As a leadership and careers coach for communications and PR professionals just like you, I want this year to be your best yet. So here are some practical ways to accelerate your career in communications and deepen your leadership practice. I wish someone had shared these with me as an overwhelmed comms and PR manager!
And if you need more support and accountability to reach your professional goals this year, then join my new group coaching programme for aspiring comms leaders, "Step Up To Leadership".
Ok here we go, 13-24...
13. Enhance your online content creation skills: if you work in comms & PR you need to know at least the basics of Canva, In-Shot, Instagram and TikTok, so you can advise clients, and grow your own professional brand. There's no excuse these days. Canva makes it so easy even this old dinosaur of 47 (!) can do it...
14. Read more to write better: I should have put this at number 1, it's that important. And it doesn't all have to be high art or hard news. Magazines and graphic novels give you just as much in terms of sharpening your cultural appetite and learning how to craft a compelling narrative. Pick up a copy of "Take A Break" magazine with headlines like "My leg was cut off because of a chicken..." (this is a real example) and tell me you're not immediately hooked...
15. Prepare for a crisis: yes this can be done. Crisis mapping is an essential exercise that shows your organisation that you can think ahead, plan ahead and even better, work to mitigate any crises before they even occur.
16. Establish your own brand of thought leadership: in part 1, I talked about building your professional brand, just as much as you promote your clients or your employer's brand. Over the course of hopefully a long and fulfilling career in comms and PR, you'll need to establish both credibility and an industry network - by sharing your insights and advice on topics you know a lot about, you'll build both.
17. Improve your public speaking skills: ironically, us comms folk are often happiest behind the camera, but in the same way you'll want to strengthen your writing muscle, think about how you can develop and enhance your public speaking skills for effective presentations, board meetings, media interviews etc. The more senior you become in PR, the more likely it is you'll need to be a spokesperson of some kind and it helps build confidence and gravitas too.
18. Show you can wrangle a budget: If you want to be taken seriously in-house or agency-side, show that you know your way around a spreadsheet and financial modelling. This is one of the fastest ways to accelerate your career in communications, as it shows a level of financial and leadership acumen.
19. Maintain a global perspective: even if you work in a super local business, you'll be better at your job if you stay abreast of global trends and how they may one day influence what you do / sell / make / lobby about.
20. Unpack your privilege: invest in CIPR president elect Advita Patel and Priya Bates' brilliant book "Building A Culture of Inclusivity" and commit to understanding how your own privilege may impact your work as a communicator, and how to foster diversity, equality and inclusion in your organisation.
21. Measure outcomes not outputs: When you figure out the language of the board room, you'll be taken more seriously as a communications and PR leader. How is your work making things better? Learn how to show this, not how many impressions your press release got.
22. Invest in leadership training: I was once a new Director of Communications, isolated, and lonely, feeling as if no-one understood me and frustrated that I wasn't being taken seriously, or invited to sit around the table with the other leaders. Leadership coaching changed the trajectory of my career, and transformed me into an effective and empathetic leader, shaping organisational decisions and outcomes. If you're serious about your professional development this year, give coaching a go.
23. Get out of your chair and away from your desk more often: no, i'm not forcing you to return to the office to sit silently on another Teams call. But I am talking about getting out into the business - whether you're agency-side or in-house - and connecting with the people and clients you're there to support and advise. It's surprisingly easy to forget this but goes a long way in establishing trust and authenticity as a communications leader to watch.
24. Don't forget AI... we've all read about how AI is killing/changing/revolutionising the worlds of communications and PR, and people will be looking to you for advice, insight and a potential policy position on this. So do your research, learn as much as you can and experiment for yourself.
And don't forget, if you want to commit to your leadership development this year, join my first ever group coaching programme for aspiring comms leaders, we'll be putting some of these into action together!