The Value of Professional Development

Professional development is integral to your success in the public relations industry. The field of public relations is constantly changing and you need to set aside time to understand the trends, enhance your skills and be able to implement what you learn to help your business grow. I connected with PR professionals to learn their thoughts on professional development.

With all of the organizations, networking events, subscriptions, webinars and conferences how do PR professionals allocate time and money for professional development?

“As professionals we need to dedicate time to keeping our business skills sharp and to staying on top of trends and issues facing our industry,” said Abbie Fink of HMA Public Relations. “HMA Public Relations pays for one professional membership for each member of our team.”

Martin Waxman of energi PR also has a PD budget for his employees.

“I believe professional development and giving back to our community are both very important parts of our work in PR,” said Waxman. “We pay for their memberships as a demonstration of our commitment.”

Fink and Waxman aren’t the only PR professionals who understand the importance of having a budget for their employees. In this video Dana Hughens of Clairemont Communications talks about how she encourages professional development.

We’ve heard from PR managers that are able to set aside a budget for their employees, but what about those PR professionals whose employers don’t have the money for PD? Jennifer Keller of the Red Cross Blood Services pays for her PRSA membership out of her own pocket.

“It’s an investment that I am willing to make,” said Keller. “How can you afford not to take part in professional development? There are so many benefits that come with being involved in professional organizations.”

Keller mentioned that she pays for most of the networking events, conferences and webinars that she takes part in, but her boss understands the importance of giving her the tools she needs to do her job better. When her boss wanted them to start making videos she asked him for a Flip camera and he didn’t hesitate. “I’m lucky to have a boss that recognizes our industry is changing and we need different tools to share our message in non-traditional outlets.”

Advice for convincing your employer that professional development is important to your success.

“Think about it from their perspective – help them to understand that the skills you gain will help you in your role with the business,” said Fink.

Show them that it can benefit the whole team. “Offer to do a small recap session with the rest of the team when you get back from the program, sharing your knowledge with others at your organization,” stated Fink.

Make smart investments. Pick the ones that you know are going to be the most beneficial for your organization. When the budget is already tight, wasting time and money will not help your employer see the benefits of professional development.  There are also cost-effective opportunities that allow you to network and build your skills. Find a free webinar or see if a conference is coming to your area so you can reduce traveling expenses.

The Value

Professional development is great for boosting creativity and motivation, but the value comes from implementing the ideas and strategies that you learn. Give your employer monthly to weekly reports showing results or ways to improve the strategies that you implemented. You can also build some great relationships through professional development.

“I think that if you’re going to be a successful PR practitioner you need to be curious and a lifelong learner,” mentioned Waxman. “And one way to accomplish that is through professional development.”

Follow these PR professionals on Twitter: @MartinWaxman, @AbbieF, @blah2voila and @jenniferlkeller