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What IS a “PRSA Fellow?”

Suzanne Hartman, APR, Fellow PRSA

I often get asked, “Just what IS a PRSA Fellow?” Most think it’s some kind of secret handshake club or they’ll ask, “Are there PRSA Gals, too?” It is neither a secret club – nor a gender-designating reference. There are prescribed requirements for achieving the designation of a PRSA Fellow.

Members of PRSA Puget Sound with the author (center) at her induction into the College of Fellow.Likely, most of you have heard of the APR – Accredited in Public Relations. And for those of you who have gone through the accreditation process, you know that it is rigorous and thorough. Earning you APR is an acknowledgement of your public relations/communications proficiency. While it is not the same as a “CPA” designation – nor is it an officially recognized licensure – an APR does indicate that you have earned a high level of achievement within our profession.

Now take that career dedication up a notch or two. The PRSA College of Fellows (COF) was organized in 1989. It’s an honorary organization made up of about 350 PR professionals who have 25 or more years of experience. Ten – twelve “Fellows” are inducted most years – many more apply. Unlike the APR, becoming a Fellow doesn’t involve taking a test. But it does involve an intensive review of your professional career by a panel of your peers. You are nominated to apply to become a fellow – that’s the easiest part! From there, you must complete an eight-page profile/biography/resume that includes six specific criteria with supporting evidence of achievement. You must have letters of recommendation from five individuals including current members of the College of Fellows, as well as a letter of endorsement from either your Chapter/District/or Section. Trust me, in many ways it was much more difficult than my Masters Thesis!

It is almost a year-long process. There will be many re-writes of your profile. The College of Fellows assigns you a “Goodfellow” who will help talk you through the process and likely will review your profile to help you better understand how to capture the “what” of your career. At the end, however, when you receive that call that you have, indeed, achieved the right to proudly wear the COF “medal” – it is an overwhelming moment - so fulfilling and gratifying – yet also, humbling.

The induction ceremony at the PRSA Annual International Conference is nothing short of Hollywood! You are made to feel quite special. It is an exhilarating moment.

So, when you are struggling with that communication challenge in your work, know that your strategic thinking is part of building your profile that one day may lead you to the PRSA College of Fellows.

To learn more about the College of Fellows, visit the College of Fellows' website.  

Photo: Puget Sound Chapter members Cindy Sharpe, Linda Farmer, Me, Janelle Guthrie  and Karla Slate celebrating in Austin 2018.

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