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Competencies of the Accredited
Public Relations Professional

Analytical skills: Distinguishes between goals and objectives and between strategies and tactics. Objectively determines what data mean.

Audience identification and communication: Identifies appropriate audiences, including but not limited to end users, employees, members, investors, suppliers, community, and government officials. Identifies key concerns of each target audience. Prioritizes and properly sequences communications to the different audiences. Tailors messages to different audiences.

Business literacy: Explains how clients generate revenue and how they conduct their operations. Identifies relevant business drivers and how they impact on the business.

Client focus: Holds client service and the client's interest as a top priority. Considers long-term client needs as well as short-term demands. Makes and delivers on commitments to clients.

Communication Models: Constructs messages taking into account the essential components of the Shannon Weaver model (a source, an encoder, a message, a channel, a decoder, and a receiver) or Schramm model (source, encoder, signal, decoder, destination). Understands that communication is a two-way process. Explains why public relations relies on two-way communication.

Communication skills: Communicates to build effective relationships with client, project team, media, and public. Applies core skills for writing, speaking, interviewing, editing and listening.

Writing: Communicates information (including technical material) in a concise, organized fashion. Authors persuasive text for PR programs.

Speaking: Demonstrates logical thinking when describing client issues and framing approaches to solving PR problems.

Interviewing: Asks relevant, insightful questions in interactions with clients and target audiences.

Editing: Demonstrates the ability to examine a document and correct for format, organization, and completeness of information, factual accuracy, style, tone, and grammar.

Listening: Receives, interprets, and responds to verbal messages and other cues in context of client's, teammates', and audience's concerns.

Consensus building: Gets key stakeholders to agree to support a decision, even if they may have personal reservations. Ensures that all key stakeholders have an opportunity to express their opinions.

Consulting skills: Identifies the problem, analyzes its causes and implications, generates alternatives, makes sound recommendations to the client, assists client in implementing the recommendations.

Control analysis: For the media selected, determines who the owners are, their aims, their political allegiances, their influence on the content and editorial policies, their legal constraints.

Creative conceptualization/ creativity: Uses imagination to develop new insights into a public relations issue. Develops innovative solutions to the issue. Develops new methods/processes or adapts existing ones when the standard methods and processes are not applicable.

Cultural awareness: Respects cultural (religious, ethnic, gender) differences of target audiences. Crafts messages that are appropriate to culturally diverse audiences and that will gain their buy-in. Researches cultural preferences of target audiences when necessary.

Decision-making abilities: Makes sound, well-informed, and objective decisions. Assesses the impact and implications of the decision.

Ethical behavior: Conducts all business activities in an ethical manner. Adheres to commonly accepted codes of ethical business behavior. This includes, but is not limited to the following:
  • Avoids conflicts of interest
  • Conducts business in the public interest
  • Maintains truthful and accurate communications
  • Refuses to disseminate false and knowingly misleading information
  • Declines to represent competing interests
  • Safeguards confidence and privacy rights
  • Refuses to accept fees, awards, and other gratuities from parties other than employer and client without their express consent
  • Provides no guarantee of results beyond his/her control
  • Protects confidential information while complying with legal requirements for the disclosure of information affecting the welfare of others
Evaluation: Applies commitment to measurement, such as for results, behavior changes. Determines if goals and objectives of PR program were met.

Financial management: Prepares, justifies, and/or controls the budget for PR programs/department/agency. Plans, administers, and monitors expenditures to ensure cost-effective support of PR program. Maintains thorough, accurate records of expenditures. Bills clients accurately. Keeps accounts payable current.

Flexibility: Responds to the changing landscape.

Industry knowledge: Explains the nature of the clients' industries. Discusses current issues, opportunities, and threats to those industries.

Information management: Identifies the type of information needed to be collected and retained. Knows how to obtain the information and store it, using information technology, in order that it can be retrieved easily for later use.

Initiative: Displays courage in suggesting new ideas to clients.

Integrity: Recognizes and deals professionally with ethical and legal issues.

Interpersonal skills: Relates empathically to another individual in order to ascertain his/her concerns, needs. Influences another's decision or behavior. Generates confidence.

Knowledge of current company issues: Takes into consideration the client's current internal and external business drivers. Performs SWOT analyses.

Knowledge of the field of public relations: Identifies key figures in the history of public relations (George Creel, Edward Bernays, et al) and their contributions to the field. Identifies and describes major trends in the development of public relations as it is practiced today. Identifies key forces that influence the field of public relations and describes their impact. Defines and differentiates among related concepts, including publicity, advertising, marketing, press agency, public affairs, issues management, lobbying, and investor relations.

Knowledge of legal issues: Upholds laws regarding corporate governance, disclosure, copyright, trademarks, fair use, First Amendment issues, libel, slander, privacy, regulations on commercial speech, corporate political expression, Foreign Agents Registration Act, lobbying, grassroots lobbying. Uses laws regarding media access, due process, Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), and Sunshine Act to meet the needs of clients.

Knowledge of tools and tactics: Selects appropriate tools for data gathering. Selects appropriate medium, themes, and strategies to disseminate message. Deploys public relations tools (press kit, press release, media alert, backgrounder, biographies, media contact list, press conferences/briefings/tours) appropriately.

Leadership skills: Influences others to achieve desired goals. Motivates others. Communicates vision.

Looking beyond prejudices/ mind-set: Conducts research to get alternative views on an issue or crisis.

