Jenna Ciancia - Weber Shandwick

Name: Jenna Ciancia MCIPR

Current Job title: Account Manager
Current company: Weber Shandwick

Level of CIPR Qualification studied: CIPR Diploma
Year of graduation: 2012

Job title when studying: PR Executive
Company when studying: VisitScotland

Why did you decide to study a professional qualification in Public Relations?

I was confident in my role at work and had been in my position for a while. I was at a point in my career where I felt ready for a new challenge, and the additional knowledge and skills gained from an accredited higher education course appealed to me.

I had always enjoyed studying and it had been a few years since I had left university, so I thought that the CIPR Diploma would give me challenge I was looking for while offering an opportunity to add value and a new perspective to my team's plans and activity at work.

My course was employer funded, and I suggested doing the course after reading about it on the CIPR website. I have always been a member since I finished my undergraduate degree in PR and Psychology, and I had been keeping an eye on training and learning opportunities as a way of keeping my skills fresh and relevant.

I was a PR Executive at the time, and while I had a lot of consumer experience, I was hoping that the course would broaden my understanding of the PR skills and sectors that I hadn't had much experience of previously.

Thinking back on the course, what aspect did you enjoy the most?

The part of the course I most enjoyed was the final project. This gave me a chance to learn about an area related to PR which I didn't have a huge amount of knowledge in. I chose to look at evaluation, and I was extremely luck as my employer allowed me to attend the AMEC Conference and meet some of the world's PR measurement specialists. I followed up with interviews and really learned a lot about evaluation and measurement to feed back to my team at work.

Thinking back on the course, what aspect did you find the most challenging?

The most difficult part of the course was managing a busy work schedule with the demands of studying. I am really glad I did the course and extremely happy with my results, but I think I underestimated the amount of time the project in particular would take, especially as I wanted to do the topic justice. I was working in London at the time supporting media visiting the UK for the Olympic Games, and trying to do the project in a hotel room between shifts wasn't exactly fun! I had to defer my final project until the following term as I just didn't have the time during the busy summer months.

Thinking back on the course, would you have done anything differently?

Yes! I would have started the final project earlier! The project is a fairly substantial task and it can take a long time to decide on a topic and do enough research and reading to have the grounding and knowledge to actually begin writing. A well planned and organised project with key milestones will make completing the project much easier.

What was the topic of your final project assignment?

I picked evaluation as a topic of research as my manager at the time was looking at my team's objectives and determining new measurement criteria which better reflected the impact and input that consumer PR was having as part of the wider marketing mix.

My project therefore concentrated on the evaluation and measurement of consumer PR and whether there were alternative measures to PR value and AVE. I was lucky as there was a huge amount of research across the fields of integrated marketing communication, corporate communication, management and advertising, all of which contained themes and ideas that linked well and provided an integrated view of the role of PR in business.

To support my research I also attended the AMEC conference (International association for the measurement and evaluation of communication) while writing my project. This was an amazing way to bring my academic reading to life, learning about real life examples of how corporate bodies are pushing the boundaries of measurement and evaluation. I was exceptionally lucky that my work supported me in attending, and the contacts I made were able to provide interviews following the event.

What key learnings from your qualification have you applied to day-to-day practice?

My qualification provided me with the confidence to question. To ask what impact a proposed campaign will have, to ask if it will really be reaching the right audience, and to ask how we are planning to demonstrate success.

Has completing your CIPR qualification had a positive impact on your career?

Since I completed the CIPR Diploma I have moved from in-house to agency, and now work at Weber Shandwick in Edinburgh. I think that my course made me feel more confident in my ability to be strategic, and this confidence pushed me to want to try new things and look for new challenges.

While I loved my previous role, working in agency has allowed me to experience new sectors that I couldn't have imagined working in previously. While this can be a challenge, it is a challenge that I think that I felt ready for after my Diploma had finished.

Have you progressed on to any other formal learning after your qualification?

As the Diploma was quite academic I decided to do the something quite practical and hands on this year, and have just finished a radio production course at the Bauer Academy.

I am also considering going back to formal learning later on this year, and at the moment the Chartered Institute of Marketing Diploma might be my next step. I feel that an understanding of the connectivity between PR and marketing is a real bonus for clients and employers, and will only be a bonus as the communications world becomes more integrated.