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Professional development and training: where to invest?

“The only thing worse than training employees and losing them is to not train them and keep them.”

-          Zig Ziglar, American author and business expert.

On 29th June, communications professionals across in-house teams and agencies gathered at M&C Saatchi PR’s Golden Square offices to discuss the importance of training and professional development in our industry. A topic of particular note as increasingly reports are revealing shocking statistics. According to Marketing Week, for example, over 90% of marketers have ‘poor’ media training, and just 9.4% of marketers and agencies believe that their current media training programmes are at ‘satisfactory’ levels. Despite this, when polled marketers and communications professionals view training as being one of the most beneficial factors on an agency’s ROI. 

Opening the PRCA Council meeting was
M&C Saatchi PR’s Global CEO and Co-Founder, Molly Aldridge. Aldridge emphasised the importance of investing in training and development from junior staff members to senior business leaders. To help navigate where exactly businesses need to be investing, four key speakers were invited present. Here are the key take outs:

1. Don't neglect your leaders

International Leadership Coach, Sally Netherwood, who works with c-suite professionals and has a strong background in communications highlighted the importance of paying attention to the highest paid and most valuable members of the team, who, ironically, are the most neglected. As leaders in a business, they are role models that influence and shape company culture. It is therefore key to keep leaders motivated, developing and always looking forward if any business is to succeed.

2. Build junior staff confidence

According Digital Drums’ CEO, Steve Dunne, the two most difficult areas for young people coming into the PR industry are media sell in and account management. Dunne advises that companies which invest in eliminating the ‘Sunday dread’ and training junior members of staff in ‘The Art of the Sell In’ are those that thrive. Moreover that people often forget that the biggest leap in our career is from Account Executive to Account Manager. Junior staff are often not given the chance to grow into their new role and this can have huge consequences on business and client relationships. To futureproof your business, it’s crucial to therefore invest in training (like these offered by PRCA) to increase confidence in the day to day, improve morale and to encourage staff to excel from day dot.

3. Presentation, presentation, presentation

Our next speaker was Public Relations author, professor and consultant Trevor Morris. Morris shared his insights into what a successful presentation should look like and how vital it is to train staff in this area. For as we all know, without good presentation skills, there’s no successful pitches, then no new business, followed by no growth and so the domino effect continues. Top tips? Stop rushing and being preachy with the background accompaniment of a novella on a single PowerPoint slide. Instead, find the purpose of your presentation and be enthusiastic about it.

4. Embed creative processes that challenge

Our final speaker was Emma Hazan, Global Head of Consumer at Hotwire. Hazan emphasised the importance of training junior staff in the creative process. It’s not just about passionate off the cuff brainstorming, it’s about challenging the brief. Staff need to be trained in the process of how to get under the skin of a brand, analyze data and uncover the killer insight that’s needed in order to produce really creative ideas and campaigns. The challenge comes in embedding a creative process early on, whilst not stifling impromptu creativity from junior staff members.


It’s important to remember that each business will have different personalities, pitfalls and needs when it comes to the training and development of staff. The key is to be brutally honest and assess where in your staff need most attention and investment. Only by acknowledging strengths and weaknesses will you be able to draw up a plan that will deliver ROI and ultimately, to paraphrase Richard Branson, train people well enough so they can leave, whilst treating them well enough so they don't want to.  This is key to building a motivated, creative and innovative working environment that delivers world class results.