Project management – an essential skill for communicators

Image by Andrew Martin from Pixabay
Image by Andrew Martin from Pixabay

The first time I joined a change programme that was being delivered to high project management standards I was a bit shocked – what was all this stuff about change control, risks, issues, milestones and deliverables?

It wasn’t long before I was converted and since then I have realised that most of the issues I have seen on change projects have been because the principles of project management aren’t being applied.

As communicators we can’t think that process doesn’t apply to us. It is absolutely essential. Project management can save time, save money and help avoid mess ups.

That is why we have produced a PR Place guide to project management and why we run our course in it at PR Academy.

So how more specifically can project management help us be more effective PR and communication practitioners? Here is a recap from a post I wrote recently for Linkedin. Here are three ways (there are lots more):

  1. You can’t do it all. When we run our project management course, one of the first things we talk about is the balance between cost, time and quality/scope. The client has changed his or her mind and wants it gold plated? That’s fine but there is an impact on cost and time. You need it yesterday? OK, but we need to either throw more people at it or reduce the scope/quality. Us communication folk can be a bit too nice for our own good – we never want to say no! Understanding this balancing act at least helps us to have an informed conversation about what is and isn’t possible.
  2. You need to get the requirements right. There was an episode of The Apprentice when Sir Alan Sugar sent teams off to buy an anatomical skeleton. The objective was to buy it as cheaply as possible and Sir Alan penalised a team that came back with a cardboard flat pack one. Thing was, he had never specified what it had to be made of. They should not have been penalised! Time spent buttoning down exactly what the client wants- or exactly what you want - can save a lot of time and heart ache further down the line.
  3. You need to understand the risks. As communicators we are usually good at thinking about what can go wrong – after all, that’s what can impact on reputation. Project management teaches us how to capture, track and deal with risk in a planned way. This is one of the exercises that I enjoy the most on our course. Mary McKinlay who helped me to design the course, always reminds me that we should think about risk and opportunity – i.e. can you turn something around and make it work for you?

Download your free guide to project management (registration required). 

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About the author

Ann Pilkington

Ann is a co-founder of PR Academy, a leading provider of public relations and communication education.  Her special areas of interest are internal communication and project communication.

Ann leads PR Academy’s CIPR internal comms certificate.


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