Path to APR: Q&A with Catherine Brozena
Path to APR: Q&A with Catherine Brozena
To celebrate APR Month this April, we're bringing you testimonials from APRs themselves. Meet Catherine Brozena, Owner and Creative Director of ColorThisWorld Communications, who shared her path to earning an APR with us.
Why you decided to seek accreditation?
While I spent many years working in a public relations and communications capacity, much of my understanding of these fields has been gained through experiential learning. I did not come into this work with a formal education in public relations, communications, journalism, or related fields. Until recently, I created communications plans and conducted public relations activities largely by what I learned and observed on the job. In 2016, I left my full-time position with a non-profit health care organization to pursue my own independent communications and public relations practice. I quickly realized that it was vital, both for the integrity of my practice and the perceptions of current and future clients, that I have a credential (and the learning behind it) to demonstrate that I could deliver on the services I was offering. I explored Master’s degree programs, but ultimately felt that pursuing my APR would be the right next step.
When did you get accredited?
I became accredited in February 2019.
When did you start to prepare for the panel presentation and exam?
In March, 2017, I participated in a half-day introductory session co-led by Michele Horaney and Naomi Hunter of PRSA-SF and PRSA-Silicon Valley. The two leaders walked us through the APR, what to expect, suggestions for preparation, and gave us some introductory materials such as the APR panel questionnaire and the first section of the APR study guide to look through. I was incredibly excited by opportunity and was eager to get my APR as soon as possible. But life delays made it so that I didn't formally start preparing until August 2017 when I signed up for the APR online study course. That course was fantastic, and I followed along with the fall cohort and again with the spring cohort of 2018. I then formally signed up for the APR exam process in May of 2018 and continued my preparation.
What was your preparation strategy/approach?
I found the online APR study course to be tremendously helpful in keeping me on track with the readings and providing insight and tips into my APR preparation. Most of my preparation involved following the readings that the online study course selected for each week's "module" and completing many of the exercises that were provided through the study course. I would tune in nearly every Tuesday evening to my cohort's webinar to listen to what was presented by others in the group. In October 2018, I actually did a "dry run" of my APR panel presentation to the online course participants, which was immensely helpful in my preparation.
When it came down to preparing for the panel and the actual exam, I went back over readings (particularly the APR study guide) and made notes of many of the key concepts and processes that I knew I'd likely be questioned on.
What would you have done differently, in terms of preparation, knowing what you know now?
I feel pretty positive about the success of my preparation approach for me. But I would have enjoyed having a study group or mentor to talk to about concepts and ask questions of. I was able to meet a few people through the online study course, but in the end I still felt somewhat isolated in my APR preparation. A mentor or study partner would have made the experience more engaging.
Any advice to prospective candidates?
Just do it. No matter how much you may already know about public relations, engaging in the APR process is incredibly valuable for anyone who wants to do PR really well. Pursuing your APR is a great way to gauge your understanding and experience against "industry standards," to grow in your field, and to stay up to date on the best practices in communications — all of which will ultimately make you a better PR practitioner.
- Catherine Brozena, APR, Owner and Creative Director of ColorThisWorld Communications