Never stop learning

Never stop learning

Deirdre Breakenridge’s latest book Answers for Modern Communicators is a guide book to a career in communications. I was honoured to contribute to foreword.


Deirdre generously shares her knowledge from a career in communications as a practitioner, university teacher and most recently a LinkedIn instructor.

We’ve known each other for a decade or so thanks to social media. She’s extraordinarily generous with her knowledge, networks and time, helping nurture and develop practitioners.

You’ll find Deirdre on Twitter @dbreakenridge. Each month she hosts a monthly Twitter chat called #PRStudChat, engaging students, teachers and practitioners.

In each chapter Deirdre shares responses to questions that she’s been asked in recent years. It includes capabilities, learning and development, storytelling and personal reputation.

Along the way Deidre introduces us teachers, practitioners and some of her own personal mentors.

I was honoured to be asked to contribute the foreword and write about my own approach to learning and personal development. Here’s my contribution.

Developing skills for the unknown

How do you equip yourself with the skills for a future you don’t yet know? It’s a question that’s challenging organisations around the world.

The pace of change in the media, marketing and public relations is frenzied. You need to have a positive attitude to learning and development if you want to stay ahead.

In my day job at Ketchum I help run an engagement community of around 600 people worldwide. We track significant changes in media and technology related to public relations practice and typically share 30 to 50 updates with the business each month.

It would be a full-time job for an individual to have an expert knowledge in every area of digital or social media practice. This is just one of many areas of modern public relations.

Time served is the typical measure of competence, but not all experience is equal and when media and technology are changing so quickly, it’s a lousy metric.

Formal learning as a means of personal development

Foundation knowledge, however, is a powerful tool. Each career step forward that I’ve taken has been preceded by a period of formal training or coaching. It’s no accident.

Professional frameworks set out the skills you need at each stage of your career. They are the foundations for learning and development.

In more mature professions, such as finance and law, competency is linked directly to earnings. In other sectors, such as public relations and digital marketing, it’s a work in progress.

Setting personal goals and matching learning and training activities is a good way to ensure that you stay ahead. I track my Continuous Professional Development (CPD) via the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR).

Logging your development via a professional association isn’t the only way to ensure that you develop your skills but it’s a good discipline. Setting personal goals and matching learning and training activities is a good way to ensure you stay ahead.

The day that you stop learning is the day that you should stop practicing.

Ketchum has a small team worldwide 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 a social learning platform aimed at ensuring the business keeps its skills and talent up to scratch.

Learning and development out loud

The most powerful learning tool I’ve got is the community that I have developed around my blog. It’s people that I’m connected with via Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.

They’re the people I ask for help and turn to for inspiration.

During the last few years we’ve characterized the third-party tool market, explored mental health and examined the relationship between research and practice in public relations.

We’ve crowdsourced a guide to public speaking, developed a framework to tackle fake news and explored ways of tackling writers’ block.

Deirdre has done a wonderful and very generous thing in creating Answers for Modern Communications – she’s shared her knowledge and her own personal community with us.

In each chapter Deirdre shares responses to questions that she’s been asked in recent years. Along and the way she introduces us to some of her mentors.

My grandfather was my greatest mentor. He taught me the most powerful means of learning. He had a natural curiosity and an enthusiasm that was infectious.

Whatever you do and however you learn, throw yourself into it.

25 ideas for your next blog post

25 ideas for your next blog post

Twitter adds edit option

Twitter adds edit option