What’s the best training course for PR professionals?

I have a confession: I love CPD. If I know I have a training course coming up, I genuinely look forward to it. No matter how much other work I have on, I almost always see the value in taking the time to develop new skills.

I may feel this way because I’ve attended some genuinely great courses during my career. It may also be that I’ve somehow managed to avoid the worst. Either way, continuing my education in any way possible has always felt important to me.

A few years after I graduated, I really started to miss learning. Studying for my Literature degree was hard work but it was also inspiring and I wanted to feel that again. So, I enrolled in the CIPR Professional PR Diploma course. On reflection, this may have been a bit extreme as it meant I had to juggle a full-time job with face-to-face tuition, 10+ hours of self-study each week and writing four assessment papers. It also took a full year.

I’m proud to hold a post-graduate qualification but I can’t see myself signing up for anything that intensive again. Instead, I’m always on the lookout for after-work seminars and free webinars. I also take full advantage of the training budget available to me each review cycle.

For me, the best courses I’ve attended in recent years have been:

  1. How to be an inspiring storyteller – Berkeley Story Academy
  2. Effective people management – Chartered Institute of Public Relations

The first really refreshed my copywriting and helped me re-connect with my first boss (he runs the course); the second helped me develop my own leadership style and taught me a lot about how I like to be managed, too.

What are the best courses you’ve attended lately? And, if you’re feeling brave, what are the worst? Let me know in the comments!


Resisting the urge to create content

An email from PR Week landed in my inbox over the weekend that really made me stop and take notice.

This is the quote that caught my eye. It’s from Lisa Jedan, Global Head of Brand PR at Bacardi-Martini:

When marketers say: ‘We need some content’ – you can just replace the word ‘content’ with ‘shit’ if people don’t know what they’re going to say.

Anyone who has ‘content creation’ as part of their job description is bound to have felt the pressure of filling a pipeline with great articles, videos, blogs and news to satisfy a hungry and demanding audience. But sometimes resisting the urge to churn out another piece of ‘content’ is the very best thing you can do.

Creating content for content’s sake, without having a clear idea of your message, aims and call to action will typically leave both you and your audience feeling uninspired, unenthusiastic and pretty darn disappointed. Putting out something mediocre or off-message can certainly do more damage than going quiet for a few hours.

I recently attended a fantastic CPD course about business storytelling which had this message (echoed by Lisa Jedan in PR Week) at its very heart:

“We need to find passion points for our audience.”

Taking the time to understand your audience then creating specific pieces of content designed to connect on an emotional level will ensure your work is actually adding value to someone’s day, and is not just created to put another tick in a ‘to do’ box.

So next time you feel the pressure to post “something” on social media to fill a gap, try taking a breath and really thinking about what you want to say before you start. If you don’t have anything specific to share, perhaps it’s better not to post at all. An alien concept for some, I’m sure.

Storytelling: corporate buzzword or clever business?

‘Today, one of the biggest corporate buzzwords is ‘storytelling’.’ – Snow

Strange, I thought. Do the two really go together? Surely storytelling and business inhabit two separate parts of our lives: one belongs at home, the other in the office…

But if you take a step back and consider that the people making big business decisions are the same that revel in stories at dinner parties, read fairytales to their children and devour the latest bestsellers on the beach, it makes sense that they’d enjoy an element of storytelling in their professional lives, too.

‘A social worker once said: There isn’t anyone you couldn’t love once you’ve heard their story.’ – Andrew Stanton, film director and screenwriter, Pixar Animation Studios

Even the ‘dullest’ business exists to solve a problem. If you can start with the story of how the product or service was born, who it has helped and the difference it has made, it will be much easier to convince a customer of its value than simply listing its features or benefits.

As an example, try re-writing the About Us page on your company’s website page using the  storytelling template below from Pixar. You don’t have to follow the format exactly. You could substitute “Once upon a time…” for “In 1999…”, for example, or “After the banking crisis of 2008…”.


By thinking about how to evolve your marketing copy from sales fodder into stories, your writing will stand out from the crowd and you will start to engage with your customers on a deeper, more personal level. After all,

‘Those who tell stories rule society.’ – Plato

A huge thank you to the Berkeley Storytelling Academy for inspiring this blog and sourcing the quotes. I was fortunate to win a place on the Business Storytelling Programme by entering a Twitter competition. I would highly recommend it to anyone who is looking to take their copywriting to the next level, improve their presentation skills or log some CPD hours in a fun and fulfilling way.