Cambridge University: communicating excellence

King’s College Cambridge is one of the most recognisable sites in the world. Founded in 1441 by Henry VI, the building typifies the traditions of the world’s second-highest ranked university.

But Cambridge is an institute of revolution, rather than tradition, according to the University’s Director of Communications.

“Cambridge is probably the least traditional place I know,” says Paul Mylrea Found.Chart.PR, FCIPR.

“Darwin might be traditional now, but at the time it was revolutionary”. Darwin himself might have struggled to predict the growth of the University he studied at in 1827.

Cambridge University now houses 11,000 employees and 12,000 students from around the world. Those numbers means Paul heads up one of the UK’s largest communications operations.

“Amazingly, Cambridge University didn’t have a press office until 1987!” says Paul. The University’s PR has since morphed into a full spectrum communications operation.

“Centrally, we have 36 members of staff – not including those based throughout colleges – and our team are divided across public affairs, news, media relations, research communications, brand and licensing team, internal communications, digital, alumni communications.”

Communicating in so many different ways on behalf of one of the world’s most reputable institutions means staff need to be adequately trained on best practice and informed of current trends.

Last year, Cambridge University became a Corporate Affiliate member of the CIPR to grant communications staff access to training and professional development opportunities.

“CIPR training is absolutely crucial to us,” says Paul who passionately advocates PR training amongst his staff.

“But training and development isn’t something that happens with a course, it should happen all the time – CPD is vital for us” says Paul referring to the CIPR’s flagship Continuing Professional Development learning scheme.

“At Cambridge we’ve created a community that exchanges ideas and best practice. We encourage all staff to learn from the CIPR and share knowledge with the community.”

The emphasis on professional development and knowledge-sharing means Cambridge University often arranges for CIPR Trainers to deliver bespoke courses, tailored to the needs of staff.

“We also bring in CIPR Trainers, and members of our regional group CIPR East Anglia recently joined for an event on crisis communications. Our aim is to make access to training and development as easy as possible.”

The approach is working. The University was recently named ‘Communications Team of the Year’ at the European Digital Communications Awards.

The success of Cambridge University’s communications strategy is underpinned by a deep commitment to learning and development. And it’s that commitment to education – facilitated by the University’s Corporate Affiliate CIPR Membership – that’s helping Cambridge to innovate and strive for excellence in communications.

Cambridge University’s communications team are one of over 85 in-house teams and agencies have signed up to the CIPR’s Corporate Affiliate scheme.

Find out more about Corporate Affiliate membership or contact Rob Morbin.

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