Ellen Gunning is a Director at PR Training Academy. In an interview with Ellen IIBN asked what does PR Training Online do?

You can go to the PR Training Academy Website here www.prtrainingonline.com

You can also see a video about PR Training Academy here PR Training Onine

The PR Training Academy is an online, upskilling, member organisation for communications professionals, business associations and SMEs. Change in the communications industry is ever-present, but the speed of change is quite phenomenal if you are dealing with online and offline media and trying to keep up to date for your business, or for your clients. Our platform provides bite-sized, max 3-hour, focused upskilling for members using text, audio and video content. We don’t do the big picture courses – we do the bow and arrow ones like writing a feature article, training your voice for radio, organising award-winning functions or shooting video footage with your smartphone. We launched in September of last year in Estonia, the e-Learning capital of Europe, and have been amazed and delighted with the level of interest from SME business owners, PR consultancies, representative bodies and associations. Ours is an annual subscription model offering 14 courses to start and guaranteeing 6 new courses every quarter. That’s great value for €575!

What are your main priorities and goals in your role?

I have two key priorities. In Q1 of this year we will onboard member-associations in Australia, America and the UK and we are in discussion with many others. One of my key priorities is to continue to grow the business globally. The other, which ties back to my 30 years in PR, is to continue to develop and create courses which are relevant, cutting-edge, beautifully crafted and of tremendous value to our members.  I really enjoy doing that too!

What are your biggest challenges?

We are growing very fast, so finding the right staff – at speed – is a challenge. I hand-picked all of the initial team. They had worked with me in the past, or I knew them for a number of years, so I was very familiar with them, and their style, and they know my style of working. One of the challenges will undoubtedly be finding really good people to fit into the business and have that vital combination of skills and a sense of humour! Another challenge will be reflecting multiple cultures, continents and ethnicities in our training and in our staff. Whether you are studying with us in Bahrain, Sydney, Beijing, London, Chicago or Munich our courses should reflect your reality. That’s a challenge – but one we are dealing with on a daily basis.

How do you keep your team/staff motivated?

Ask me in another year or two – we are still too new to be anything BUT super-motivated!

What are the challenges facing your industry going forward?

The communications industry has multiple challenges. On the journalism side, the value of good research and investigation is being reduced by citizen journalism and instant news. The level of skill that a journalist now needs – writing, broadcasting, shooting video footage, taking photos – has, by comparison, vastly increased in the last decade. On the PR side of things, the challenges are the speed of communications and communications change. The growth of fake news, the challenge of controlling a message in a fast-paced environment, and the multiplicity of media outlets and platforms all create pressure to continually upskill and re-strategise.

What new trends are emerging in your industry?

The increasing use of AI in public relations is an obvious one. PR people are monitoring so many media platforms that AI has become a key ingredient. PR is also using more automated sentiment analysis. We need to know not only the share of voice (the number of people who interact with you) but the tone of voice (whether it is positive or negative). In addition, PR is using better automated management tools to control the flow of work and team interaction.

Are there any major changes you would like to see in your sector?

I’d like to see more young men coming into the profession. We still attract much larger numbers of women than men. I’m a firm believer that an equal mix of both is the healthiest way for any business or industry to proceed.

Are you finding any skills gaps in the market?

Our key skills needs are in the areas of public relations, content creation, videography, social media, sales and client management. Thankfully, we are not experiencing a gap in any of those areas at the moment.

How did your strategy develop in the context of the banking crisis and economic crisis?

The PR Training Academy was born in the middle of the banking and economic crisis when we decided to conduct research, with Opinions.ie, to determine the health of the PR industry and the issues that were uppermost in practitioners’ minds. We quickly realised that PR people were looking for one reliable resource which would upskill them, in real time, from a communications perspective. The PR Training Academy was born!

How will Brexit affect you, or have you started to feel the effects already?

We have built the business with Brexit in mind and have cocooned ourselves from the impact as much as possible.

How do you define success and what drives you to succeed?

Everyone who knows me will tell you that my idea of success is ‘world domination’. I would really love every PR practitioner in the world to reference the PR Training Academy as their go-to destination of choice for upskilling. Business success, for me, is about identifying and satisfying a gap in my industry. What drives me to succeed, personally, is actually harder to pin down. I think my drive simply reflects the drive and passion that my parents had when I was young.

What’s the best advice you’ve been given, or would give, in business?

The best advice I’ve ever been given is around belief in yourself. I have no idea who said “if you believe you can, you are right. If you believe you can’t, you are right”. That’s undoubtedly one of the best pieces of advice I ever received. Another, about visualisation, is “if you can’t see it (in this case ‘success’), you can’t be it”.

My advice to others in business is simple: try. I would rather fail, having tried, than never attempt something for fear of failure. I would be OK with failing so long as I knew that I had given it my all. I would be haunted by an opportunity that I simply lacked the courage to pursue. That, undoubtedly, is the advice that I would give to others.

What have been your highlights in business over the past year?

The past year has been fabulously exciting. The third edition of my book – Public Relations a practical approach – was published by Macmillan Higher Education in London. It is an international text which is taught at universities globally. The new edition created invitations for me to speak at conferences all over the world – which was fabulous (I love talking and travel!!). I also love learning new things. When I formed the PR Training Academy, I entered a world of equity funding, raising seed capital and dealing with venture capitalists – all of which was new territory for me.

What’s next for your company?

In Q1 of this year, we are signing-up companies in Australia, USA and UK which is really exciting. We need to continue the momentum that these new clients have created by building on these wins and bringing more clients on board. In the coming year we need to create 24 new courses (already in hand), recruit new members of staff, develop more bespoke technology and successfully manage a fast-growing, global brand.

What opportunities or plans for growth do you see in 2020?

We are currently challenged by the multiple time zones in which we will find ourselves operating by end March 2020. Our growth will focus on the three areas that we are, effectively, launching in.

Where do you want your business/brand to be this time next year?

I want the brand to be very well known in the PR industry and the broader business community, globally, as the number one resource for online PR and communications training.

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