1

Public relations can’t get no education

The career journey in public relations is far from straightforward. Learning and development is a work in progress.

There isn’t a defined career route in public relations in the UK. People join the sector with a range of qualifications and backgrounds.

There’s no barrier to entry and a combination of on the job learning and raw ability frequently sees people progress quickly without formal training or qualifications.

The challenge is reconciling this with the increasing drum beat of practitioners claiming that public relations is a profession or management discipline.

Formal training

The CIPR has sought to tackle the issue with a range of qualifications.

Qualifications taught by the CIPR and accredited teaching centres such as Cambridge Marketing College, MOL and the PR Academy, include Foundation (A level), Advanced Certificate (degree) and Diploma (Masters).

There are diploma specialisms in crisis, internal communications and public affairs.

Several universities, many formally accredited by both the CIPR and PRCA, teach degrees and Masters in public relations. There’s some excellent teaching but innovation is slow and conversion to practice remains a challenge.

The PRCA has developed an apprenticeship offer working with the UK government that combines paid work placements with classroom learning, equivalent to the first year of a degree.

Around 250 people have graduated from the PRCA apprenticeship scheme since 2011. It’s becoming an important, mainstream route into the profession.

Badge of excellence

Then there’s Chartered PR practitioner status introduced by the CIPR when it received its Royal Charter in 2005.

As President of the CIPR in 2014 I was part of the modernisation team that reinvigorated Chartered PR status as a benchmark of competency for management level practitioners.

Fewer than 50 people achieved Chartered PR status in the ten years between 2005 and 2015. That’s woeful in a profession of 60,000 to 80,000 people.

In the last 12 months 100 people have achieved Chartered PR status. It’s a long way from establishing a critical mass that would be recognisable by anyone other that those that have achieved the status, but it’s a start.

Continuous learning

The journey from formal qualification to Chartered status sets out a rudimentary career path for practitioners.

Both the CIPR and the PRCA bridge the gap with webinars and training workshops. Both have a solid offer based on market demand and commitment to continuous learning.

The CIPR challenges members to commit to its Continuous Professional Development (CPD) scheme. 1,600 people participated in its CPD scheme in 2015.

At its conference in September the PRCA set out a plan for an open standards approach to CPD, working with 16 partners including APPC, Local Government Association and PRWeek.

Mapping career journey against competence

During the recent CIPR election Sarah Hall set out a pledge to map the CIPR’s training offer against the Global Alliance Global Body of Knowledge (GBOK) project.

Sarah’s view is that a linear approach to qualification and learning isn’t fit for purpose in a business that is changing so fast. She points to Google’s Squared digital marketing course, combining structured learning with workshops and course work, as a more agile way of learning.

She’s a strong advocate of practitioners having leadership, finance and business capabilities, a skillset not currently provided by the industry body. According to her, continuous learning is critical, the question is how to best incentivise people to do it.

The GBOK project is an iterative piece of work that started with a crowdsourcing exercise, gathering credentialing systems from around the world in 2014. It resulted in a framework published in 2015 for consultation among Global Alliance members.

The latest version of the framework incorporates feedback and describes two levels of practitioner, namely entry-level and mid-career or senior level. A series of behaviours and skills have been attributed to each role.

Realtime learning and development

At Ketchum we’ve a small team worldwide team focused on learning and development, helping our business make sense of the market for education.

We’re continually upskilling the agency by moving from formal classroom learning to social learning platforms; from workshops to webinars; and from one off sessions to continuous learning.

This year 1,600 client facing practitioners have completed five online courses via our social learning platform aimed at ensuring the business keeps its skills and talent up to scratch.

Thanks for stopping by. If you enjoyed this blog post you may like to receive future posts as they are published, via email. Please sign-up here.

Stephen Waddington

Partner and Chief Engagement Officer, Ketchum and Visiting Professor in Practice, Newcastle University.

One Comment

  1. Hi Stephen- I couldn’t agree more about how hard it is to find up-to-the-minute resources to keep continuous professional development working. It affects both those starting out and those nearing the end (like me) of my PR degree. The 2nd Year university students on a CIPR and PRCA recognised PR degree at Southampton Solent University agree, too. So much so that they have launched their own eBook project to get input from practitioners. Check it out on http://digitalprbook.com/ and see too Richard Bailey’s Behind the Spin Post about it. http://www.behindthespin.com/news/students-to-produce-digital-pr-book Care to contribute?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *