One of Canada’s largest PR firms will soon be sharing its tricks of the trade with the public.

National Public Relations is launching National Institute, a professional development centre, in December. Doris Juergens, partner and group

director in the Montreal office, says the institute has been around for a number of years for internal and client training, but is now open to anyone looking to upgrade their skills.

“”It’s a combination of customized training sessions made to measure to a particular organization’s needs and then we’ll also have publicly held seminars,”” Juergens says. “”(It’s for) people who work in public relations and communications who want to learn more about a specific field of practice or a specific aspect about public relations.””

The inaugural session takes place in Montreal on Dec. 2-3. Space is limited to 15 students and newbies need not apply. National wants “”to ensure an optimal leaning environment,”” according to Juergens.

If you don’t have two days to spend, other arrangements can be made as the program expands to its other offices around the country.

“”The length of the sessions varies. If it’s a customized program it will be built around a client’s needs. The first one we’re holding is a two-day seminar because there is a lot of material to cover, but others are three-hour seminars,”” Juergens says.

The broad range of topics includes courses that deal with the basic fundamentals of public relations, communications planning crisis management, public relations measurement and evaluation. Other courses will deal with presentation skills and the more traditional media spokesperson training.

Spokesperson and presentation skills tend to be the most popular offering, Juergens says, but there is no rule of thumb as to who seeks what. Large companies and small companies, she adds, tend to have different needs, while the vertical market has little to no impact.

“”It really ranges from one organization to the next and it depends on how large their team and communications practices are as well. If it’s a large team they may have specializations within the organization. If it’s a small team people do everything,”” Juergens says.

Lori Pike is the director, corporate communications for Vancouver-based ActiveState, a division of Sophos. She says her PR department undergoes regular professional development. To her, taking two days and travelling more than 1,000 kilometres can be worth it.

“”I flew down to L.A. to go to an investors relations, week-long seminar,”” Pike says. “”If it’s not offered in Vancouver, which unfortunately is a relatively small market. We do go seminars if it’s deemed important enough.””

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