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How the mix of personalities in PR is changing

19th September 2018


There have always been a wide range of personality types working in PR, but nowadays there is an even greater mixture. As Richard Baines, director at training agency The Amber Group, says: “I visit more than 50 different agencies per year in my capacity as a trainer and coach to the PR industry. Whilst there has always been a reasonable degree of variety, I believe the mix of personalities has never been greater.”

Techies and creatives
Discussing why there is more of a mixture these days, Baines says the first reason is because the integration of agency services has seen the worlds of technology and creative collide. “Two disciplines that often (not always) tend to attract people with different behavioural preferences (and hence personality types). The technical/programming/data driven requirements of the coder, developer, SEO specialist can often be dominated by what we’d refer to as the ‘Cool Blue’ personality, whilst the creative aspects of agency life tend to attract the ‘Sunshine Yellow’ personalities. The magic (and often integrated agency success) lies in helping these personalities to understand and value their differences and to leverage them effectively for success. Effective integration often stalls for exactly this reason.”

Consumer types and finance types
Baines says there is a similar trend in agencies that cover different industry sectors. “For instance, consumer agencies/divisions tend to have a dominance of the emotion-led Sunshine Yellow and Earth Green personalities. By contrast, in finance, corporate and tech agencies (or divisions) we see a greater balance and even a dominant shift towards the more rational Cool Blue and Fiery Red energies. Again, there are no absolutes here, simply a tendency in human nature to gravitate towards they type of work and subject matter that engages us due to our behavioural preferences and personality type.”

In support of his theory that more personality types are moving into PR, Baines says he is experiencing greater demand from agencies wanting help with managing and motivating the wide range of personality types in agencies today.

Reputation management/marketing skills
Lisa Carr, director at PR firm Lansons, agrees that personality types are evolving in PR, and she gives another two reasons: “First, clients right now want two types of services from strategic consultancies – reputation management and integrated marketing. The industry has an abundance of young, fresh talent that is attracted to and flourishing in these core areas.  

Social skills are now key
“Second, they also bring their own life skills and have access to more channels across social and digital than ever before. It makes sense that they therefore perhaps have a wider range of skills starting out and this has naturally evolved over time.”

Lucy Werner, owner of PR agency The Wern, agrees that digital skills are vital. “Without trying to sound like a dinosaur, when I started my PR work experience it was a heck of a lot more paperwork. Literally. Faxing press releases and hand walking printed weekly coverage round-ups. Now, my work experience or apprentices tend to have much more of a digital marketing background. I’m more interested in people who have a passion for PR and journalism, but with experience in coding, video, photography, SEO and social media skills.”  

Creativity rules!
Werner also highlights the importance of having creative types in agencies these days: “I spent the first year of my PR career working for an above-the-line advertising agency and I think we are seeing a lot more of these bigger creative agency roles in PR now from a junior level including creatives, strategists and researchers. “  

An influx of journalists
For Harriet Scott, founder of agency GingerComms, a key driving force leading to a different type of personality moving into PR is the increase in journalists: “As newspapers struggle to maintain circulation and, more importantly advertising revenue, decent jobs in journalism are on the decrease. There has therefore been a noticeable increase in national journos joining agencies in head-of-news-type roles. As a team of ex-national newspaper editors and journalists ourselves, we know firsthand that this is not always easiest or most organic of moves. PR is a different beast entirely and a good journalist does not automatically make a great PRO. It’s a fine balance, but a willingness to learn new skills, communicate with clients, listen to “brand people” and generate ideas which not only tick the brand boxes but also make great editorial, are essential if these type of agency roles are to be successful.”

Case study, one agency’s mix

Natasha Hill, managing director of PR agency Bottle, describes how it takes all types to work in PR agancies these days:

“Landing your dream job is more competitive nowadays than it was in the past, whatever industry you are in. It’s so hard to get a foot on the first step of the career ladder, that arming yourself with as many skills as possible will give you the best chance of securing a role.

“PR is no exception. Candidates now must have a much wider range of skills than they used to, probably because PR has changed. Largely because of digitisation of comms, it’s always evolving. Long gone are the days where you just had to write a press release and fax it to a bunch of journalists. We now need to be a jack of all trades, whilst being a master of them all too, from social media, Google Analytics, Influencer marketing as well as good old fashioned writing and media relations.

“We look for more than just PR skills or content development. We want our team to be culturally curious and creative in their life and interests outside of work too. We have band members, podcast developers, pole dancers and taxidermists.

“Not all of the team has come the traditional route before joining Bottle. Tom was a manager at Pizza Express before he landed his first PR role, Colin was a captain in the army and Steve was an architect.“

PR has always attracted communicators, but these days communication requires a lot more skills than just the ability to cobble together a press release. As Casey Lewis, senior account executive at PR firm Hill+Knowlton Strategies, sums up: “I think PR appeals to so many different types of people today because it offers so much more as a career than it used to. The industry is evolving rapidly to stay relevant in the world of new media. It’s no longer just about media relations and writing press material – you see projects daily that involve social strategy, influencer marketing, and branded content creation. The changing landscape means new roles are constantly appearing that attract people from a mix of industries, from design to cinematography. No day is ever the same  and you’re constantly learning something new to adapt to this evolution of the industry. For that reason, I think we’ll continue to see the traditional stereotypes around PR disappear, and roles will appeal to a much broader group of people.”

Written by Daney Parker+, Editor, PRmoment.com



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