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PR Interview with Anton Dominique, COO/CFO at the London School of Marketing

London School of Marketing has recently launched a part time MBA. How can this help marketers and PRs in their careers?

Marketers and PRs get the opportunity to acquire new skills while simultaneously continuing to build their career prospects. We understand the convenience of part-time evening courses for working professionals. Our part-time MBA is ideal for those who need to continue earning while they study, who want to combine their education with work experience and who do not wish to take a break from their career progression.

How would a PR/marketer go about finding a course relevant to their career?

We offer a skill gap analysis to find out where the PR/marketer needs support, and course advisors are available to ensure it is the right course for them.

A good starting point would be to look at the professional qualifications awarded by The Chartered Institute of Marketing. CIM, being the world’s largest professional marketing body, develops courses which are very practical/non-academic and are delivered to meet specific role requirements within industry. Each CIM course level is designed for a specific job function.

The Chartered Institute of Marketing has developed a great tool to help prospective students assess which level will be of most benefit to their professional marketing development. It is a simple to use online test, which will indicate your current marketing knowledge and will determine which course level will be most appropriate for you to commence your studies. 

How about financing and finding time for study?

Studying while doing a full-time job can be quite demanding. However, if you pick a course which includes flexible services such as around the clock support, you will be able to make it through with a bit of careful planning.

Finding time to dedicate towards studies while working full-time can be tricky. Trying to find this balance will not be easy, but no reward comes without sacrifice. At LSM, students are able to register and pay on a module-by-module basis thus making studies not only flexible but affordable too. Most professional CIM qualifications are studied over a period of one year while working simultaneously; however with this flexibility students are able to complete their studies over a longer or shorter period as preferred. Students are also able to mix between study modes to find an ideal blend. It’s possible to take some course modules as an online learning study option and others by attending evening or Saturday lessons. At LSM, we have designed a unique integrated modular study system that accommodates different learning styles and provide the flexibility for the student to customise the course as per his or her preference.

With regards to financing your studies, it is definitely worthwhile checking to see whether your employer will be willing to sponsor you. Over 80% of London School of Marketing’s students are paid for by the organisation they work for. There is a great document which can be downloaded from CIM’s website called the Professional Marketing Standards. This is particularly helpful in pitching for sponsorship as it outlines the key competencies attained after completion of a CIM qualification.

The likes of Adidas, the BBC and Apple use LSM to educate their employees in marketing. What long-term benefits do companies and brands find from this?

Organisations are made up of people. It is the collective skills and knowledge of people that helps organisations to gain a competitive advantage and differentiate from other players. Therefore, every successful company should invest in employee development and enhance their intellectual capital. Organisations have to affiliate with the correct educational institutes to ensure that their employees can benefit from the courses without disrupting their work duties. Accordingly, they should seek course providers that offer flexibility as well as applied knowledge.

Does it matter if a person looking to enter the PR industry has a degree in PR or not?

I believe many successful organisations believe in recruiting for attitude and training for skill. While a degree in PR will definitely add colour to one’s CV, it is the experience that matters. Public relations are about networking, negotiating and people management. It is unlikely that these skills can only be learnt through text books. A degree in PR will undoubtedly set the foundation.

What skills are vital to today’s PR industry?

PR industry boundaries are widening with digital media playing a key role. In order to prosper in today’s PR industry; one should have the following skills

-Ability to contextualise solutions to suit business needsetworking skills

-Ability to integrate ROI measures into activity

-Managing and prioritising business needs

-Knowledge of all marketing communication channels

In your opinion, are marketing and PR graduates well-equipped to work in the industry today, or are there skills gaps?

In most courses, graduates are taught theory and not their application. To add up to it, the applicability of some of the theories used in the academic world for today’s market is highly questionable. Marketing and PR graduate courses should include work-based assessments to provide students an opportunity to put what they study into practice before they step into the corporate world.

What are the three golden rules of managing corporate reputation?

No organisation can compete and thrive over the long term with only great products and services. It must increasingly demonstrate that it is a good corporate citizen; ethically and transparently governed; sensitive to its impact on the environment; concerned for the people it touches through its activities – employees, customers and communities. Balancing these demands requires active management of its reputation.

These are the three golden rules in managing corporate reputation:

1. Focus on the whole organisation: Managing reputation effectively over the long term is an organisation wide process, requiring a focus on the culture of the organisation, its strategies, systems, processes and communications, including internal communications. These must all be consistent and aligned with the organisation's brand and values; so that the organisation behaves in a manner consistent with the image and perceptions of itself it wishes to communicate to its key stakeholders. 'If you want a good reputation, you must be how you aspire to be seen' (Socrates)

2. Clarify and prioritise key stakeholders: Stakeholders are all the groups impacted by the organisation's activities or who can impact the organisation. Organisations of all sizes and sectors should seek to understand the scope and scale of their impact on these groups – not just customers. Furthermore, organisations should be able to prioritise key stakeholders so that the available resources for communications and relationship building are applied where they are needed most in supporting the achievement of the organisation's strategic objectives.

3. Integrate communications: Consistent messages across all channels, media and audiences are critical in developing and maintaining a strong reputation. Differences in those messages causes confusion and breeds mistrust credibility problems. This means ensuring that what is communicated aligns in tone, content and values whether the communication is aimed at investors and shareholders, local community groups, government and regulators, customers or the media.

Applying these golden rules will ensure that in times of crisis, or when the organisation needs the support of its stakeholders, it has sufficient trust, credibility and reliability to achieve its aims.

Major issues in the PR industry are proving good ROI and integrating different disciplines. How can LSM’s courses maybe help the industry with this?

We employ lecturers who combine academic and professional experience, who as a result are in an excellent position to combine the academic requirements needed to successfully complete academic courses with a real-world understanding of the importance of ROI and communication integration.

One of the issues frequently discussed with students at all levels is the value-add of marketing and, in more future-oriented classes, the convergence of the various elements of marketing communications into the over-arching field of ‘customer persuasion’.

There is a balance, of course. Marketers, like everyone else, are responsible for their actions. They should not ‘persuade’ customers and potential customers to act against their own interests.

Again, because of the nature of the lecturing team at LSM and its firm roots in the business world, we are all acutely conscious of the importance of long term customer relationships.

Long term customer relationships mean, amongst other things, that while marketers may ‘persuade’, they should persuade responsibly. In this, as in many other areas, the media acts as both a medium of communication and an honest broker between the marketer and the customer or potential customer. We teach that the media is to be treated with respect, as neither the friend nor the enemy of the marketer, but as an independent estate.

As the digital and marketing landscape changes, what courses do you think the London School of Marketing would offer in the future?

At the present time LSM has already introduced the DMI (Digital Marketing Institute)-based digital marketing masterclasses in an effort to address the current gap in the provision market.  In the near future an MSc in digital marketing will also be designed and validated by ARU for delivery in September 2014.