Management skills: Demonstrates proficiency with planning, organizing, budgeting, communicating, coordinating, scheduling, monitoring, and evaluating.

Media relations: Understands the relationship between public relations professionals and journalists. Builds effective relations with the media based on mutual respect and trust.

Methodology: Develops public relations campaigns using the four-step methodology of Research, Planning, Execution, and Evaluation.

Multi-tasking: Integrates multiple dimensions of a public relations campaign. Integrates internal and external components so that there is a synergy between the messages. Staggers a campaign to ensure timely execution of different tasks for maximum effectiveness. Adjusts the planned rollout of events as necessary to account for success or failures of previous campaign activity. Identifies bottlenecks in a campaign and develops workarounds. Tests ways to unscramble a collection of tasks and selects the most appropriate way.

Negotiating skills: Conducts discussions with clients to find a mutually acceptable solution to problems. Builds consensus through give and take.

News sensibility: Relates current events and trends to clients and markets. Analyzes current events and trends for potential business opportunities.

Organizational skills: Manages the efficient sequencing and execution of work.

Planning ability: Identifies a chain of events. Develops comprehensive public relations plan to include the following elements:
  • Letter of transmittal
  • Executive summary
  • Situation analysis (internal and external factors)
  • Problem and consequences
  • Campaign goal
  • Audience identification and messages
  • Audience objectives
  • Strategies
  • Communication Tactics
  • Schedule
  • Budget
  • Evaluation plans
  • Pertinent research
  • Communication samples
Research skills: Gathers information about the client, company, or organization for whom the practitioner is working. Gathers information on issues to help develop objectives, strategies and target audiences using a variety of research tools (the Internet, interviews, library, focus groups). Plans and interprets research activities from the PR activity at hand (projects, crisis management). Takes into account audiences' understanding of the product, company, candidate, issue, etc, in conducting research.


Develops a hypothesis; develops the research plan; determines appropriate qualitative and quantitative methods; decides on the population, sampling techniques, questionnaire design, interview strategy and techniques; collects the information; codes and analyzes results, and presents findings.

Presentation skills: Uses visual aids (charts, slides, transparencies, etc) effectively. Maintains eye contact with audience. Uses appropriate language, gestures, tone and volume of voice, to convey information.

Problem-solving skills: Identifies and analyzes problems, conducting research as necessary. Uses sound reasoning to arrive at conclusions. Finds alternative solutions to complex problems. Distinguishes between relevant and irrelevant information to make logical judgments.

Risk management capabilities: Identifies potential risks, analyzes probability and potential impact of risk. Develops and deploys appropriate responses, and controls for risk events.

Sensitivity to cultural concerns: Conducts research to determine cultural concerns of target audiences and impacted groups. Develops strategies and messages that are culturally relevant and non-offensive to different cultural groups.

Stakeholder management: Identifies institutions, groups or individuals who have an interest in the success of a PR campaign and are affected by some part of the campaign. Assesses interest of influential institutions, groups, and individuals. Communicates regularly with key stakeholders regarding the status of a campaign. Mobilizes key stakeholders to help ensure the success of a campaign.

Strategic thinking: Determines what is needed to position a client favorably in its market/environment, especially with regard to changing climate.

Teaches others: Identifies learning needs of staff. Coaches others on how to perform tasks. Serves as a mentor.

Team building: Builds and maintains positive work environment. Recognizes and optimizes talents of others. Involves others in planning and decision-making. Celebrates success of individual contributors and the team as a whole.

Technology literacy: Understands the power of the Internet (as both a tool and liability for clients) as well as its limitations. Properly analyzes Internet usage data and its meaning for the public relations campaign. Utilizes current desktop publishing, spreadsheet, word processing, presentation software and the Internet as appropriate to plan, manage, and evaluate PR programs.

Time management: Establishes and meets goals and deadlines.

Understands barriers to communication: Cognizant of the many types of barriers and filters that can interfere with accurate communication - often described as "noise" or "clutter" - and the methods for circumventing them to effectively deliver messages.

Understands media: Considers strengths and weaknesses of different media (radio, print, Internet, television). Identifies and uses controlled media for employee communications. Identifies and uses appropriate media for communicating with external audiences. Identifies drivers of different media. Selects appropriate media outlets for delivering message. Distinguishes lead times for different media. Identifies major changes resulting from widespread use of new communications technology. Understands the impact of the Internet: how it drives the economy and impacts business.

Understands different phases of a crisis: pre-crisis, crisis, post-crisis: Understands his/her role at those different levels - what he/she has to demonstrate or perform. Understands the implications of the three phases. Understanding what the first messages should contain.

Understands distribution systems: Marketing distribution systems (sender-receiver, with channel in between. The media buys, special events, face-to-face, including third parties, all distribution techniques between sender and receiver. "Marketing Channels."

Understands marketplace trends: Understands the business of the business, technology literacy, and distribution media.

Understand all levels of management: Understands the chain of command and the senior, middle management, direct line supervisor, line worker. Stakeholder analysis: understands their needs so as to craft the message effectively. Understands how organizations perform work, and how they are structured e.g., pyramid, flat. and how that impacts behavior and the message.

Uses company resources: Lists other divisions within a company that need to be involved in any media campaign (e.g., legal in the case of product liability).

Uses delivery mechanisms: Uses advertising, direct mail and other delivery mechanisms and promotional tools effectively.


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