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How to manage your flexible talent in PR

For an industry that prides itself on being agile, modern and at the forefront of trends, PR has some ingrained views when it comes to flexible talent.

Business sectors we think of as conservative, like banking, finance and the law, are embracing workplace trends for flexible talent, but PR still thinks of freelancers as a tactical stopgap.

A strategic approach to flexible resources and talent is the way for agencies and in-house departments to address the increasing volatility in demand for their services. Volatility in when work needs to be delivered versus fixed availability of staff hours; volatility in the types of PR work required versus fixed skillsets of staff.

We need to be less factory owner and more Hollywood in the way we approach talent – teams of specialists coming together and breaking apart just as easy when the task is complete.

Poor policies

How many of these scenarios are as true today as they were 10 or 20 years ago?

It’s not me, it’s you – ‘We’ve pitched this angle three times and the team will mutiny if I ask them again, can you have a go?’

Maybe you need to bring in better understanding of the sector at the start.

It’s a secret – “Whatever you do, don’t let the client know you’re a freelancer’

Why? One in six are self-employed, so the likelihood of your client not employing freelancers themselves is pretty remote so why are you afraid? It’s bringing in someone to expand the team for a while, you’re not GCHQ.

Emergency, emergency! – ‘We are bursting, we need support now! Just get anyone with a pulse who knows what Gorkana is’

Because that’s the way you’d choose your accountant, obviously. Why complain about clients not knowing what PR is if you choose your freelancers this way?

Oh, you here already? – ‘Yes, yes of course I remember you were starting today….um….yeah it’s a bit of a junior job, but can you do this quick ring round?’

If you want to waste money on hiring someone with 10 years’ experience to do junior work then fine, but you’ll both be happier playing to their strengths

We’ve always done it this way – ‘Why employ freelancers to eat into the profits when we can train a junior, it’s cheaper?’

Write that down for when the client emails to say they’ve found someone with fresh ideas who’ll do it for less.

How to fix things

Here are four steps for working well with freelancers.

  1. Get legal – a good freelance contract that protects confidentiality.
  2. Be honest – bringing in experts to supplement the team is a good thing, not a weakness.
  3. Do what you tell clients to do – use freelancers as consultants on shaping the idea, not to put lipstick on a pig.
  4. Be srategic – Clients buy the best ideas, not just the ones the staff on your payroll is capable of coming up with.

Written by Nigel Sarbutts, founder of agency The PR Cavalry

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