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Where are companies turning for digital professional development?

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Allison Kent-Smith, founder of Smith & Beta, a talent development firm, had an interesting quote in a post this week:

“Agencies continue to invest in acquiring talent versus developing talent. The surprising thing is that there’s not more investment in the people that walk in the doors every day.”

Kent-Smith was talking about ad agencies in this particular quote–but couldn’t you say the same for PR firms and PR functions within large organizations? Do we really work hard to develop our internal talent on a daily basis?

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And, it really gets interesting when you start talking about DIGITAL or SOCIAL talent within those teams. Sure, companies are seeking top digital and social talent–but what are they doing to DEVELOP these folks?

Now, I don’t currently work for a large organization (although many large orgs are my clients). I don’t work for an agency. So, I’m not sure I’m qualified to have a strong opinion here. But, I have a hunch most organizations and agencies aren’t doing an optimal job in this area.

And, according to Smith & Beta’s “State of Advertising Talent Report”, I may be right.

According to the report, “agency employees frequently rely on sources other than their employers to learn how to do their jobs. Thirty-two percent of respondents said they learned helpful job skills on their own or from friends or peers. Another 23% relied on blogs, books or online resources. Only 9% said management imparted those skills, and another 9% relied on events or conferences.”

If that’s happening at ad agencies, my guess is it’s probably happening at PR agencies and large companies, too.

We’re neglecting our digital and social talent, folks. And, it’s time we start to change that.

This issue will be front-and-center when I sit down with Alex Tan, director of digital at Golin and Matt Rozen, director of social at Adobe on Sept. 14 at the University of Minnesota for the first-ever Talking Points Speaker Series event (register here–only 25 spots remain!).

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Back to the issue at hand. The challenge is, historically, PR and comms folks turned to professional organizations like PRSA, IABC and AMA for professional development. And, over the years, those orgs have done a great job of providing learning opportunities around many areas within PR and communications.

However, I’m not sure that’s the case when it comes to social and digital.

That’s not an indictment on professional organizations–it’s just a observation that no professional org is really doing a good job of providing consistent training and learning opportunities around social and digital topics (outside of MIMA, locally here in Minneapolis).

So, folks are left to turn to friends, colleagues, blogs and their own devices.

That’s fine–social and digital are new and rapidly evolving disciplines. But, I feel like we’re about 10 years in now. It’s time for us to start taking this stuff a little more seriously. It’s time to start investing in our talent and developing people from the ground up.

So, what would I do if I were managing a social or digital team and I wanted to provide more structured professional development opportunities?

I’d start creating a program of my own–right in-house.

I’d bring in thought leaders from across different sub-disciplines within social and digital to talk about niche topics and evolving areas.

I’d create mini-mastermind groups around different topics, led by internal folks who have a particular expertise or passion in the subject matter. That way, our internal experts would create more internal experts by sharing the knowledge they’ve gleaned.

I’d create a weekly email where I’d aggregate the best posts and articles I read this past week for my team to review (sound familiar? Shameless plug: You can sign up for Talking Points HERE!) so they could stay on top of industry trends, new tools and case studies.

I’d bring in peers from other agencies or companies to talk about case studies from time to time and commiserate on best practices and what they’re seeing in the industry.

Doesn’t sound all that hard, right? But, it would require TIME and COMMITMENT. I hope we see more of both of those soon.

In the meantime, again, hope you’ll join us on Sept. 14 to talk more about this topic–and a whole lot more about the social media skills gap–on the University of Minnesota campus (again–register here).

photo credit: BLC07_ 051 via photopin (license)

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Where are companies turning for digital professional development?

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