The PRCA has always believed in the power of training to help development as a professional. Their courses have a practical focus so the skills, techniques and best practice covered can be implemented immediately back to work. Working alongside the team at the PRCA, members of the Public Affairs Board and with the guidance and organisation of the PR Academy, we this year launched the Public Affairs Management Diploma.
The Diploma plays its part in the learning and development journey that is more of a focus of people’s careers. We wanted it to focus on the practicalities involved in public affairs rather than getting too bogged down in the theory – although there is no escaping some theory!
Another key element of the course was getting the balance right between being taught through webinars and being self-sufficient. So the course students are in charge of their time for the most part and can decide when to do the recommended reading. We also appreciate that not everyone can make the webinars during their busy days so they are recorded and can be watched later. The course is largely virtual but there is a one-to-one session towards the end that can take place face-to-face Covid allowing. That session can reflect whatever the student wants to talk about across the entire content of the course or they may prefer to talk about the written assessment that they need to submit at the end of the course.
The website we use for the course has a common room in which all the participants can contribute in general discussions but they can also send direct messages to me as the course leader as well. So if questions come up then it is easy to get to me. We can also have larger informal discussions amongst the group as well.
Every week, I send out an email reminding people what the ‘tasks’ for the week are so that helps to manage workloads and keep everyone on track. But if people feel that they are falling behind then they are free to ‘catch-up’ in their own time. We don’t run the Diploma in a dictatorial way!
As PR qualifications become the norm then employers will become more familiar with the benefits they bring – the additional skills, ways of working etc. Some already mention a preference for such qualifications in the job specification and we see the Diploma as way of demonstrating good foundations in public affairs which will be of value to you and your employers.
So we cover some of the day-to-day practicalities of public affairs including how to work with Parliamentary audiences, how to work and manage with political stakeholders, political processes and relationship management.
There is a full reading list to help you through all these issues and you even receive a complimentary copy of Lionel Zetter’s ‘Lobbying: The Art of Political Persuasion’ and a number of other books are free to access on the course site.
There are some excellent courses available and I would always urge everyone to get into some good training habits even if it isn’t on the Diploma.
No doubt we will change and develop the Diploma over time but we believe that gives participants the skills, information and confidence needed to make a success of public affairs.
Why should I consider the Diploma?
The Diploma has been developed with the help of leading public affairs practitioners to reflect the skills and insight needed by consultancies and for in-house roles. It will helps to get the fundamentals right and, with this in mind, the emphasis is on practical lessons.
How long does the course last?
The course lasts six months and includes five one-hour webinars and a one-to-one session. You get a clear course guide which includes reading, and things to watch and listen to. The instructions are clear throughout.
Do I need to attend all the webinars?
It would be great if you could but they are all recorded so you can watch them later at a more convenient time for you.
What is the difference between this Diploma and other courses that are available?
It is focused very clearly on the practical side of public affairs so whether you are a newer entrant or a more established communications professional needing to learn more about public affairs then this course will work for you.
Who is this Diploma aimed at?
The Diploma is focused on understanding policy making processes and then putting together an effective PA strategy and plan. It is aimed at people starting a dedicated career in PA and more experienced people who may be doing general corporate comms/PR who sometimes have to do some additional PA work and they are looking for a good, general, understanding about how to do this well.
Is there is an assessment?
Yes, everyone taking part needs to complete a 3,000 word assessment but you have a several opportunities to submit the work because we understand how busy people are.
What happens if I fall behind with the reading?
Nothing! We’d prefer everyone to keep pace during the course but you can catch-up in your own time.
How many people take part?
That varies course-to-course but we always encourage people to get involved through the common room on the course website and get to know each other as much as they can virtually.
How much does it cost? Can my employer pay?
We are offering 15% off until the end of August and the employer can pay for the Diploma. You or the emplpyer can also pay for this in 3 instalments.
Member Price: £2400 + VAT
Non-member Price: £2800 + VAT
How often does the Diploma run?
We are running it twice a year starting around March and September.
What happens if I miss the deadline for the written assessment?
You have three opportunities to submit the written assessment as we appreciate that people are busy but you do need to submit and pass the assessment to be awarded the Diploma.
Dr Stuart Thomson
Stuart is a public affairs and communications specialist advising clients on all elements of their public affairs strategies including political and corporate communications and reputation management. His work has included legislative lobbying, profile-raising, planning communications and he has also worked on a number of high profile media relations and crisis communications programmes.
Stuart is an honorary research fellow at the University of Aberdeen and is the author of several books including ‘New Activism and the Corporate Response’ (heralded as a book that “every aspiring business leader should read” by MIS Asia), ‘Public Affairs in Practice’ and ‘The Dictionary of Labour Quotations‘ which was published by Britain’s leading political publisher, Biteback. His most recently published book, ‘Public Affairs: A Global Perspective’ has been called ‘an absolute treasure-trove’.
Stuart regularly writes and lectures on a range of business and political issues and as well as blogging, he contributes to the Huffington Post and has written for the CBI, UKTI, Total Politics and LabourList. He is also an adviser to the Entrepreneurs Network (TEN). He has appeared on Sky News, BBC 5 Live, BBC World, and the Today programme amongst others and has been a judge for the Public Affairs News, Public Affairs, EuroPA and PR Week Awards.