Gini Dietrich

Seven Professional Development Opportunities to Jumpstart 2017

By: Gini Dietrich | December 14, 2016 | 

Professional Development OpportunitiesOn the seventh day of Christmas, Spin Sucks gave to you seven professional development opps, six PR conferencesfive business books, four online courses, three productivity tools, two lies told about the PR industry, and a phrase to banish forever.

One of the things we’ve been keenly aware of in the past 18 months is communicators do not spend time on their own professional development.

It makes me sad—and angry.

The industry is being taken over by SEO specialists, marketers, and advertisers because we have (as an industry—and certainly not all of us) not kept up with the changing times.

I just saw a new software that delivers influencer outreach.

Who is their target audience?

SEO agencies.


Yes, SEO agencies are doing influencer relations.

The reason this is happening is because, even though “relations” is what communicators do, we’ve not evolved—and they have.

It’s Time for Professional Development

If you do only one thing in 2017 for yourself, get some professional development.

Here are seven free—and paid—ways to do that.

30-Day Communications Challenge

The very first thing you can do is join our 30-Day Communications Challenge, which begins on January 3.

It’s free and we are going to challenge you every, single day (weekends included) in January to build a program that implements a PESO model, and measures its effectiveness.

You will receive:

  • A daily email walking you step-by-step through how to create an integrated PESO communications plan.
  • Writing prompts to help you build out your organization’s story—both internally and externally.
  • Tools, templates, and resources to make the planning process a lot easier.
  • Access to the private 30-Day Communications Challenge channel in the Spin Sucks Slack community.

There might or might not also be some fun things included (a Spin Sucks phone case, what?!) so check it out, get yourself signed up, and we’ll start the year off right.

Online Courses

We talked about online courses that will help with your professional development on the fourth day of Christmas.

You have plenty to choose from.

Here is a short list:

Also check out Coursera and Lynda.

And, if you want to take one along with me, I’m going to be taking the Webinar1K program from Smart Business Revolution during the holidays.

Attend One Conference

On the sixth day of Christmas, I gave you a list of conferences to consider for your own professional development.

They include:

  1. Content Jam
  2. Content Marketing World
  3. B2B Marketing Forum
  4. PRSA International Conference
  5. Social Brand Forum
  6. Social Media Marketing World

There are plenty of others, of course, but I recommended those because I’ve been to each and because I speak at each.

So choose one and then really dig in so you get the most out of it.

Read Business Books

On the fifth day of Christmas, Laura Petrolino recommended five business books that will help you with professional development in 2017.

They include:

I would add On Writing (this is our work book club book for January), Virtual Freedom, and The Art of Strategy.


Hi, my name is Gini and I hate networking.

I’m an introvert so I would much, much prefer to sit in my cave and not talk to anyone.

But even I have found that, when I go out and talk to people, I gain something 10-fold.

Case in point: I spoke at Wine & Web last night and I met some really incredible humans (as well as saw some old and dear friends).

Not only will we have new blog subscribers today, I learned a few things from the attendees that I can immediately implement.

Even if networking is not on your must-do for professional development, I highly encourage you to force yourself to go to one local event every month.

It will be worth it…and then some.

Apply for Jobs

I will admit, I cringed when Erika Heald suggested we include this.

But I listened to what she had to say and, by the end, I was enthralled with the idea.

Apply for one job that you’d never get (nor want) every month.

The idea being that you can understand what people are hiring for and which skills you might be missing.

It also really helps to keep your interview skills fresh because you never know when you might need them again.


And, last but not least, volunteer your time.

Even if you don’t get something out of it—such as new clients or blog subscribers or new business—it’s good to give back.

Plus, even when you think you’re not going to get professional development out of something, someone comes along and surprises you.

So volunteer.

Look to the homeless shelters, the animal shelters, the foster care system, Big Brothers Big Sisters, or other organizations where you have a passion.

Get yourself out there and, I promise, you will be fulfilled in more ways than one.

And now it’s your turn.

What other professional development opportunities would you add to this list?

About Gini Dietrich

Gini Dietrich is the founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, an integrated marketing communications firm. She is the author of Spin Sucks, co-author of Marketing in the Round, and co-host of Inside PR. She also is the lead blogger at Spin Sucks and is the founder of Spin Sucks Pro. Join the Spin Sucks   community!

  • I will be very busy this holiday season. Lots of books to read, lots of online courses to take or re-take.

    I am pretty excited!

    • I have a whole list of things I want to do during the break. And you know what I’ll do? Nothing.

      • I think doing nothing may be a smart plan. WE all need to log out and relax once in a while.

        • Well, that’s the problem, Erika. I want to do maaaaany things, but at the same time, I want to do nothing.
          There is a voice in my head which doesn’t let me do nothing.

      • Shhh! There’s a pretty tight game with Christmas movies binging, so don’t tempt me.

  • Susan Stoga

    Excellent blue print for communicators of all ages and skill levels. I challenge everyone to commit to at least one. And thanks for including foster care on this volunteer list, Gini.

  • paulakiger

    Yay! Bring on the 30 day challenge! And I would add although it’s not PR specific, any time you can expand your language capabilities it’s a plus (Google Translate does NOT substitute for language expertise although it has its place — just don’t use it to, for example, translate your whole Toastmasters speech for your bilingual club without having someone actually check the translation …. #AskMeHowIKnow). That is definitely one of my goals for 2017. I would *love* to do an immersion program somewhere ….. maybe I should see if there is a #CampCorina in Spain. 😉

    • Addie keeps asking me things such as, “How do you say window in Spanish?” “How do you say bumble bee in Spanish?” So she and I are learning Spanish together!

