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Why is there a mid level recruitment crisis in PR?

18th March 2014


There is a recruitment crisis in PR in the UK. All recruiters I speak to say there is not enough high quality available talent.

It's at the mid-level where it seems finding good people is especially tough. I caught up with Brazil's Sean Williams to talk through career trends at the account manager/ account director level.

1. What are the differences between the career objectives of an account manager and an account director?

Everyone has different priorities but having started my PR career as an account assistant many moons ago, and from listening to those I interview at junior level now, money is by far the most important factor in the early years. The cost of living is high – particularly in London – so, of course, it's very important. Having said that, the brands you're working with are also very important at that stage too – more so at this level.

Money is always a major factor when climbing the career ladder, as a person gets to senior AM or AD level, other things come in to play. The Account Director level is a very important time in a PR career and will define how an individual grows, or not, in the industry. It's when a job turns in to a career and you as an individual define what you like and think as important for an agency and the sector – you have your own vision and ideas bigger than a story or campaign. For ADs, factors such as scope to help develop the business, asking questions of the direction and ideas of the owners, as well as why clients are using PR in the way that they are, become ever more important.

2. So good account managers move for a pay rise? But good account directors are likely to be looked after by their agency and so won’t move for the money/job title?

AMs and ADs considering a move have to be sure about what they as an individual really want, what's best for them and what they want to achieve. Many will be looked after by their agency, that's for sure, but it's about what an individual wants at that stage in their career that's important. Can they get it at their existing place of work? Money at this stage is pretty level and doesn't tend to fluctuate too much so it comes down to goals and opportunities. Is it the desire to work with a favourite brand, the wish to try and influence an agency's path or does flexibility come in to it? Everyone will be different.

3. What candidate CV and personality trends do you look for when recruiting?

Everyone has a big brand name or three on their CV so for me, it's less about that but what they did for the business through PR. I want to know what they did for the brand and how they shaped the account. Creativity is key – not just for a launch of a product but how they shaped the press office function or made the business think about their offering.

Desire to change and question the way we as an agency do things, but also how brands and the industry does things. It's changing a lot and it'll be a different place in the coming five years.

Evidence of teamwork and initiative is vital for us as an agency, alongside a staple diet of good English and the ability to adapt to situations.

4. What advice would you give an account manager who was thinking of moving? When to stick and when to twist?

Forget about money, it's all about prospects and the ability to influence and change things. What is it that you want to achieve or drive forward? Have a good think about what you believe you as a consultant should be doing, and what you enjoy most. Don't be restricted by the job-spec. The more you desire, the more successful you will be. The question remains as to whether your existing agency can or will adapt to allow you as an individual to grow.



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