Julie Mate, an elected representative of Guild members on the management council, initiated a survey last autumn to get a clearer picture of the training and professional development needs and preferences of Members and Friends of the Guild.
She reports here on the outcome, which is helping to shape a new programme of CPD opportunities, starting with a skills workshop on Thursday, February 27 covering video production for the web, encouraging website traffic, and the successful use of webinars – online meetings.
First, a big thank you to all those members who completed the BGAJ Professional Development questionnaire late last year.
Judging by the responses, there is an unmistakable interest amongst the members who responded for professional training, but any training has to be relevant, accessible and above all affordable.
No surprises there then! But we now have a far clearer picture about the type of training that is most in demand, and a far better idea about the factors affecting the take up of particular types of training and the most preferred ways in which training is delivered.
Kicking off with questions about current involvement in training, most respondents had an annual target of two training days and most were achieving this target.
Asked if this training involved a formal CPD membership scheme, only 10% of respondents said they were part of a scheme and were recording points on an ongoing basis, with slightly more, 23%, recording CPD points on an informal basis.
Costs and travel
The cost of training is one of the most important attendance considerations, with most respondents being prepared to pay £50 for a 2.5 hour course; £100-150 for a half-day course; and £150-200 for day-long course.
On an annual basis, most were looking to spend between £300 and £500 on professional training and would reasonably travel 50 to 100 miles to attend.
Given a list of 24 possible town and city locations across the length and breadth of the country, there were very clear preferences. The top five locations were: Stoneleigh area, Birmingham, London and Oxford, with Bristol and Peterborough coming equal fifth.
What does that button do again? Members and Friends on a Guild ‘get that camera off auto’ photography skills course.
Type of training
One of the largest sections of the questionnaire was designed to find out what courses members were most interested in.
From a comprehensive list of 13 ‘Writing Courses’, the five most popular were: ‘writing for the web’, ‘features writing’, ‘writing for impact and creativity’, ‘news writing for print and online’ and ‘writing effective press releases’.
When asked to list their preference for ‘PR and Marketing Courses’, from a list of 14 the favourites were: ‘strategic PR and management’, ‘measuring and evaluating PR’, ‘creating a PR strategy’, ‘digital marketing’ and ‘planning and managing PR campaigns’.
Top of the poll for ‘Social Media and Digital Media Courses’ from a list of 13 were: ‘using social media effectively’, ‘social media and PR’, ‘Google analytics for PR’, ‘effective blogging’ and ‘how to create video content for the web’.
‘Other courses’ getting the majority thumbs up were: ‘photography master class for writers’, ‘photograph image editing’, ‘keep it legal: media law workshop’, ‘presentation skills and public speaking’.
Asked to provide further suggestions for courses not listed, members’ wish list included: ‘setting up as a freelance or limited company (all the legals)’, ‘leadership’, ‘selling words and images in a digital age’, ‘managing effective design projects’, ‘website development’.
Learning new skills: Members and Friends of the Guild at a business-to-business social media workshop.
Web-based training and media events
Another section on the questionnaire quizzed members about the role of webinars and whether web-based training offers a possible, more economical alternative to some face-to-face GAJ courses.
A resounding 78% said yes they would interested in training via webinar – either live or recorded/downloadable. Given a choice, most favoured a morning webinar versus any other time of day, and a Wednesday was the most practical and popular weekday for participation.
Interestingly, only 26% of respondents had ever taken part in a webinar event (other than in-house training) and those event experiences were wide ranging – from ‘Outlook efficiency training’ to ‘Inland Revenue for the self-employed’, from ‘Google Analytics to press list management’.
There was a mixed response to a question about web-based media events – listing examples such as live coverage of speakers at major conferences and organised events allowing two-way interaction were listed – to which 60 to 70%, of respondents showed an interest.
To sum up, overall the questionnaire findings have provided the Guild with much needed information about the importance and role of professional training amongst its members, providing confidence to increase and widen the courses we provide.
As a bonus, valuable feedback has introduced us to a number of new professional trainers and potential sponsors to help further develop a BGAJ professional training programme.
Prize draw winner: Our congratulations to Rachel Lovell, the first name out of the prize draw box and winner of the 2014 IFAJ Congress Musto jacket.