Earlier last month, I asked Nelson Bostock for two weeks off to teach life and emotional intelligence skills to a group of Spanish teenagers. On reflection, it must have seemed like a rather bizarre request to make. But for personal development, teaching is a surprisingly big part of PR. You teach new joiners about your accounts, your clients, their quirks, likes and dislikes. You teach graduates how to manage their time, how to speak to journalists, you build their confidence (and alcohol tolerance). You must also constantly teach yourself – in such a rapidly moving landscape, every good communications professional knows the value of keeping your finger on the pulse.
I suppose you could say this about any industry. But PR is unique in the sense that communication is not a static thing. It can’t be taught and learned in a traditional classroom setting. The comms industry requires both clients and consultants to be open, listen to one another and understand what’s needed of them, so they can meet the expectations of their managers, peers or customers. Teaching teenagers about the importance of interview technique, public speaking, or self-confidence is just a microcosm of this.
Planning a lesson is a lot like planning a campaign. You have objectives, activities, timelines and deliverables. Things routinely go wrong. You must learn to improvise and come up with creative solutions. And while you may be leading the lesson, it’s the students – your team – that make it what it is. And that’s the best thing about working with young people – how much you can learn from them. It’s why I love PR: unashamedly young at heart and constantly refreshing itself. It’s also why I love the agency I‘m part of: open to the idea of learning from everybody in it. If I took anything away from my time in Spain, it was about the value of personal and professional relationships: how to cultivate and nurture them, both inside and outside an organisation.
I’m fortunate enough to work for a company that places genuine importance on personal as well as professional development. And Nelson Bostock doesn’t just say it cares – it does care. I was hugely grateful for the opportunity to do something different and learn a few things along the way. I believe it’s one of the privileges of working for a company that strives – successfully – to live by its values.