our president to lead with the highest respect for our profession and that means enough respect for accreditation to earn it. APR signifies a professional with a deep and broad understanding of the profession, prepared to lead at the highest level, able to think and plan strategically, embracing diversity, capable of handling a crisis, understanding business and public responsibility and more. What is most important to me is that it signifies professional ethics. Ethics is an important component of the accreditation process and never more important to the profession than now. Isn’t that what we want in our leader? We have plenty of APR members ready to lead. I want our organization to move forward, not backward. Please vote NO on this bylaw change.

    1. “APR signifies a professional with a deep and broad understanding of the profession, prepared to lead at the highest level.” — I was about six years into my career when I earned my APR and would not have been prepared “to lead at the highest level.” While it helped me develop skills and become a more strategic thinker, many more years of practical experience are what developed me as a leader.

      “We have plenty of APR members ready to lead. ” — I want to emphasize Judy’s comment: “People who are willing and able to give that kind of commitment are few and far between.” As evident this year with a board that does not currently have a President Elect. It’s a huge commitment and I’ve witnessed time and time again challenges trying to get someone to serve as chapter president.

  4. I suggest you vote, NO on the proposed bylaw change. Let me share why:

    1. I believe we need to keep our standards high, not only for the President position, but also for our profession.

    2. Setting high standards helps everyone.

    3. To that end, the chapter can help anyone reach those standards and provide assistance to those that need it. Whether it’s training, mentorship, scholarships for education or scholarships for the APR program and materials –that’s how we can really help people learn and grow!

    4. Lowering our standards or reducing requirements for leadership positions, deflates the importance of the position and the credentials we work hard to achieve.

    Let’s keep setting high standards and I hope you can join me in continuing to lift each other up!

    1. Carissa – I love your thinking around lifting people up and improving access by offering additional support to those who want to pursue APR. Long-term financial investment should also be considered broadly for people who hold APR: 1) Membership is required for APR to be valid and 2) $75 maintenance fee every three years.

      To my point earlier about oppression, setting too high of standards does not help everyone. And I’m arguing APR is too high a standard for president. There should be a real analysis about what qualifications and past experiences are REQUIRED for someone to be successful in the presidential role (APR doesn’t teach you how to manage a budget, lead board meetings, manage people). I’m a staff member and former instructor in academia, and there is no other environment where people are more revered, more respected and given more opportunity when they have more letters after their name. It hits every rung of the institution, including with staff members. I’ve been incredibly encouraged by the changes I’ve seen and participated in when it comes to modernizing staff hiring practices. Moving master’s degree from required to preferred — or removing it altogether — opens doors to successful, highly qualified candidates who simply chose not to pursue a master’s degree.

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