By Andy West, Group Chief Development Officer, Hotwire.
Being mid-way through my 4th decade in PR, I reckon might be forgiven for kicking back and believing in my own abilities.
As a proud member of a global leadership team in an award-winning consultancy, I’m surrounded by smart people who do incredible things. We talk about igniting the possibilities of technology and focus on ensuring that we deliver campaigns that serve to make audiences sit up and take notice. It’s a dynamic environment that rewards clever thinking and innovation. And this is precisely why I have embarked on the road to CIPR Chartered PR Practitioner status.
Let me explain.
My PR journey started at a very young age. My Father was in PR in London during the late fifties and early sixties. He trod the well-worn route of journalism (political editor) before moving into PR agency land, specialising in the transport sector. He ended his career in-house as PR Manager of National Express around the time I left University. It was he who shaped my view of the profession and who instilled in me the need to constantly improve. He was a very early advocate for professional standards in PR at a time when the industry was arguably still in its formative stages.
Fast forward to the mid-eighties and I entered PR as a graduate with Text 100 (now Archetype).
The firm at that time was built entirely on meritocracy and gave everyone a chance to advance incredibly quickly in a dynamic environment.
Learning was very much through doing. There was no formal training, no graduate scheme, just a philosophy that if you worked hard enough, you’d do well. It wasn’t quite the school of hard knocks, but we were definitely taught tough lessons often through the mistakes we made. But my god was it exciting! Constant improvement by trying new things, tackling different clients and, in my case, moving around the world to open new offices!! All before the age of thirty.
Yet despite this incredible experience it was always obvious to me that there was so much I didn’t know.
There were so many areas of PR that we just never got involved with or, worse still, sometimes disregarded. And as a consequence, I developed a nagging sense that I wasn’t doing proper PR. Call it imposter syndrome if you like. The work we did just didn’t seem to reflect the picture of PR that my Father had painted in my mind. And then in the 90’s along came this technology called the internet and the PR world that I was grappling with suddenly took on a new dimension.
I feel that digital was the tipping point that changed everything. Suddenly there was the PR equivalent of the arms race.
Agencies raced to build knowledge and capabilities so as to properly advise clients who were demanding fresh thinking. And for someone at that stage with over ten years of experience, it became very clear that I either had to develop or get left behind. And this was arguably the catalyst that sparked my passion for continual professional development into life.
Now I can’t claim to possess a clutch of course certificates or postgraduate degrees. Maybe I should have. But I can say that I have actively sought to keep abreast of the PR zeitgeist through the network I enjoy, through membership of professional bodies such as the CIPR and AMEC and through hiring and working with people who are simply so much smarter than I am.
But is this enough?
As I hurtle towards forty years in the industry, can I rely on what might be termed ‘organic professional development’ or should I instead look for a more structured learning approach?
What I do know is that every consultant must always be on a quest to acquire knowledge. We all must exhibit that crucial trait of curiosity if we are to truly add value to our clients.
So what better way than to embark on achieving Chartered status with the CIPR?
Through the vast range of materials and courses available to all members, I can at last explore the areas of this profession that I felt were missing from my early formative years. I can challenge myself to have a more holistic view of communications and can once and for all strive to be that authentic PR consultant that my Father clearly stood for.
The old adage that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks could not be further from the truth. In my opinion, every consultant no matter at what stage of career they are in must always seek to expand their knowledge. Stay still and you’ll get left behind. And that applies whether starting out or enjoying the fruits of a lifetime in the industry.
Going for Chartered status is an exciting, slightly daunting prospect for me but one which I embrace and which I am super excited to achieve.