The Purpose of Universal Accreditation
Universal Accreditation was established to create a critical mass of accredited professionals in the public relations field who subscribe to a standard code of ethics and a shared professional certification process. Universal Accreditation unifies practitioners from a diverse field of professional organizations and helps define common ground for more effective promotion of the accredited credential and marketing its professional significance to key decision-makers.
Universal Accreditation – Memorandum of Understanding One-Sheet Download
This one-sheet is designed to quickly summarize and address questions of concern as it relates to the information outlined on this page.
Universal Accreditation’s History
The concept of Universal Accreditation began in 1984 through the North American Public Relations Council (NAPRC). The NAPRC was a coalition of public relations organizations in the United States and Canada. In the late 1980s, when the concept of Universal Accreditation was being developed, the following organizations were a part of the NAPRC: International Association of Business Communicators (IABC), the Canadian Public Relations Society (CPRS), Florida Public Relations Association (FPRA), the National School Public Relations Association (NSPRA) and the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA).
As Universal Accreditation was taking shape, the PRSA Board of Directors drafted a resolution that was adopted on January 20, 1995. In the resolution, PRSA’s Board of Directors outlined several recommendations on how the Universal Accreditation program should operate. The following statement is in the resolution:
“Be it resolved that the Public Relations Society of America will participate with diligence and good faith in cooperation with fellow NAPRC organizations to define a process for instituting a universal public relations credentialing program that could operate independently from the control of any individual NAPRC group.”
On September 12, 1995, FPRA’s 1990 State President Del Galloway, APR, CPRC, Fellow PRSA, was invited to serve as a special member of PRSA’s National Accreditation Board. In this position, he and other members from the NAPRC organization would be tasked with three roles in pursuing Universal Accreditation. These roles were specified as follows.
- Review of marginal examinations and appeals and an assignment as a working member of one of the Board’s standing committees which include test administration and development; chapter support and relationship management; long-range strategic planning and current issues management
- Development of case study question representing the special interests of members of Florida Public Relations Association* following an agreed-upon template for developing this type of question and validating it
- Full participation in a separate NAPRC Joint Accreditation Task Force, comprising delegates from PRSA’s Accreditation Board and other special members from the NAPRC organizations that have endorsed the enclosed resolution. The work of this task force will take place almost exclusively outside the regular Accreditation Board meeting schedule.
*Organizational focus would align with the special member’s Association affiliation.
After nearly nine years of negotiation and collaboration, in which Del Galloway, APR, CPRC, Fellow PRSA, played an essential role in this process, FPRA joined its other partner organizations (see listing below) to celebrate the birth of Universal Accreditation on January 1, 1998.
Universal Accreditation FPRA History
In 1988, through the NAPRC, FPRA began investing energies and resources to pursue the implementation of the Universal Accreditation program. This was done through the NAPRC.
It’s important to note that in 1993 and 1994, there were talks of FPRA merging with PRSA. The merger was not successful. This merger failure refocused FPRA’s collaborative efforts with PRSA towards pursuing Universal Accreditation.
When FPRA joined the pursuit of Universal Accreditation in 1998, it also meant abandoning its accreditation program – the APRP (Accredited Public Relations Professional) credential. FPRA’s accreditation program was established in 1974. In 1998, FPRA’s APRPs were grandfathered into the Universal Accreditation program when Universal Accreditation was adopted.
Prior to the creation of Universal Accreditation, the public relations profession had multiple credentials, creating an “alphabet soup,” as it were. Born out of the desire and need for the public relations profession to have a credential as recognizable as CPA (Certified Public Accountant), the NAPRC chose the APR (Accredited in Public Relations) credential to become universally recognizable.
The APR credential was already used and trademarked by the Public Relations Society of America. This mark was chosen because it was already being used nationally, making it a natural starting point to achieve the universal recognition sought by the participating organizations.
The Founding Partner Organizations for Universal Accreditation
The following organizations helped build the program’s framework and laid its foundation.
- Agricultural Relations Council
- Florida Public Relations Association
- Public Relations Society of America
- Southern Public Relations Federation
Also involved with the development of Universal Accreditation from the beginning were: Maine Public Relations Council, National Schools Public Relations Association, Society for Healthcare Strategy and Market Development and Texas Public Relations Association.
Universal Accreditation Board
Following the adoption of Universal Accreditation by the partnering organizations, as listed above, the Universal Accreditation Board (UAB) was formed. Comprised of representatives from the partner organizations, the UAB from the onset was tasked with maintaining the integrity of the program; ensuring the reliability and validity of the exam; reviewing marginal exams; marketing the program and creating a brand for APR; enhancing the preparatory course work by creating an online study course and focusing on one text as the definitive study guide and recruiting additional organizations.
From its inception, the UAB has focused on building a program that would be the standard by which we measure success. This pursuit of excellence has relied on the tireless efforts of many talented and skilled public relations professionals — each of these professionals representing one of participating organizations (POs) that make up the UAB.
