Love learning all about communication and engagement?

While writing a blog about continuing professional development (CPD) and professional memberships for communicators this week I had a small revelation about myself. Not only do I love learning, but I actually ‘need’ to keep learning.

I don’t mean ‘need’ to with regard to keeping my communication expertise and knowledge up to date, that’s a given. What I mean is, I realised I’m happiest when I am learning something new.

Working independently in communication allows me to learn in two fundamental ways:

One

I take charge, fund and make my own time for my learning and development by working independently. I go to the events I want to attend, read up on the topics I want to learn, join webinars and more as my schedule allows to develop my knowledge and skills (which of course my clients benefit from too).

Two

Because I get to research, analyse and understand my clients’ businesses in a deep way I’m always learning something new about the businesses I work with and finding solutions to their challenges. Good communicators spend time learning about the business strategy, stakeholders, culture and purpose. This is essential to help clients and employers to communicate and listen effectively to be more successful and I really enjoy this process.

The times when I’ve not been able to learn or not given it time it needs in my life, I’ve become frustrated and bored.

So my conclusion is, I’m a comms geek, who loves communication and learning in its many forms.

If you’re like me and on the lookout for some learning recommendations, here’s a list of my favourite communication resources right now:

Webinars and podcasts

Pros:

  • Often free
  • Very flexible
  • Great for overviews of an issue
  • Great to hear from experts you may not be able to meet in person

Cons:

  • Quick and short introductions – not the format for deep understanding
  • Often one person’s view is shared
  • Be prepared to source further reading to find out more

My current favourite sources:

CIPR webinars for members

ICology

Meltwater runs a range of webinars.

The last two that I joined were:

  • The state of things – a review of the current political state of the UK and EU after the referendum – by Ben Page CX at Ipsos Mori
  • The fake news epidemic (and how to lessen the negative impact) – by Jonathan Gabay (BBC, ITN, CNN)

Blogs and websites

Pros:

  • Insightful and useful for wider context for projects
  • Easy to access and share

Cons:

  • Consider it in a wider context and not your only source of information
  • Driven by the content creators and owners and their strategies

A selection my favourite sources:

allthingsic.com

charitycomms.org.uk

comms2point0.co.uk

hbr.org

ickollectif.com

Influence.cipr.co.uk

marginalia.online

simply-communicate.com

wadds.co.uk

Reports and white papers

Pros:

  • Deep knowledge from a third party’s research
  • Insightful and useful for wider context for client projects

Cons:

  • Be aware of the sample size and how meaningful the findings are. (for example in an employee survey, with a population of 1,000 allowing for a margin of error, you would expect a sample size of about 280 to make the research statistically valid)
  • Know who is the owner or commissioner of the research. This can affect the questions, the usefulness and findings of any research
  • Consider it in a wider context and not your only source of information

My current favourite sources:

Ofcom Communications Market Research 2016

Edelman Trust Barometer 2017

Com Res global report the changing face of internal communication

Gatehouse State of the Sector report

Events

Pros:

  • Great to meet other professionals
  • You can learn as much from the people in the room as from the people holding the event
  • Good for understanding current trends and overviews on key topics
  • Great for networking
  • Time away from the normal routine always gets the creativity flowing

Cons:

  • Can be expensive
  • Loss of time in the office
  • Choose carefully to ensure you’re not ‘paying’ to be sold something
  • Be sure that you’re going to get some real value from the event

My current favourite sources:

Many agencies are running small events to share knowledge and expertise and of course all the main professional bodies run conferences and events.

Short events

Such as:

Engage for Change is running a super event on 9 March – Crossing over to the dark side, at our next Groucho Breakfast.

CIPR Inside runs ‘ask the guru’ events which take just a couple of hours after work. Look out for more here:

CIPR Inside Ask the gurus with agency partners

One or two day events

Then there are various one day events:

IOIC live – this year it’s on 11 & 12 May in Bristol

Smile Expo and workshops 23 May

Silicon Beach (one day in March, two day event in September tbc)

CIPR Inside conference – Autumn

Meaning conference – 16 November

Network groups

I also run and go to a range of local groups. The South Coast IC collective is a new initiative I’ve created with a colleague for internal communicators working in the BH area to meet, share ideas and challenges and support each other.

There are also two freelancer networks I am a member of. One in Winchester and one in Dorset. Both are for professional communicators working independently.

In these groups we meet up from once a month to twice a year, and keep in touch via closed facebook groups to maintain contact and share advice and support.

Get in touch if you would like to know more about any of these regional communication groups.

Training and courses

Pros:

  • Great for in-depth learning on a specific topic.
  • Meet other people interested in the same topics as you.
  • You may get a qualification as a result so you can demonstrate your knowledge.

Cons:

  • Can be expensive
  • Be sure you have the time to commit to both the face to face learning time, and wider reading – that’s where you’ll get even more value
  • Be sure to check the subjects covered to ensure it meets your needs

My current favourite sources:

The professional bodies, CIPR, IoIC and PRCA all provide training courses on a range of subjects.

Many agencies are now providing workshop and masterclasses too, so choose what suits you and your learning needs.

You can also do CIPR accredited courses like the IC diploma through the PR Academy which I completed in 2015.

Last year, Bournemouth University introduced the CIPR IC diploma for its Corporate Communication Masters students, and I delivered the course. I’m pleased to be back there again this summer teaching the Masters students the Internal Communication Diploma again.

I would recommend the Internal Communication Diploma for anyone looking for deep understanding of internal communication theory and practice. There are also certificate and diploma courses in PR and crisis communication.

Then there are a range of masters degrees at many different universities.

There are also other providers who you can work with to create bespoke training too.

Books

Pros:

  • Easy to access
  • Range of formats so you can learn on the go
  • Low cost
  • Great for reference and providing different perspectives

Cons:

  • Time consuming – lots of people I know say they struggle to find the time for reading for work
  • There are so many books, and so little time (this is my view – so many wonderful resources to read).
  • Choosing the best titles for you from a huge range can be a challenge – get recommendations from colleagues and look out for reading lists

I’ve got a book shelf full of text books and various professional reads that I’ve read or plan to read. Here are a few favourites for comms professionals:

Exploring internal communication

Internal communications – A Manual for practitioners

Employee engagement – HR fundamentals

Reinventing organisations – a guide to creating organisations

Silo effect

PR stack

Future Proof

Thanks for stopping by. I hope you found this post useful, let me know what you think, Katie

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