From Tactical to Strategic: My APR Journey

MacKenzie Ruta, APR


I love public relations because it allows me to channel my competitive spirit and to push myself to be the best. There’s always the opportunity to make every campaign more successful than the last; with every media placement, there’s another that’s bigger and better waiting for you. But in my pursuit to be the best, media placements stopped carrying as much weight. Instead, I found myself in a position where the value I could provide was in strategic counsel to executive leadership and building successful public relations programs that would advance the objectives of our organization. In order to be successful, I needed to shift the roots of my practice from tactical to strategic. That’s what drove me to achieve my Accreditation in Public Relations.   

We all start our careers at the tactical level, or as the APR Study Guide refers to it, communication technicians. We’re writing, pitching and growing relationships with media, but we’re often left out of the conversations that identify problems and solutions. The APR process gave me the skillset I needed to make the transition to strategic advisor. More specifically, The Las Vegas Valley Chapter’s APR: Ready to Roll Program laid the foundation for my professional growth and success in earning my APR.

The program connected me with fellow APRs who could share their expertise in the core competencies of the exam as well as their experience in the industry. As soon as I began the study sessions I saw a ripple effect. I was taking what I was learning and applying it to my daily practice. The results were instantaneous and the timing couldn’t have been better as I went into crisis communications mode in response to COVID-19.

While I initially dreaded the in-person panel presentation, it ended up being an amazing experience. I learned so much from my panel judges who initiated open dialogue with me about the campaign I was presenting and answered important questions I had, not only about the APR exam, but in my practice. What first seemed like the most intimidating part of the APR process ended up being one of the most impactful learning experiences I’ve had in my career. It was the part I enjoyed most!

As someone with test anxiety, I embraced the opportunity to be the first person in our Las Vegas Valley Chapter to take the virtual proctor exam. Tests are already stressful, but the thought of having to take a three hour and 45 minute exam while wearing a mask was more than enough to make me want to pioneer this new option. And I am so glad I did! Being able to forgo the stress of commuting and being on time to a testing location helped me manage my anxiety level and stay focused on my goal. Because the results of the exam are instant, I immediately saw the word “PASS” on my screen and was able to walk down stairs to celebrate with my family!  

If you are on the fence or unsure about the benefits of achieving your APR, let me be the first to tell you to go for it! It’s a journey that is as rewarding as it is challenging. Achieving my APR has not only allowed me to differentiate myself from other professionals, it has shaped me into a well-rounded and disciplined practitioner. I now focus on the “why,” rather than the “how” and have robust knowledge on the science behind PR. I know my expertise is contributing meaningful results for my organization and that has allowed me to practice with the highest level of confidence!

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