Apart from sanitation, medicine, education, wine, public order, irrigation, roads, the fresh-water system, public health and social media what have the Romans ever done for us?
Eagle-eyed Monty Python fans may notice that I’ve taken a bit of licence with that quote to get into the spirit of a fascinating and wide-ranging session with Stephen Waddington (@wadds) on the future skills needed by professional communicators.
It was great to hear from the new president of the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR) at what was once the frontier of Roman Britain and talk through PR issues as varied as the Roman origins of social media and this week’s cement-gate on the London Underground.
It was great to have such a senior figure in Newcastle, with Wadds making good on his commitment as president to empower the regions right across the UK.
He told an enthusiastic audience that PR has reached a tipping point where it was essentially splitting in two – with the traditional craft element on one side and the strategic advisers in another.
Skills and professionalism were the two key themes of the session and despite the challenges and pace of change there’s a real feeling that now is the time for the industry to get on the front foot.
As practitioners strive for greater professionalism the modern world means that skills are becoming just as important as experience, with PR techniques and social media increasingly having an impact on different parts of the business like HR and finance.
One of the key opportunities comes with the explosion in metrics now available thanks to social media and this now means that it’s easier than ever to understand the motivation of audiences in real time.
However, he urged PRs to move away from the meaningless, “proxy measures” of the past and ensure that comms work demonstrably reflects what the business wants to achieve.
There was another look back to history talking about the pioneers of early PR who were much more interested in using psychology and the social sciences to influence publics – skills which social media is bringing back up the agenda.
He identified the key challenges as creating new workflows that meet the speed and demands of social while moving to a multi-media, multi-platform world for professionals who are largely more comfortable with crafting words rather than images, videos and content.
The key message though was one of skills and it’s clear that Stephen will build his presidency around the mantra ‘never stop learning.’
We’re in safe hands.
The presentation was arranged by CIPR North East ( @CIPR_NorthEast) and you can see more details from Stephen Waddington here