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How to find talent in PR

You need a wide range of skills to succeed in PR, and finding people who tick all the boxes is difficult. However, to make it a little easier, we asked senior PROs how they hunt down talent. Here are their top tips.

From Kate Clover, recruitment manager at PR firm Ketchum London:

1. Show off your company
“Finding talent in PR is a two-way process that is as much about finding a good candidate for the business, as it is for a company to showcase themselves and demonstrate they are the right fit for the applicant. Knowing that someone will fit into the culture, and thrive in it, is vital in ensuring that the hire is successful. And culture plays a large part in people’s decision-making these days. It’s not enough for people to simply go and do their job every day, people also want to know that there will be a good social dynamic, that there are events and clubs to get involved in, how flexible working hours are and what facilities there are at the office, before they decide a role is right for them.”

From Richard Tompkins, managing director of agency W Communications

2. Look outside of PR
“Widen your search beyond the industry itself: The best creative people can come from absolutely anywhere and our industry should act fast to capture them. Whether that is an ex-journalist, someone in the music industry or a food blogger – they can all offer something unique to PR. We have an ‘open-to-everyone’ hiring approach to empower smart people, whatever their qualifications (including not having a degree). We find the most valuable people to our business are hungry, driven and adaptable, which are hard ‘qualifications’ to achieve.”

3. Don’t depend on recruiters  
“Be wary of relying on recruiters. Yes you are fishing where the fish are, but you’re also limiting your search area and often finding a standard PR 'type'. You’d be amazed (or perhaps not) how many interesting people you can find just by asking colleagues, connections and clients for their views. I will caveat this point by saying on occasions when looking for very niche skill sets, like an SEO expert in PR for example, the old methods can be beneficial.”

From Amanda Lowe, managing director, Story Comms

​4. Ask around
“You can't beat a personal recommendation from those whose opinion and expertise you trust to find good folk. Our first hire was a ​tip from a journalist friend who had my now senior exec in on work experience when she was a student. She made such a strong impression on the newsroom that when I asked if he’d come across any good PROs of late, she was at the front of his mind."

5. Always consider those who approach you
“I find social media is the lifeblood of most PROs nowadays and we're rarely 'offline'. So it makes sense to keep your eyes peeled for talent whilst racing through your feeds. Our latest hire was the result of a hashtag​. During a recent industry awards night, our exec ‘hijacked’ the ​event hashtag to see if any agencies were looking for a new recruit. I favourited the tweet and waited. The next morning I had a tailored CV and covering note waiting in my inbox, asking if I had a sore head after the late night. He got my attention – and a job – even though I wasn’t even looking at the time.”

From Phil Reed, managing director of agency Aberfield Commuications:

6. Prioritise the attributes you need in a recruit
“If you asked someone to list all the skills and qualities that a PR person needs, the list could run into pages. But the reality is you won’t find anyone who ticks every box, no matter how experienced or talented they are, so why waste time on a fruitless search? Instead, narrow down the list by working out what’s really important and what isn’t. Then look at what skills and personality traits you already have in the team, and what’s missing. That way you’ll soon have a pen picture of your ideal candidate, which may point towards a recruitment route you hadn’t anticipated.”

7. Invest in development, not recruitment.
“Recruitment is time-consuming and expensive, and you frequently hear people saying “we just can’t find the right person”. The more senior the role, the harder the recruitment is. But if you invest in training and development, and focus on bringing people through and making them want to stay, you’ll find that your recruitment is focused more at entry level. And if graduates or less experienced PROs can see that you’re serious about development and progression they’ll be more likely to want to work for you.”

From Matt Fielding, head of organic marketing at digital marketing agency Bring Digital:

8. Look for extra skills
“Always think about the future. The landscape of PR has changed so much over the past few years, and it is likely that it will continue to evolve. With that in mind, we look way beyond a person’s press release writing capabilities. Whilst good writing skills are needed, a person needs to be friendly and personable to interact with journalists, with a good grasp of social media and technology, a keen eye for trends, and the ability to spot a story in an instant. As the business continues to apply a strong content marketing approach to our PR, we look for people who can bring a wider skillset to the team to help us evolve processes for the better.”

So there you go, that’s your recruitment strategy sorted. The only thing you have to do afterwards is make sure you hold on to all those talented people you find…

Case study

How we recruit new talent

Justine Smith, PR managing director at science, tech and education agency KISS, describes the agency’s intern scheme:

“Since we started KISS, we have built PR talent through our paid internship programme. We typically take two to six interns per year across the business, either as graduates, as part of a sandwich year at University or after A Levels/BTECs. The internships range from one month to 12 months and are assigned to an area of the business depending on interest or expertise.

“We’ve always attracted candidates internationally, including Brazil, Germany, France, Spain as well as from the UK. Having a more diverse workforce helps keep things fresh and interesting, both for us and our clients!

 “Our interns are treated as an extension of the wider team and get stuck in working on new business pitches, account work, client liaison, providing them with a true insight into agency life. They are also involved in training, inspiration sessions, insight workshops, and of course agency nights out.

“Running an internship programme allows individuals to see whether agency life is right for them. Here at KISS, all of our account executives started with us as interns and many have progressed up the career ladder.

“The agency model is changing and the way consumers engage with brands is shifting all the time. Having a flow of fresh, young talent coming through the agency – looking at the world in a different way – has certainly worked for us.”


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