There are two types of people who work in public relations – those who continue to learn and develop their skills to be the best they can be … and those who don’t.
I am in the ‘continue to learn and develop’ camp. The world of PR changes quickly, whether it is new technology, new thinking, new trends, new situations to adapt to, best practice evolutions, etc. It is not possible to do a great job for an employer / client and not keep up to speed as there will certainly be a number of practitioners snapping at your heels who have put in the time and effort to learn. Even senior practitioners, mainly involved with strategy, are not immune from the need to keep up-to-date – how can they formulate the best strategy without knowing what is considered best practice by their peers?
So is it possible to teach old dogs new tricks? I definitely believe so.
So how do I learn and develop my PR skills?
When I was employed full-time, my annual appraisal would determine what new skills I should have in my arsenal to meet the demands of the job over the coming year. I found courses to attend to plug these skills gaps and after attending a day’s training, the glossy handouts were generally stored away until my newly learned skills were needed, and the certificate was dusted off when I wanted to add the course to my CV when hunting for a new job.
As the Independent Practitioner I am now, keeping up to date and aware of what is going on in the PR world is incredibly important – it is my professional responsibility to keep up-to-date and even try to be ahead of the curve. Clients need to be confident that when they employ me I know what I am talking about and my skills are current. There is a certain amount of trust involved, but to make me stand out I want clients to be confident rather than rely solely on trust that I will do a good job for them. This is why I am a member of two professional bodies and undertake CPD (Continuing Professional Development) for both.
What benefits are there to being a member of a professional body?
Being a member of a professional body, such as CIPR or CIM, is a signpost to clients/employers that I take my career seriously. Every pitch document I send out clearly states that I am a member and I provide a link to both the CIPR and CIM codes of conduct (download the CIPR code and CIM code). I also clearly state that I am registered for CPD (and am a CIPR Accredited Practitioner).
These memberships provide invaluable CPD opportunities and make it extremely easy for me to learn and develop my skills. At the start of each new CPD cycle (CIPR starts in March and CIM in July) I sit down and work out where I have gaps in my skills base and look ahead to what is predicted for PR and marketing, then find CPD activities which let me learn and develop my skills and knowledge. This CIPR video on CPD below explains why it is important to do.
Rather than searching the internet for a provider without any knowledge on the quality of the training I will receive, as I did when employed and not a member of a professional body, I search for the most relevant workshop / course which is accredited by the CIPR or CIM. Once complete, I log completion but this is more than a tick-box exercise – both professional bodies require me to explain what I have learnt and how this will improve what I practice.
My training is focused with an end goal in sight. With the CIPR, the short-term goal is to maintain my Accredited Practitioner status and with both the CIPR and CIM, the ultimate end goal is to reach Chartered status.
What does CPD mean for employers/clients?
By being registered for CPD with both the CIPR and CIM, and completing the annual requirements, my clients are confident that my skills are up-to-date and I am committed to professional excellence. The work I do for them will reflect what is thought as best practice. CPD is how I build on my expertise gained from doing the job day-in-day-out and gives me the flexibility to meet the demands and challenges coming my way.
Clients / employers deserve the best and my commitment to CPD, coupled with membership of professional bodies, the code of conduct and ethical basis to my work, is what sets me apart from the rest of the practitioners they could choose to work with.
What about the ‘other’ type of PR people?
These ‘others’ are the practitioners who choose not to commit to keeping their skills and knowledge up-to-date. They may be ‘silent’ members of a professional body – as CPD is not mandatory – but what should be asked is: “Why do they choose not to undergo CPD?” As for what happens to them in the marketplace? I cannot say as they are (metaphorically) behind me in the pitch process / interview stage!
- If you are a member of a professional body, such as the CIPR or CIM, do you take part in CPD? If so, why? If not, why?
- If you are not a member of a professional body, why? Do you think this has made a difference when you have been seeking work?
There is no right or wrong answer, and I would be interested to know about any research conducted into the effects being a member of a professional body has on employment, likewise for the effect of CPD. I can only speak from my experience, and that is that letting clients know I am an MCIPR and MCIM, and undertake a programme of CPD to ensure my skills are up-to-date for their benefit, definitely impresses them. What about you?