Three strategies for lifelong learning in PR and comms

This blog was written by Darly Ngwe, Communication Assistant at Elevate Communication. Darly works within the Corporate Communication pillar and is passionate about improving efficiencies and providing strategic solutions for clients.

I recently had the privilege of participating in The University of Queensland (UQ)’s inaugural orientation-week bootcamp for first-year communication students. Developed in partnership with our Elevate team and the UQ School of Communication and Arts, the goal was simple: to help the emerging generation of practitioners grow in their professional development. Throughout the day, students could learn about what agency life was like, develop key skills, and connect with their cohort and professors. By the end of the day, 95% of the students indicated they were leaving energised or curious about their future studies and career in the communications industry.

During the bootcamp, I had the incredible opportunity to return to my alma mater, just six months after graduating with a Bachelor of Communication. Sharing the mic with my colleagues, we shared the advice we wished we had known sooner and helped students feel empowered as they embarked on the first semester of their degree. We counselled them with lessons that we only learnt through working in the industry, and we divulged our hidden secrets to excelling in our profession. The unanimous word of advice was clear: be prepared to learn. Through lectures, peers, internships and more, learning is a lifelong undertaking even after graduation.

What are the benefits of lifelong learning?

The benefits of professional development are significant—it improves skills, networks and vitality in the workplace. Not only does it benefit us on the individual level, but it also has the power to accelerate the development of teams. While these investments may seem insignificant in the short-term, over the course of years, the return on investment is immense in building a thriving community of professionals. According to a LinkedIn article by Chantal Sheehan, organisations where employees have access to professional development have a 34% higher retention rate and employees are 15% more engaged in their jobs1. In fact, a recent study by Dale Carnegie claims that when employees are engaged in their jobs, they outperform their counterparts by 202%2. These statistics are significant in proving just how important it is to continue upskilling in the workplace.

How does Elevate support lifelong learning?

At Elevate, learning is non-negotiable. With all our team members allocated a $3K professional development budget annually and time to use it, investing in our career growth, networking and skill development becomes far more attainable. Since joining the Elevate team in July 2022, I have been offered countless opportunities to learn beyond my daily responsibilities. Through Elevate’s professional development budget, I have been able to learn from public relations webinars, networking events and marketing conferences. Each time I invest in my professional development, I can see its tangible impact—my network expands, my confidence grows, and my skills deepen.

What are the key strategies to keep learning?

As I reflect on how important learning is, I want to share my three strategies to continue learning beyond the classroom:

Prepare for an evolving landscape

A digital transformation has taken a hold of our traditional ideas of public relations and media. When I listened in on the work that the latest cohort of communication students was tasked with, I realised that even with only three years between us, the latest cohort is learning from a new curriculum of communications that has changed to accommodate new technologies, apps and social media channels. New resources that have evolved to assist communications professionals include:

  • Google Looker Studio Dashboards
  • Google Tag Manager
  • Google Analytics
  • Adobe InDesign
  • Keyword research tools such as SEMRush
  • Social media managers such as Loomly, Hootsuite, and EClincher
  • Media monitoring services such as Meltwater and Isentia
  • SEO auditing tools such as WooRank and Moz.

While having the advantage of being digital natives of these platforms, it will be crucial for our generation to continue adding to our repertoire while relying on our instinctive creativity.  As technology continues to exponentially grow, the industry must remain resilient and open to change. By continually evolving their skills through industry peers, peak body events and training opportunities, communication and public relations students can have a thriving future in this transforming industry.

Explore the great expanse and find your niche

As communication continues to evolve, so too do the skills and roles that are available to us. Working in a team where professional development is openly valued and accommodated has been vital in expanding my skills and finding my niche. Through formal check-ins, I’ve been able to identify my strengths and further develop them through professional courses. I have also learnt more organically from the broader team, including those who have decades of experience or have just started out as I have. Since there is no singular outcome or role from graduating with a communication degree, you can be reassured that you will eventually settle on your niche of skills and interests with the support of a network. Whether that’s specialising in one area of communication such as stakeholder engagement or generalising in a range of skills within the discipline, there are countless opportunities to excel in this industry. Embrace the exploration and don’t be afraid to diversify your passions.

Invest in your professional network

One of the first pieces of advice I offered to the UQ students was about networking. Networking doesn’t start when you graduate and pursue work, it starts on your first day of uni. Your peers, professors and tutors are so important to fuel your professional development. Through LinkedIn connections, coffee catchups and group assignment meetings, the people around you can share their insights or even offer you a career opportunity that takes you beyond the classroom. Whether in-person or online, engage with peers, professionals and industry and take advantage of opportunities offered by industry bodies and the university. By building your network and your personal brand, you can have a community of support behind you, wherever you go in your career. At Elevate, every team member is a member of PRIA, the industry body of public relations, and IAP2, the International Association for Public Participation—a peak body for engagement. We are strongly committed to cultivating communities—whether that is within our team, client base, local universities or industry. We believe that growing these connections are crucial to professional development and becoming better practitioners, creatives and educators.

What are the long-term gains?

Professional development is crucial to continue upskilling communication practitioners to thrive in a changing, complex, and connected industry. At Elevate, we see the real fruit of professional development, particularly in those who have started their careers with the company. For example, several members of our team have been recognised nationally, including Micayla Pretorius, Senior Communication Manager at Elevate, who won Bronze in PRIA’s 2023 Emerging Talent of the Year category. In the same year, Madeline Jones, my peer and our Communication Executive, won Student of the Year. Previously, our Communication Director, Joshua Stengert, also won Gold in PRIA’s Emerging Talent of the Year category and is now nominated as a finalist for the 2023 B&T 30 under 30 Awards. These individuals are just some of the high-calibre professionals Elevate produces through their commitment to exceptional professional development.

Being able to work in such a supportive environment, filled with opportunities to support and be supported, I am encouraged every day to learn more and take strides in my career. By investing in lifelong learning, every communication professional can be equipped to navigate the industry’s future, contribute their unique strengths to their work and grow alongside professionals who can provide value and direction to their career.

If you want to experience our brilliant work culture at one of the best public relations agencies in Brisbane, head over to our Internship opportunities page here. We would love to support you with your communication, PR or marketing internship.





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