I’ve previously written on why public relations is an art, rather than a science. However, that doesn’t mean that PR skills training isn’t vital to the professional success of individual practitioners – and the media campaigns they develop and execute.
As a consultancy which specialises in the recruitment and talent management sectors, we often work with our clients to share stories around the benefits of professional development.
Research from Guidant Group, for example, recently found that almost half of businesses (47%) believe that developing staff internally will be their greatest opportunity over the next three years. The Association of Professional Staffing Companies (APSCo), meanwhile, often shares insight into the impact that CPD has on boosting staff engagement, motivation and productivity.
As Gallup’s latest State of the Global Workforce report highlights, employers who provide workers with regular training opportunities will continually upgrade the quality of their workforce, offering individual firms a significant competitive advantage in the short term. The same report also found that ‘professional or career growth and development opportunities’ was a key consideration for individuals choosing an employer.
What’s more, according to the Association for Talent Development (ATD), companies that offer comprehensive training programmes have 218% higher income per employee than companies without formalised CPD programmes.
With this in mind, is perhaps no surprise, then, that training and development is something we take seriously within our own organisation.
Of course, steadily developing knowledge and skill sets is something that every professional will inevitably do throughout their career to some extent, regardless of what sector or role they work in. However, in today’s digital age, when the pace of technological change is so rapid, taking a passive approach to skills development means you’ll quickly be left behind.
Those in the communications industry, in particular, must make a concerted effort to not only proactively seek out opportunities to learn new skills, but also keep abreast of external shifts on an ongoing basis – such as updates to Facebook’s algorithms, ranking criteria on Instagram, or LinkedIn hacks to increase views – which have the potential to make your current working practices redundant in an instant.
In terms of skills that public relations professionals are seeking to develop, according to the PRCA’s 2018 Digital PR report, agency PR practitioners are currently seeking training in augmented and virtual reality, chatbots and SEO. These were identified as areas of focus by 39%, 27% and 26% of respondents respectively. The same report also found that agencies get most of their training from expert blogs (49%), external training courses (46%), and conferences and events (39%).
This desire for digital expertise is unsurprising, especially when you consider that the way in which audiences consume content – and communicate their own thoughts and feelings – is shifting continually. The rise of voice activated search, for example, has already impacted how messages should be shaped in order to be optimised for the way that target stakeholders engage today. And with Gartner predicting that around 30% of all searches will be done without a screen by 2020, it is vital that we adapt in response.
Here at BlueSky PR, we never rest on our laurels. As a Corporate Affiliate of the CIPR, everyone in our team has access to online and offline training provided by the professional body – and they are all required to record and reflect on their CPD activity in order to maintain ‘Accredited Practitioner’ status.
In this industry, you can’t stand still. Thankfully, those of us who work in this field have an innate curiosity and hunger to learn – but keeping your skills up to date requires not only a passion for learning – but also a commitment to regular PR skills training – in order to stay on the cutting edge, and stay relevant.