An interview with Aisling O’Connor, Dip.CIPR
Those working in financial services have had a lot to contend with in recent years. Working in a largely conservative industry that is constantly confronted with changing regulatory demands has been compounded by the challenge to survive the not-so-distant financial crisis.
Communication as a discipline is also no stranger to change with new technologies and customer expectations blurring the lines between internal and external communication. This makes it both a tough and rewarding time for communication professionals to make their mark in the financial services industry.
“I’ve been working in financial services for over five years and it’s fascinating to see how a typically cautious industry is adapting to new communication trends and taking small steps into the unknown, for example social media,” says Aisling O’Connor, a Director of Marketing and Communications at Julius Baer.
Aisling sees the increasingly blurred lines between internal and external engagement as part of the complexity facing communicators in 2016. As a communicator tasked with engaging colleagues and stakeholders around the world, she’s well aware of the fragmented boundaries between internal and external communication. A strong understanding of both is something she quickly realised was needed to propel her career to new heights.
“It became clear that organisations were starting to expect more from their communication professionals. I’d completed the CIPR Certificate in Internal Communication but wanted to deepen my knowledge of external communication to become more versatile,” says Aisling, reflecting on her decision to pursue the Diploma – the Institute’s flagship qualification.
Designed to equip students with a strategic mind-set, the Diploma prepares public relations practitioners to lead at board level.
“The Diploma gave me the know-how and confidence to explore new career opportunities. Getting involved in the study community gives you great exposure to other industries and ways of doing things. I gained an excellent overview of the entire internal and external communication landscape”.
Based in Switzerland, Aisling now works with multiple markets around the world, across a broad range of areas such as employee communication, media relations, marketing communication, executive coaching and change management – and she’s left in no doubt about the practical value of her studies.
“I think that both theory and practice are essential to keep pace in today’s demanding environment and move one’s career forward.”
Whilst the boundaries between internal and external audiences have faded – so too have the lines between PR and marketing. As a Director of both marketing and communication for Julius Baer, a Swiss private bank, Aisling is uniquely placed to share insight on the rival disciplines.
“I’m living the crossover between marketing and communication on a daily basis in my role. They’re essentially two sides of the same coin. So much of what I learned from the CIPR Diploma can be applied across both disciplines”.
Aisling believes PR professionals shouldn’t disassociate themselves with marketing, or vice versa and the advice she shares for those thinking about taking the Diploma is equally relevant to the debate on marketing and public relations.
“Don’t hesitate to venture into unfamiliar territory. When you feel outside of your comfort zone, that’s when you know you’re growing. And with the world changing so rapidly, we need to be ready to change with it.”
Image courtesy of flickr user frankieleon