we asked 10 people what they wanted to learn next

Back to school signs have been up for weeks, the new shoes have been bought and children across Britain have been heading back to the classroom. In a crowdsourced blog, we asked some bright people what they want to learn most next.

by Dan Slee

'Never stop learning,' should be written on big letters and pinned up in every press office, comms team or agency.

Why? Because it's the one triuism in communications and public relations. It's the pole star to navigate by in an uncertain world with an uncertain future.

Don't believe me? Think about what you were doing 10 years ago. Think about five years ago. They're worlds apart. Cast a look into the future and the trajectory of change will increase, spiral and leave some behind.

That's why it's so useful to always be learning and thinking of the next things ahead.

With September underway and schools back, there's something of a New Year feel with a clean slate. Summer holidays are by and large out of the way and time to get on with things.

So, we asked some bright people what they most want to learn next.

Keep winning the argument...

“As I followed the news last month of Mike Bracken’s resignation as Head of GDS I was struck by a couple of things Mike said: ‘Just because you’ve won [the arguments] once doesn’t mean you’ve won them forever.’ and ‘I can honestly say there hasn't been a day when I've not gone home and kicked myself for doing or saying something.’

“Apart from admiring his candour, these statements together refocused my thoughts on the vital task of continually articulating – with impact – the value of communications. And, to take the flip side of Mike’s second point, if you’re going to do it well, you’re likely to make some mistakes along the way.

“So my lesson for the new term comes in three parts: (1) Don’t stop winning the argument. (2) Aim for maximum impact and accept the risk that you might not always get it right. (3) Read anything and everything you can get your hands on.” - Kristian Hibberd, head of communications at UK Export Finance.

Don’t sweat the small stuff...

“The thing I want to learn next is to not sweat the small stuff, or other people's crises in particular. As a head of comms part of my raison d'etre is to keep my head when all about me are losing theirs. So reminding myself to keep an eye on the end game and what's important is crucial, and not letting myself get pulled in to firefighting other people's urgent issues.” - Hayley Lewis, head of communications and engagement at the London Borough of Croydon.

Location-based search...

“Three weeks into a new job, I’m learning fast and scouting my new organisation for digital opportunities. Location-based search could be an early improvement but can be tricky to get right so I’ll be doing lots of user research to design something that people will actually use and find useful.” - James Coltham, digital communications manager, Creative Scotland.

Developmental evaluation...

“I’d like to learn more about Developmental Evaluation. It’s described as an approach that can assist social innovators develop social change initiatives in complex or uncertain environments”. I’ve read stuff about it, I’ve been having a go with it, and I’m keen to know more.” - Lorna Prescott, senior development officer, Dudley CVS.

Data visualisation...

“The thing I am learning now is how to get the most out of Tableau Public. It's a data visualisation tool of really surprising power. I've had it sitting on the Mac for a bit but I haven't put the time aside to really explore it. But I'm going to.” - Ben Proctor, director, Likeaword consultancy.



“Using video, in its many formats, for digital communications. I love learning new skills and know I have a lot to learn, but hope I’m not the only one who gets the adage “Don’t laugh at your parents learning to use social media, they taught you to use a spoon.”” - Annamarie Desmond-Storey, marketing communications officer, Riverside.


“Learn to delegate better and let go of things that other people can help with.


The wife calls me a ‘control freak’ and she’s probably on the button with that diagnosis. I see it as a positive, as everything gets delivered to the best of my ability, a sort of quality control you could say.


“However, in order for our business to grow we need to maximise the skills of others…so that’s my learning goal for the school year ahead.” -  Russ Cockburn, director of Cucumber PR.


Balance leadership and delivery


"The one thing I want to learn next is how to effectively balance system leadership and delivery with local leadership and delivery because I believe now more than ever practitioners need to step up and help radically transform public services for everyone." - Carl Haggerty, digital communications manager, Devon County Council.


"Storytelling. With video becoming so important in the comms mix, there is a role for powerful, compelling communications that use these techniques. Will also be very useful for presentations and training sessions." - Matt Murray, senior advisor, digital communications, Redlands Council.

Comms on rollerskates


"If there was a course called Comms on Roller Skates, I'd sign up for it immediately. I want to learn what is on the horizon in the next few years in terms of good communications and how I can get my messages out, land them using multiple platforms effectively, and evaluate them - all in the time it takes for the next request for work to come in." - Francesca Glynn-Jones, communications manager, Environment Agency.


Dan Slee is co-founder of comms2point0.

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