The world of communications is changing, and those of us who are traditional public relations professionals have to change with it. Over the past couple of months, clients are increasingly asking about the business impact of of their campaigns. They want to know if and how these campaigns are driving new business and generating more leads. Not only that, but we’re starting to work with the wider marketing team more and more – expanding beyond the typical PR services.
So, what does that mean for traditional PR professionals? Well, it means that we need to upskill and fast. The natural thing to do is to look outside the organisation for external training courses – which are often time consuming and costly. But what about making the most of what you’ve already got? Businesses the size of LEWIS will always have subject matter experts and pockets of expertise globally, so why not make the most of the resources that we already have?
This is exactly what led me to book in a trip to our Boston office in April this year. I was relishing the opportunity to learn some new skills off my American colleagues. So, bags were packed, and I arrived in a very snowy Boston with an open mind and a willingness to learn. NB: anyone planning a trip to the US East Coast – I thought London in Spring was cold, but Boston is on another level!
After spending the weekend in downtown Boston eating clam chowder, walking the freedom trail and wishing that I had spent my university years at Harvard instead of North East England, I headed over to Burlington for the week. Our Boston office has expertise in marketing services following the acquisition of the Davies Murphy Group a couple of years ago – thus making it the perfect place to develop a new set of skills.
So, what did I learn?
Go with a plan.
You can only ask so much of the HR department, so make sure you take some time to book in meetings and catch-ups before you go. Focus on learning about some of the skills that you’re really interested in and ask for help with those.
Get stuck in with your buddy on day one!
My buddy worked in the Marketing Services team, so I sat down with her on day one and listed all the things that I was looking to learn about (and the list was long). She helped book in lunches and informal catch-ups with members of the team so I could really learn about the depth and breadth of the services they offered.
Spend time in local client meetings and calls.
Too often visitors to another office sit at their desks and work on their local clients and projects. Sitting in on calls and meetings meant I got a real feel for what the teams were working on – but also got to see how client servicing was different on the other side of the Atlantic. I learnt so much more from just sitting in on those client calls than I could have expected!
Bring your learnings home to benefit the wider team.
Secondments and the Passport programme are a huge bonus of working for an international agency like LEWIS – but it’s important to grow as a consultant as a result of them. Since coming back from Boston, I’ve already spoken to clients about some of the new skills I’ve learnt and sold some projects off the back of them. However, I am also hosting a number of training sessions for the wider team on the skills I’ve learnt – and demonstrating how to spot the opportunities that exist with our current clients.
So – am I a fully rounded digital marketing professional? Not quite yet, but I’m certainly a step further along the way. You can have as many Skype sessions, webinars and conference calls as you want, but nothing quite beats learning from someone face-to-face, or being talked through exactly how they solved X problem. When people are looking to gain new skills, it’s only natural to look outside the organisation to a training centre or professional body – but sometimes a little bit of internal investigation gives you everything you need!
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