My name is Gill Connelly. I help organisations make change happen.

Change affects every organisation and has the greatest chance of success when those tasked with making it happen want it to happen.

We humans can achieve pretty much anything when we want it enough. And one way to get us to really want it is engaging and informed communication.

Our need to understand is hard wired and starts early.  We are perhaps at our most vocal as toddlers: ‘WHY?’ ‘What IS that?’ ‘Are we there yet?’ but we NEVER grow out of it.  If you want change to happen don’t make the mistake of telling people what to do, help them understand.

Communication takes effort. An email from the boss is not job done. Brilliant, fabulous, engaging communication is NOT a one off exercise. It is strategic, complex, multi-media and changing ALL the time.

It can be a challenge for a small business like mine to keep on top of where best practice is at and so from time to time I seek out opportunities to develop my own skills and expertise by spending time with other businesses.  For this stint, I wanted to focus on understanding just how much things are changing in the world of Communication and PR.

My friend Jo works in the industry. She won the CIPR Outstanding Young Communicator of the Year in 2012 and suggested that she hook me up for a coffee and a chat with the CIPR Scotland Chair, Laura Sutherland. My experience of approaching people to spend time learning about their businesses and career paths has been extremely positive.  If you haven’t tried it, give it a go.  Not only will you gain a unique insight into a new business/sector you will add to your network. A good network is one of the most valuable assets your career will ever have.

Laura was not only happy to chat over coffee to tell me about how the CIPR supports professional development for the industry she also invited me to spend some time with her business, Aura.  We agreed I’d spend Fridays with her in July.

I arrived at Aura’s west end offices on Friday, 5 July coffees in tow, potentially the oldest intern in town. Laura was waiting for me with Eddie, her doggie. We got settled in, doggie under the desk, and channelling my inner Oprah I proceeded to ‘interview’ Laura to uncover the story behind Aura.

Those of you who have seen Laura in action will know that she has a strong impact. She is assertive, driven, determined and she thinks big picture. I imagine many people consider her a force to be reckoned with. This undoubtedly stems from her passion for the industry. As CIPR Chair she wants to attract new talent and raise professional standards. As MD at Aura she wants to deliver the very best communications strategy for her clients. Very few business owners with this vision and drive are as open and willing to share as she is.

As we talked, she thoughtfully considered all of my questions and happily shared everything from how she first got into the industry, her career to-date, how Aura came to be, how Aura engages with clients and why the business has developed to incorporate the word ‘Engage’.

She gave me an insight into how CIPR Scotland operates and adds value to the membership and shared case studies to help me understand how Aura adds value for its clients from the initial pitch through to strategy development and delivery.

We also discovered that our businesses have a lot in common.  The ability to build and maintain good relationships is essential.  Get this right and you will attract new clients through referral.  Aura has built its book of clients through results and positive feedback from previous projects. The client may not know exactly what they want. Therefore the ability to facilitate and influence their thinking is a must.  Get this right and the client will get the best solution for their business and you will positively differentiate yourself from the competition.  Bespoke solutions are always best.  Many small businesses offer the same solution to every client whether it is a fit or not. Aura creates every solution from scratch applying first principles thinking in a strategic context. That way the communications strategy is fully integrated into the business and enables the client to deliver on their objectives. Resistance to change is normal. Aura often encounters resistance to great ideas.  Resistance can be a nightmare but is also a gift.  It is potentially one of the greatest challenges for any external consultant. However, if you have built a strong relationship with the client, that will enable you to have a clear conversation with them and get past resistance.

Learning from her own experience with Aura has strengthened Laura’s resolve to ensure that CIPR Scotland helps new and existing talent to develop these consulting skills.  She has also started dialogue with Universities who deliver CIPR Accredited courses to look at how CIPR Scotland can help new graduates at the very start of their career.  I know from my own experience that these ‘employability skills’ are very much in demand from employers across all sectors.    Take a look at the CIPR Freshly Brewed sessions which can help you develop some of these skills.

Laura asked if I’d write a blog post to share my experience at Aura in July.  I hope this has given you a flavour of our Friday conversations.

I want to sign off by saying a big thank you to Laura. Our Fridays gave me the opportunity to gain a fascinating insight into your industry, helped me develop an understanding of the marketplace in which Aura operates and refreshed my understanding of where communications is at. I may even have been inspired to start my own blog.

But of course the last word has to go to Eddie. The cutest colleague I’ve worked with in a long time.

Blog post by Gill Connelly