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If you want to get to the top, financial literacy in comms is essential.

1 December 2013

 amanda cleavage

Why aren’t there more communications professionals on the main boards of companies? Amanda Fone wrote exclusively for the CiPR about the need for stronger financial literacy and deeper commercial experience to get communications professionals on the board.

You are ambitious, driven and doing well in your PR career. Many experienced practitioners you know are well equipped with skills in communications planning, strategy and activation, stakeholder and reputation management, press relations, crisis management, employee engagement. And more and more are becoming digital natives. So what is missing? Two things: stronger financial literacy, and deeper commercial experience and understanding. We all need to gain these skills if we want to have any chance of punching at the same weight in the C suite as our friends in Finance and Sales.

PR practitioners, whether in house or agency side, need to be able to read a p&l and young professionals should be encouraged to ask for training, early in their career, in basic management accounting so they can understand the difference between top line and bottom line profit, EBIT, fixed costs and variable costs, budgeting, forecasting, cash flow etc. This knowledge will empower you, if you are in an agency, to have the confidence to converse intelligently with your clients’ finance and procurement teams when pitching. And if you are working in-house, you will acquire the insight and knowledge to gain traction and respect internally when trying to get communications budgets signed off.

With greater financial literacy PR professionals will be more confident about measurement and ROI, areas never far from the finance and commercial directors’ thoughts. It is never too early to learn. Sales and commercial executives are thrown into conversations about financials early on in their careers and are much better versed and at ease with budgets, targets, cost of time invested vs output/productivity.

At f1 we are committed to seeing more in-house communications professionals rise to the senior leadership team. We encourage you to spend more time with the finance, procurement and sales experts in your company, especially those of you with your eye on the top job. For those of you with true entrepreneurial flair, this insight is vital to give you the confidence to start up agencies of your own.

A fortnight ago we had confirmation that economic growth forecasts are ahead of target. The UK is officially out of recession. Unemployment is down to 7.6%. There will be an inevitable war for talent as FDs start to release budgets to hire for growth. Now is the perfect time for our profession to be championing Public Relations as a career of choice in our schools and colleges. Now is the time to welcome more diversity of background into our profession. The work that the CIPR and the PRCA are doing around apprenticeships and paid work experience, and their schools programmes is to be commended. Other professions such as accountancy, law, banking, retail and technology are much more progressive and sophisticated in their targeting of 16-18 year olds.

The Public Relations industry can and must become much more visible as a career of choice to teenagers as they make their A-level and tertiary education decisions. Whatever stage of your career you are at, try to get involved in a programme like www.inspiringthefuture.org so that young people can get a better understanding of the PR career. Most companies will be delighted to let their staff take a day or afternoon’s leave to go to their local school to talk about our profession. This way we will help revolutionise the careers advice that our young people get at school and help them make more informed career choices.

Our young people need role models badly and every one of us has our own story to tell and inspire futures generations with. Let’s get PR firmly on the map as a destination career and ensure we attract the best talent and retain it in our industry. f1 recruitment will be running the Careers Centre, one of the free show features at The Public Relations Show.

See more on the CiPR blog at: http://www.prshow13.co.uk/news/item/100-the-future-is-here#sthash.S1gXIehG.dpuf