      But I love the idea of #CampCorina!

      • paulakiger

        Oh I LOVE that! I’m sure I’m preaching to the choir but the time to learn is when they are young. It’s one of the reasons I fell in love with Spanish – we were stationed in Puerto Rico when I started school so I had to take Spanish. I’m glad some pieces got implanted in my very young brain! You and she will be having conversaciones well into the future!

  • Heidi Cohen


    I love how you are always finding ways to build your community and help them. I love the 30 day challenge.

    As for any marketing professional, you need to continually invest in yourself or become irrelevant.

    Erika Heald’s job interview recommendation works both ways. You can also learn alot about the marketplace based on interviewing. It’s a great way to learn about your competitors!

    2017 Resolution for the Spin Sucks community: Invest in yourself first!

    Happy marketing,

    Heidi Cohen
    Actionable Marketing Guide

    • I love “invest in yourself first”. Super, super smart!

  • Todd Lyden

    That interview idea is messed up.
    I get the concept of keeping up with the skills needed, but let’s say you do a-okay for a job you have no intention of taking… you are probably screwing at least one person out the chance…

    • What if you just apply, but don’t do the interview? You could still get the benefit of keeping your skills up-to-date, but not take an opportunity from someone who needs it.

      • Todd Lyden

        that just called keeping up with your resume on linkedin… NOT the same GERT

        • No, I don’t agree. To Berrak’s point above, reviewing job descriptions, talking with hiring managers, even interviewing keeps your skills fresh. Keeping up with your resume on LinkedIn doesn’t do that.

          • Todd Lyden

            GAH, up to the point of interviewing its all the same compare Linkedin to what is out there, rinse repeat… I can concede you can do more than just fluff up the resume, but the minute you hit send… unless you even think you want the job, you are really misrepresenting yourself and wasting the HR person time as well as risking a real lead getting a job…. BOO

          • Think about it differently. I had the same reaction as you when Erika first mentioned it. And then I thought about it differently and I can see how valuable it is to you and your company. Trust me, I don’t love the idea of my team out there “interviewing” for jobs, but it sure would give us a lot of great information.

          • Todd Lyden

            asking employees to “interview” just to learn what the competition is up to? EWWWWWWWW

          • Why is that different than any other competitive research you’d do?

          • Todd Lyden

            Wow… “think about it differently”
            a new position you are looking to hire for… you get a killer candidate from a reputable place… you go through your ENTIRE interview process … you make an offer and they say “no” – how you feeling if you KNOW it was just “competitive research?”

          • Eh, I’m just pushing your buttons. But do read what Erika read above…she explains it really well.

          • I think the applying for jobs idea is great. As of just recently, I’m seeking a new position myself and know that to get back into the mindset and process of landing at a new company takes some time. Having those skills and materials fresh is just a smart idea. I think one qualification I would make though if I were employed is to only apply for jobs I would love and would take, but think that I might be a long shot for. We often tend to rule ourselves out of dream opportunities. We might surprise ourselves and land the gig. If not, we at least have going through the experience to show for it.

          • I disagree. If I spend my time talking to an HR manager, and come to the conclusion it’s not a job I’m interested in, unless it sounds like a terrible job/company I offer to share the listing with my network or recommend a few specific people who would be a better fit. That benefits the HR person who’s screening.

            Also, applying for something that catches your eye but that you don’t think you’d take doesn’t mean you might not actually end up taking it, if situations change.

            The overall point with this is keeping an eye on job listings that would be a logical next step in your career, and applying when something catches your eye, to make sure you’re keeping up with what the market is looking for, keeping your interview skills sharp, and building your network of recruiting contacts for when you are eventually looking for a new job.

            For an employee who is looking to be promoted to the next level in particular, going out there and interviewing for that position they want to grow into can help them determine if it really is the right next step for them, and if so, what experience gaps they need to close to get there.

  • The 30 Day Challenge sounds awesome! This is such a great list. I’m an introvert too, but I’ve found that even getting out of my comfort zone for 5 minutes can create a ripple effect that can last a long time.

    I second the applying for jobs. I’m personally in the middle of that right now, and the process is helping me see how different companies approach certain processes. Even if you don’t actually apply for jobs, I do recommend reading job descriptions every few weeks – and even reaching out to hiring managers to see what they’re looking for.

    • And, I imagine, it’s also giving you information about where you need to brush up on skills or where you’re killing your competition?

      • Oh, absolutely. It’s also great fodder for content ideas for giving those with similar experiences like mine tips and insight.

    • Applying for jobs and talking to hiring managers can also help you refine your career path. If you aren’t finding yourself excited after talking to the recruiter, and dreaming up everything you’d do in your 90-day plan, then you can see you may want to reprioritize what you’re looking for career-wise. So helpful!

  • KensViews

    One could bring in a professi’onal trainer, with deep experience in PR/comms, to train one’s leaders and managers in leadership and client service. I’m not recommending that for any particular reason. 🙂

  • susancellura

    Content Jam is on my calendar! Because Andy, Gini and Chicago!!!