PR and coding: learning the basics

Public Relations isn’t stagnant and it’s important practitioners continue to up-skill

For a long time I’ve been talking about professional development and learning new skills out-with the traditional PR and communication skillset. Why? As PR continues to evolve, and as we push harder for public relations to be valued as a strategic business function and have a seat at the boardroom table, we need to be able to demonstrate that we know what we’re talking about.

At PRFest in June, I announced a collaboration with Code Clan. We’re holding a 2-hour taster event in Code Clan’s Glasgow hub on 20 September. There are only 10 spaces left! (Book here)

Coding isn’t something you’d immediately think of when describing PR skills, but the more we move into the tech space, the more we need to understand basic code.

Firstly, because if we (senior PR practitioners) are to develop and lead on strategies which use the best skills and experience, you need to know about them. Secondly, because coding can actually come in handy to help us overcome a number of challenges.

PR and coding

We need to open our minds to how PR and coding can work

Before I announced the collaboration, I had been thinking about how coding could help me in my own job, with tasks like segmenting and analysing data, knowing how to fix things in a CMS (content management system) and basically be more agile in getting things done quicker and more effectively. I then saw a fellow PR/comms practitioner attend a course by Code Clan and I asked how he got on. He loved it. It was hard work but he sees the value of coding skills.

Not everyone is as forward thinking as us though. When I put a poll out on Twitter asking people if they had skills in coding or wanted to learn more, there was a big appetite to learn. There were one or two people, however, who said things like “if I want an app built, I’ll hire a specialist to do it.” Whilst I fully appreciate PR practitioners are not there to do every task and specialise in every area, I think people should be more open-minded about what basic things they can learn and how it can help them.

Being quicker and more effective

I mentioned data earlier. Part of any proposal I write, data is always involved. Why? Because unless you have data, you don’t have insights, if you don’t have insight, you can’t develop an informed strategy, which understands the audience and can effectively help a business to achieve what it needs to. Data is a huge part of our jobs.

Just think, as an example, what if we stopped messing around with excel sheets, copying and pasting, adding in formulas etc… what if we learned how to develop our own code which would help us to quickly analyse data?

Why I think PR and coding is a well married

When Code Clan and I were talking about how we pitch the taster event to PR practitioners, they sent me this link. Not only does it explain in more detail, the advantages of learning to code and the outcomes of your learning, but it makes the case that we can’t truly integrate PR, communication and digital marketing without knowing code.

By nature of our jobs as marketers, we are required to use code to:

  • Strategically guide website and app development, and familiarize ourselves with the latest trends, at least enough to know what’s possible and applicable to specific business needs.
  • Update and manipulate web pages, and take care of quick fixes that may have at one time required developer help.
  • Integrate tracking and reporting technologies to collect data and report on performance.

I, for one, am looking forward to the taster event on 20 September with Code Clan, in collaboration with PRFest. I think it’ll inspire me to think differently, pursue further learning for coding and I’m hoping it’ll teach me more about the language used and how I can use that. I hope to see you there!

If successful, we’re already discussing the possibility of a full-day training session for PR professionals. If you want to take part in this survey, it’ll help us understand some of the challenges you face and help input to the learning content.

I’d be grateful if you could share this post with your PR and communication followers. I am sure it’ll give them a nudge, even just to start thinking about how PR and coding can work together.