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Catching up with Ketchum

Public relations (PR) consultancy Ketchum is set to add a slew of courses to its mainland staff training programme, Ketchum University, which is often credited as one of the key factors behind the company’s ability to attract and retain some of the best talent in the job market. PR veteran Joshua Campbell was recently assigned to run the scheme. He swaps e-mails with Rick Gangwani.

What is Ketchum University?

Its mission is to deliver the skills and education needed by our colleagues so they can convey Ketchum’s brand promise to clients, and to continually develop them personally and professionally. In Greater China, we are committed to reaching our more than 160 colleagues in five offices. Ketchum University has been providing training for more than 10 years in Greater China, but we continually look for ways to enhance this offering. The aim is to continue to develop a strong Ketchum Greater China culture and engage our colleagues so they are committed to building their careers with Ketchum. We also want to strengthen our long-term ties with top universities and industry groups in Greater China to explore cooperation opportunities for training programmes. 

What methods of training do you use?

We utilise both online and offline training methods, including self-training opportunities from our award-winning intranet, myKGN. We will augment this with more interactive, one-on-one classroom-style training and knowledge-sharing opportunities. Ketchum executives from our New York headquarters are actively involved and fully committed to helping deliver the training needed, including our global chief learning officer, Ketchum partner Robert Burnside. 

What does your role as director involve?

Working closely together with Robert Burnside and Ketchum Greater China CEO Kenneth Chu, I have been surveying office directors and their teams to find out what they’d like future training to emphasise. Training focus will also be based on my own personal experience living and working in Greater China for the past decade. The objective is to create localised approaches to global learning programmes to ensure the utmost relevance for our colleagues in Greater China. The Ketchum University Greater China curriculum will be aligned to both global and local business strategy. 

What is Camp Ketchum?

In the words of Ray Kotcher, senior partner and CEO of Ketchum: “It was back in the summer of 1986 that Ketchum first brought to life a camp experience for promising up-and-coming employees as a way to build an esprit de corps among this group of Ketchum future leaders – helping them develop as leaders as well as learn about Ketchum methodologies and all we have to offer clients.”

We held the 2011 Camp Ketchum on July 20-24 in Mont Tremblant, Quebec, Canada. In attendance were 76 of our top talent from around the world, including two from Ketchum Greater China, in addition to 22 top Ketchum executives, who served as counsellors. The Camp culminated in a team competition to pitch for a US$2 million client challenge for Philips Lighting.   

When do you plan to introduce the Camp Ketchum initiative to your staff in China?

Our goal is to begin unrolling the new initiative in the fourth quarter of this year. We also plan to set up a certificate programme that allows our colleagues to complete certification after consuming a set curriculum. As China grows, it becomes even more important to ensure our Chinese colleagues are receiving the best training possible. They will, in turn, take this knowledge to their China-based clients who are increasingly playing global roles, as well as to Ketchum’s global clients who are expanding within Greater China and expect the same high level of service as elsewhere. 

What are some of the new training and development courses you’re planning?

We are exploring a number of options to ensure we are offering our employees the training that will ultimately yield the greatest benefit to their career growth and to our clients. The first phase in the process is to survey the Greater China office directors and their teams to determine the best strategic training emphasis. This phase is nearly complete and will form the basis for our training and knowledge-sharing concentration. A “glocalised” approach to bringing Ketchum’s best practices to the region will certainly be the way forward. Courses will include new business skills, creativity, digital and social media marketing, and leadership and management skills. 

What are the implications in terms of hiring and internal transfers?

There is a great thirst for knowledge here in the region, both within Ketchum Greater China and also among our clients. I am confident that through a strong training programme, we will be able to further differentiate Ketchum in Greater China, enhance the abilities of team members and thus provide even better service to our clients. Through these measures we will also be able to attract strong new talent, while also improving retention of our existing team. 

What is the typical background of the trainers you use for the courses?

First, we always look internally within the global network, for Ketchum University trainers, seeking experts in the field they will be addressing, whether it is creativity, leadership, new business development or social media, among others. We are confident in the fact that we possess all of the relevant skills and background within Ketchum’s global team, but we complement these with localised training sessions that occasionally feature external subject-matter experts. 

What do you look for in terms of skills among these trainers?

Our trainers have state-of-the-art expert knowledge in their area of focus, practical experience in delivering the expertise to clients, plus a deep understanding of Ketchum’s brand promise and how to continually improve its delivery. In addition, our trainers must be highly effective presenters. We measure every training programme on a 1 to 5 scale for value and require our trainers to reach an average of 4.5 ratings from participants over time. 

What makes your training and development programme different? 

To my knowledge, very few agencies in Greater China have committed to learning and development programmes of this magnitude, and we plan to build Ketchum University into a key strategic differentiator in the region.

 How much cumulative training can a typical Ketchum staff expect to receive? 

Ketchum University’s tagline is “Making the Best Better”. Our commitment is to help each colleague continuously improve his already great service to clients, as well as to achieve the satisfaction of his own personal development. In 2010 alone, Ketchum University offered nearly 1,500 hours of courses. Globally, more than 80 per cent of our staff took advantage of the course offerings, representing more than 18,000 hours of employee training. The number of course offerings increases each year. 

Do you plan on doing any hiring in the near future?

Ketchum continues to add personnel in alignment with our continued growth. 

What training can fresh graduates expect to receive when they join Ketchum?

Ketchum University Greater China training will be tailor-made to meet the needs of junior and senior staff. There will be variations but we are exploring commonalities to build an overall strategic advantage.  

How about new managers?

Ketchum University has a strong programme of management and leadership courses. For example, new managers receive training that helps orient them to their new role as manager, teaches how to give and receive feedback, and instructs on how to interact with differing personality types.