Steve Chu – South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue

Steve ChuName: Steve Chu

Current Job title: Head of Strategy and Engagement
Current company: South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue

Level of CIPR Qualification studied: Diploma
Year of graduation: 2005

Job title when studying: Communications Manager
Company when studying: Sheffield Wednesday Football Club

Twitter: @stevechu75

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

I loved my job at Sheffield Wednesday but I'd gone as far as I could. I had no prospect of promotion and was frustrated at being asked to communicate bad decisions without having an input into how those decisions were made. Additionally, whilst I was successful in my role, I had no academic background or training in PR - I'd learned what I knew on the job.

I paid for the course myself and got my employer to release me for the taught modules. It had been a while since I had done any studying and I wanted something to challenge me, and to put on my CV for when I was ready to make the next move.

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

It was great to learn new things and add a theoretical base to the PR I was practising. I found I enjoyed learning again. And the the benefit of attending the taught course is the knowledge and support of lecturers and the shared experiences of fellow students.

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

It was a culture shock to attend lessons, take notes, read texts, and write with references and a bibliography. More than anything, revising for a three-hour exam on PR ethics filled me with dread! Doing this while holding down a demanding full-time job required high levels of motivation and organisation.

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

I wish I hadn't lost my coursework. I was looking for a reference last year and couldn't find it.

What was the topic of your final project assignment?

I was really motivated by the module on PR as a management function which should be central to an organisation's strategy. It led me to question why so few communicators become leaders compared to people with a finance, legal or even a marketing background. It led me to develop a real drive to aspire to a leadership role, not only for myself, to but to become an advocate for communicators to be the Chief Executives of the future.

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

My whole approach shifted from a focus on day-to-day media activity to a real analysis of what role my team is playing in delivering against the overall aims of the organisation. In my current role, I drive my comms team to evaluate their success in terms of the number of fires they can demonstrate they have prevented through campaign work.

Has completing your CIPR qualification had a positive impact on your career? If so, how?

Within two years of completing the Diploma I got my job at SYFR for similar pay but much better prospects. I developed over time to my current position as Head of Strategy and Engagement - a direct result of the influence the Diploma had on me. Having my comms team named the CIPR Yorkshire and Lincolnshire Outstanding In-House Team in December 2013 was the icing on the cake.

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

I have studied for a few leadership courses now, and am always keen to impress upon fellow students the value of leadership communication. I'd like to study for an MBA and research the impact of effective communication on the success of leaders, if I can find some funding!