For more than 20 years, the members of the POs have worked together in a spirit of continuous improvement, and the benefactors are those who have earned their APR (Accredited in Public Relations) designation and the industry at large.
Since it began in 1998, FPRA has had six representatives serve on the Universal Accreditation Board (UAB). FPRA owes a debt of gratitude to the following FPRA members for their contributions to our profession and our Association (listed in order of time of service): Del Galloway, APR, CPRC, Fellow PRSA; Jay Rayburn, Ph.D., APR, CPRC, Fellow PRSA; Christopher Carroll, APR, CPRC; Kathleen M. Giery, APR, CPRC; Lanette Hart, APR, CPRC and Laura Byrnes, APR, CPRC.
Today’s Participating Organizations
- Asociación de Relacionistas Profesionales de Puerto Rico
- California Association of Public Information Officials
- Florida Public Relations Association
- Maine Public Relations Council
- National Association of Government Communicators
- National School Public Relations Association
- Public Relations Society of America (PRSA)
- Religion Communicators Council
- Southern Public Relations Federation
In the spring of 2019, PRSA asked FPRA and all the other POs to sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that positioned the UAB to function as an advisory committee only to PRSA.
To date, FPRA has not signed this MOU as it represents a complete departure from what the UAB has been working toward since its inception.
Put briefly, the MOU seems to ignore decades of understanding regarding the UAB’s purpose and governance by suddenly relegating the UAB to the status as an “advisory committee” within PRSA. In the long history of Universal Accreditation and the UAB, it has never been the objective for the UAB to be merely advisory, nor simply a committee within PRSA. Instead, history shows that the UAB was intended and slated to, in fact, one day become independent itself. Just twelve months before receiving the MOU, FPRA’s UAB representative Lanette Hart, APR, CPRC, was the lead on a UAB committee focused on preparing for the UAB’s independence.
FPRA’s concern currently is not that the UAB gain independent agency status, but the UAB maintain governance of the APR accreditation.
On September 22, 2019, following the receipt of PRSA’s MOU, FPRA State President Alyson Sologaistoa, APR, CPRC, and UAB representatives Lanette Hart, APR, CPRC, and Laura Byrnes, APR, CPRC, participated in a regularly scheduled UAB meeting to discuss FPRA’s concerns surrounding the proposed MOU.
As a result of this meeting, the FPRA State President and UAB representatives sent a revised MOU document to PRSA for review and consideration. No response regarding revisions was received.
On February 18, 2020, FPRA sent a formal response letter to PRSA that further outlined its position regarding the MOU.
On February 25, 2020, FPRA State President Alyson Sologaistoa sent an email to the UAB Chair, Sr. Manager of Accreditation and Director of Professional Development at PRSA confirming receipt of the mailed letter and attaching a digital copy of the letter to the email.
On February 26, 2020, the Director of Professional Development of PRSA acknowledged receipt of the letter and said they would be back in touch shortly.
March 2020 – Pandemic Shutdown
February 11, 2021, FPRA State President Alyson Sologaistoa emailed PRSA’s Director of Professional Development to restart dialogue around our response to the MOU.
March 5, 2021, the Director of Professional Development for PRSA acknowledged the email and said they would be back in contact shortly.
June 21, 2021, Del Galloway contacted FPRA State President Alyson Sologaistoa to share an update regarding the MOU. Del Galloway facilitated a meeting with FPRA’s leadership and PRSA’s Chief Executive Officer Linda Thomas Brooks.
July 7, 2021, FPRA State President Alyson Sologaistoa sent a letter to PRSA CEO regarding the proposed MOU and some notable recent UAB changes and interactions.
On Tuesday, August 10, 2021, FPRA’s leadership met with PRSA’s CEO. During this meeting, FPRA shared its concerns regarding the MOU. As a result of this meeting, an additional meeting took place in the fall of 2021, which resulted in the agreement of having Del Galloway serve as special advisor to the Universal Accreditation Board (UAB) to establish strategic direction, improve policies and procedures and make Universal Accreditation a genuinely collaborative endeavor for all involved. This move gave FPRA leadership some hope that their concerns would be addressed.
On December 6, 2021, however, Del Galloway, a longtime member of FPRA, shared with now Immediate Past President Alyson Sologaistoa that he was regrettably unable to take on this role due to his concerns with UAB leadership and a difference of opinion on how the UAB should move forward.
As a result, FPRA’s Board of Directors now finds itself at an impasse and believes it’s critical for all Participating Organizations (POs) of the UAB to come together to discuss what’s best for achieving the original purpose and adopted resolution of Universal Accreditation.
It is the intention of the leadership of FPRA, most of whom are accredited themselves, to meet with the leaders and representatives of the UAB participating organizations to discuss an equitable path forward for Universal Accreditation.
FPRA remains steadfastly committed to building the APR credential as a universal mark of professional significance. This continued focus elevates the public relations profession and the professional development of PR practitioners from a diverse field of professional organizations.