Spotlighting our members - Jay Magee, APR

 

Jay Magee, APR is a marketing and corporate communication professional with 14 years of experience in corporate and nonprofit settings. For the past nine years, Jay has worked in various communication and marketing roles with Community Hospice of Northeast Florida in Jacksonville. He also maintains a public relations and web design consultancy, Creative Types, with fellow North Florida PRSA member Amy Lyn D'Alesio. Jay served as president of the North Florida Chapter of PRSA in 2009 and remains an active chapter leader as chair of its awards committee.

Jay also earned his Accreditation in Public Relations in April 2011. We talked with Jay to learn more about his process to become Accredited.

 

Why did you decide to pursue your APR?

You mean this year? I'm slightly red-faced to say it, but I'd been studying for APR-and finding excuses for putting it off-since 2003. More recently, Anne Dubois-shrewd professional, former Universal Accreditation Board (UAB) co-chair and APR cheerleader that she is (and has been to me since '03)-cracked my "lack of commitment" with a bet: if she made College of Fellows, I would earn my APR. It was never a question if she would make the College (full disclosure: I wrote her a knockout letter of recommendation when I was chapter president!), so I knew it was my turn after my term.

APR is one of a very few objective measures of competency we have in the public relations profession that is grounded in sound theory and ethical practice. Unfortunately there are a lot of folks out there who think that PR is common sense, intuitive and anyone with any degree can "pick it up." Modern media also fuel plenty of negative "PR" connotations. The APR process gave me an opportunity to demonstrate that specialized knowledge-and more than that, how to apply that knowledge-to solve real-world business problems and be a vital asset to my organization as the world, and its relationships, grow more and more complex.

 

What does achieving accreditation mean to you?

Accreditation means that I know, and care, about the value public relations provides organizations as part of the marketing mix, and I can be a strong advocate for its inclusion anywhere I work and for any client I represent. On a more personal level, it reinforces my desire to be a responsible practitioner and to help others understand its value and dispel "PR" myths, and (let's be real for a second) it brings me back to baseline on some fundamental concepts I grasped in school but "loosed" in the real world.

 

What was beneficial about the accreditation process?

Starting with the Readiness Review (RR), the accreditation process made-and continues to make-me slow down and examine some of my best work, and what truly makes it good from a PR perspective.

You get a lot of theory from the study guide and texts, and it's up to you in RR to overlay that knowledge with what you've done, identify gaps, and explain how you covered your bases or could have done better. Even in the written exam, you're forced to apply conceptual knowledge to real-world conflicts or opportunities. That critical thinking-thinking on your feet about "what to do first" vs. flying by the seat of our pants with knee-jerk abandon-is a hallmark of our profession and makes us more valuable to our bosses.

Even now I'll randomly think about campaigns from years ago, put them under a microscope, and drive myself mildly crazy thinking about how I could have improved them with my newly unearthed APR wisdom.

 

What are the hurdles, and what is your advice to overcome them?

You just can't study for APR in a vacuum. While life happens, you MUST carve out adequate time for study. Cramming won't work-a very little rote memorization won't cut it when you have to understand how to expertly (and quickly) apply concepts to situations-and building those synapses takes time.

Aside from attending a few group sessions organized by the chapter, I found independent study best suited my schedule. Thus, I booked a recurring study appointment through my Outlook-a couple of hours each Tuesday night and again on Saturday afternoon-and stuck to my commitment for the last few months before the written exam. I fought distractions with a quality pair of noise-canceling headphones, and a LOT of Beethoven's "Ode to Joy" and Bach's "Brandenburg Concertos" loaded into my iTunes library.

Also, you need not go broke buying the entire "bookshelf" of study aids UAB recommends. I used the official APR Study Guide, the text Effective Public Relations, 10th Edition, and the study aids of one previous APR candidate. He aced it, so I felt pretty good about the quality of those materials. Likewise, I plan to pay it forward and loan my materials to up-and-coming APRs.

 

What would you say to public relations practitioners who are considering pursuing accreditation?

Don't do it for money, but do it for the love. While there are scattered reports of APRs earning higher salaries than their non-APR counterparts, those three little letters have so much more potential. Whether you earned your degree in public relations or a communication-related field, or you have risen to PR from another career path, accreditation will make you a better practitioner. Colleagues will look at you as a leader, students will see you as a mentor, and your career growth (and earning potential) will grow organically as you will have greater confidence to tackle more strategic issues and be that critical counsel to management we are all called to be.

 

Anything else?

If you're serious about making public relations your life's work and profession, it's a no-brainer: do it! Go for APR! Or else I'll have Anne make a bet with you, too.