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Developing digital skills in PR: Why you should learn to code

Public relations has an opportunity to expand its role within an organisation further than ever and learn technical digital skills to further integrate data with strategy.

Last year, I announced via PRFest that we would hold a taster event for PR practitioners who would like to learn about coding. 15 people signed up to attend the event last year.

My client, CodeClan, runs taster courses in different areas of digital skills, to allow people to get to know what new skills can be learned and how they can be used. We all know that there is huge demand for digital skills and in Scotland, there is a big digital skills gap. Skills Development Scotland stated in November that there are 13,000 jobs to fill. (To be transparent, CodeClan was not a client at this point, that came later.)

The taster event we attended helped us understand the elements of coding, how they work together, what they look like and how we can use very basic knowledge to develop websites, make a website act differently and fix a problem quicker than briefing a team to do it – after they schedule it, send for approval etc.

For people like me, who take a lot to do with all the ‘details’, these new skills will be invaluable. It also gives me confidence to know what I’m talking about!

Through my work with CodeClan I’ve become even more excited about the opportunities to learn these technical digital skills. Digital is a broad subject, tech is also broad, but when you think about public relations developing strategies to build effective relationships and manage reputation, of course it makes sense to use any data available to a) inform strategy b) monitor real-time and c) use for evaluation.

Lats month via a Tweetchat, Stephen Canning, a local councillor and former aide to Theresa May's leadership campaign, said when asked for advice for PR student learning “Tip 1 - learn to code or learn data science, they're going to be big in PR.”

I was delighted to see that I’m not the only one who is pushing public relations into this area.

Learning code can help you solve problems, develop solutions quickly, and learning other digital skills, like CodeClan’s R Programme, will help you know how to analyse, segment and understand data.

In the wider context, for those who may not be delivering on these aspects but will have ultimate responsibility for public relations and communication, you’ll get to know the language, understand the concepts, know about timings and challenges and may even spot opportunities. You’ll be able to brief teams appropriately and be realistic about outputs and impact.

If organisations are going through digital transformations and public relations has a 360-degree view across the organisation, it doesn’t only make sense, it makes it important that these specialist skills are adopted and included within the team skillset.

Laura Sutherland FCIPR Chart.PR MPRCA is Founder and Director of Scottish PR consultancy, Aura and is also Founder of the two-day festival of public relations, PRFest. PRCA is proud to be headline sponsor of PRFest once again. PRFest takes place 13th-14th June this year, in Edinburgh. Find out more here.