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In Chinese culture, 2014 is the year of the Horse. It is predicted that persons born during 2014 are recognized as energetic, bright and intelligent. Additional characteristics include excellent communication skills, cheerfulness and talented; and, they are associated with success and cannot stand failure. Although Suzanne Sparling was not born in 2014, one could certainly say that she is the epitome of these characteristics and this has certainly been her year. As the Executive Director of Communications at Eastern Florida State College (EFSC), Sparling is rounding out an JPG_4648impressive year of accomplishments that recognize her enduring contributions to the public relations profession. In August, at the Florida Public Relations Association state conference, she was awarded the prestigious Col. John Dillon Award, which is a lifetime achievement award named after FPRA’s founder. It is also the highest honor the organization can bestow. At the conference, Sparling was also recognized for earning the Certified Public Relations Counselor (CPRC) certification. The CPRC is the second tier credential offered by FPRA, recognizing professional growth and achievement of senior members who have a minimum of 10 years of professional practice in public relations and also hold the Accredited in Public Relations (APR) certification. When you look at the number of PR pros in the state, there are not many who have earned their CPRC. In fact, there are less than 200 pros who have earned their CPRC, although there are many who are eligible to sit for the exam. So, we decided to chat with Sparling about earning the CPRC distinction with the hope that others will also choose to take their professional development to the next level by earning their CPRC.

Why did you choose to seek your CPRC at this point in your career?  I chose to seek my CPRC to round out my professional development. This was important to me because technology has changed so rapidly in the many years since I earned my undergrad degree.  I had delayed seeking the certification to earn my Master’s Degree, which served its purpose well; and the time was right to go ahead and seek the certification.

What did you do to prepare? I took advantage of the telecom study sessions that the state VP of Accreditation and Certification, Tina Banner, APR, CPRC, arranged. They were monthly during my lunch time, which was very convenient. I also purchased the recommended text book Public Relations Practices: Managerial Case Studies and Problems. Readings were assigned and discussed during the weekly telecom study sessions. Hearing how others would have responded in a certain situation helped.  Sometimes it merely confirmed the ideas I’d already come up with in response to the post-reading questions, but sometimes the ideas others suggested resonated with me. The truth is, experience is the key to passing this exam, as well as understanding how important research is to the success of any action in any situation.

What does having CPRC mean to you and to the position you have at ESFC? Personal and professional edification.  Having senior peers view you as a seasoned professional, not just a practitioner, has a lot of value and not just to me, but my employer has valued it as well.

What surprised you about the process or the exam? Nothing on it really surprised me, per say, but it is a commitment of time and energy.  You have to prepare for a formal presentation and then the exam alone takes a full eight hours to complete.

Was any aspect of the process or exam challenging? If so, do you have any advice to pass on to others seeking (or considering seeking) their CPRC? Time was the most challenging aspect of the process for me as a working professional.  It’s a resource we often have so little of to begin with.  That said, if you have been working in the field for 10 years or more and are already APR, you will truly have no problem preparing for and passing the test. But you really do have to want it and be committed to seeing it through.

To those you are planning to seek their CPRC, do you have any parting words? I’d just like to encourage my fellow members of the Space Coast Chapter to invest in themselves professionally and begin that journey by gaining their accreditation – APR.  Also, take advantage of the wisdom and experience of the senior members of this chapter. Any one of us would be willing to mentor others and be a resource.

For more information about earning the Certified Public Relations Counselor certification, please contact Shelley Szafraniec, APR, CPRC, the VP of Accreditation for the Space Coast Chapter of FPRA.

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