Opinion

Why employers are happy to invest in PR training

Date: 12 March 2012 16:15

Do qualifications matter more when the going gets tough? Despite what for many is a challenging economic climate – and has been for some time now – it seems that employers are still willing to fund professional qualifications for communicators.

There was a time when study, along with PR, was the first thing to get cut in a slowdown, so the findings of our latest trend survey are encouraging. It’s our second report and 66 per cent of respondents indicate that they have funding for qualifications available through their employer. While up by only one percentage point on last year’s 65 per cent, findings suggest that funding has not yet been impacted by budget cuts – particularly those affecting the public sector from where many respondents came.

Can it be taken as a sign of how far PR has come in terms of becoming a “non-negotiable“? I think so. Not only do our organisations know they need PR, they know that they need strategic thinkers, people who can talk the language of the board room, challenge constructively and do a lot more than simply churn out content.

Of course technical skills remain important – we need to get the basics right, but today’s practitioner is a trusted adviser, someone who facilitates dialogue and can work across a broad range of stakeholders and channels.

Investing in our people has to be to the good. Commenting on the survey findings, Steve Falla of Orchard PR explained how Orchard is committed to budgeting for training, even if it’s at the expense of investment elsewhere. He feels that a CIPR qualification broadens thinking and sharpens skills.

Thinking more broadly is going to become ever more key. As the boundaries between communication disciplines blur and traditional media channels – while still important – become just one way of reaching those with whom we want a dialogue, practitioners need to take a much broader view. It is no longer possible to simply manage the message; practitioners need to be influencing the way that organisations actually behave. To do that you need gravitas. One thing that our students often say is that a qualification gives them is just that: the confidence to make a good case for a particular course of action.

I think that this is because a qualification based on some academic rigour and which shows how it applies in practice does two things: it proves that your instincts are right – that “I know it works, but I am not sure why it works” thing; it also proves why things don’t work! It can be easy to get bounced into a particular course of action by a client or a more senior colleague, but with the ammunition that deeper understanding and knowledge of theory gives you, it becomes easier to argue for a better course of action. The result is more effective campaigns without wasting lots of money and effort on things that simply won’t work. So no wonder employers are recognising their value – the business case is clear. 

 

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