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How to accelerate your PR and Comms career in 2024

As a leadership and careers coach, I'm all about taking practical action, rooted in a strong sense of self-awareness and the ability to reflect on the "why of things".


(It's the reflection bit that helps you figure out your purpose, your vision and your destination, then the action bit gets you on the road, and keeps you driving.)


So here are 24 actions you can take this year to accelerate your PR and Comms career in 2024. I've drawn them from my extensive expertise and experience as a Director of Communications for more than 20 years, and my current work as a leadership coach for the comms profession. Let's make sure it's your most fulfilling yet in your career.


 

I'm sharing the first half today and the second half next week. So here we go 1-12.


  1. Figure out your career purpose: when you know what you are here for, in terms of your career, you can focus on giving the best of yourself to that purpose. For example, you may be in Comms in order to raise awareness of an issue that matters to you, or to improve lives for local people, or to be an inspiration for others that follow. Why are you here?

  2. Reflect on who you are as a leader: what is it like to be led by you? That's a really interesting question to ask yourself! If you don't like the answer, then you know there's work to do if you want to fill in the gap between how you lead now and the leader you want to be.

  3. Work on your professional brand: no, this doesn't have to be a salesy, slippery kind of thing. You don't need to call yourself the "bad story serial killer". What I mean is, work on the way that you present yourself and articulate your value (and your values!) out there in the world and on social media. Ironically, many people in Comms & PR don't promote or position themselves on LinkedIn. What a missed opportunity!

  4. Invest in professional relationships: whether it's a professional association, informal peer networking group or internal stakeholders, learn how to see these relationships as an investment, not a transaction or a chore. (BTW, I'm launching a group coaching programme on Jan 30th where you can join a supportive peer group of ambitious comms and PR professionals in working towards your first leadership position.)

  5. Get to grips with our digital future: long gone are the days when you could say "there's someone in our digital team who focuses on that". Whether you're in-house or agency-side in Comms and PR, you need to stay up to speed on digital, AI and more. Clients expect it and colleagues will appreciate and value it.

  6. Develop data literacy: Comms people can no longer hide behind "we focus on the words", when data gives us some of the biggest opportunity to shape the stories that really matter. Learn how to interpret and leverage data, and pull insights that create a meaningful narrative, backed with credible numbers.

  7. Network strategically: Who do you need to reach this year and why? What are the benefits of building these new relationships? What can you give, as well as get from them? Make a plan to build and maintain relationships with key influencers, then invest in them like your existing stakeholder groups. This is a key way to accelerate your Comms and PR career this year and you'll get so much out of it too.

  8. Cultivate your curiousity: a broad and varied cultural and media diet will keep you one step ahead in Comms and PR, and you just never know where that next award-winning idea might come from. Please, don't listen to people who tell you that TikTok and TV are rot for the brain. I've got some of my best ideas and biggest inspiration from these two channels that have really helped in my comms career and as a coach, but wherever you turn, make sure you have a broad and varied media diet.

  9. Learn to collaborate cross-functionally: One of the greatest risks for comms and PR leaders is that we are seen as a "nice to have" silo. That we don't or can't, offer broader value beyond our immediate world, and that limits us in our career progression, particularly in-house. In 2024, learn to work closely with other departments to understand their needs, collaborate on broader projects and align your communications approach. This will pay dividends I promise you, particularly if you take a leadership approach here.

  10. Ask for feedback: I know, I know, it's super scary and makes you feel vulnerable. But there's magic in that vulnerability if you're willing to sit with what it gives you. Whether it's a formal 360 degree review, or a more relaxed chat with some peers, managers and leaders in your organisation, be brave enough this year not just to ask for their feedback on your performance, but to sit with it, reflect on it and take action.

  11. Invest in yourself and your career: and I don't just mean in financial terms. (Although they are often the outward sign that you are ready to commit to and back yourself). What I mean is being open, vocal and ready to share about where you want to go in your comms and PR career, why, and how you are planning to get there. Then being committed enough to take the next step. You may well realise that you need extra support to become the leader you know you are capable of being. That's where services like coaching can help transform your dreams into plans into reality. But whatever form it takes, make an outward commitment to that change.

  12. Wear a suit and ditch the red lipstick: Psych! I got you didn't I... (I just wanted to make sure you were reading all the way to the end...) No, you don't have to adhere to the dress code that I had to when starting out in PR agency-land in my 20s. Of course, look presentable and professional. That's as much for yourself as for anyone else. And if you have rules that make sense for a reason i.e. no hand jewellery if you work in healthcare and often visit wards, or steel capped boots if you work in construction and are on site a lot, then they're in place for good reasons of safety and hygiene. What I mean is, don't let any superannuated "special advisor" lecture you about what looks professional to them. It will often belong back in the 1970s.

So there you have it. The first 12 of my 24 ways to make this year your best yet in your comms and PR career. One where you take control of your career and your leadership development and accelerate your career in Comms and PR.


Which actions are you going to take first? Are there any that don't appeal? (If you dig into the reasons why, you'll find some great insight as to your resistance, I promise!)


Stay tuned next week for part 2...


Louise Thompson is a leadership and careers coach for the Communications and PR profession, with more than 20 years' experience in corporate communications and has served as a Director of Communications in both the public and the private sector.

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