How to keep new staff in PR

Starting in a new job, at whatever level, is daunting. But when it is your first job, it can be terrifying. David Wilson, group managing director at PR firm Bell Pottinger, describes starting out in journalism: “There wasn’t a hiding place as a trainee reporter. Thrown in the deep end, I was fortunate to have the guiding hand of a marvellous editor to coach, cajole and guide me through my formative years in journalism. A good constitution was equally a prerequisite! After three years of work experience on associated newspapers, I hit the ground running, knowing the general ropes of reporting. I also quickly found my way to the coffee pot – a fast way of making friends.”

Networking around the coffee machine is one way to get to know people, but it is better if the organisation you join makes a concerted effort to integrate you into the business. Not only are you more likely to perform better, you are more likely to stay.

Wilson describes how his firm welcomes new PROs: “Entering our business for the first time, we try to settle someone into the organisation – with a thorough induction; an introduction to systems, processes and expectations; a desk map to prevent them continually asking ‘who’s that?’ and other basic materials that as seasoned colleagues, we can simply take for granted.”

“A mentor and office buddy will help, as the real process of work then begins. For employers it’s incumbent of us to get the most from the newcomer – grow them, guide them and nurture them. As they prove their worth and deliver value, so we must also reward them – with clear objectives to achieve career progress, never forgetting those simple components of a happy office environment … appreciation and praise … which can sadly be ignored.”

At the UK Commission for Employment and Skills (UKCES), new team members find they have a full diary and email inbox from day one. Julia Ruane, senior communications manager, explains why: “Well for one, it means the existing team is already thinking about what role the new person will play weeks before they turn up. This makes their transition into the team so much easier. By reading the email streams they have a quick way to catch up on what is happening in the organisation, how projects tend to develop and who is involved.”

“The full diary is also full of inductions to every part of the organisation – from key business projects to IT, finance and how to book holiday (very important!) – giving the process some rigour, and preparing those doing the inducting with enough time to prep. So, in summary, we are thinking of them as part of the team, from the moment they say ‘yes‘.”

But, no matter how brilliantly you integrate staff, chances are that if they are at the beginning of their career, they aren’t going to stay for the longer term. At PR firm Ketchum, Stacey Neighbour, associate director, talent acquisition, says that it helps to offer interns a salary and great training: “Internships are very much a two-way street for big agencies, so in return for their intelligence and fresh perspectives, we offer our interns a proper paid contract for that period, an induction programme, a Ketchum-experience checklist, a go-to manager, and a CV workshop.” 

“We’re proud that we rarely have a problem with intern loyalty. In the UK, we take on four interns per quarter and each person is attached to a practice so they feel part of a team and have the time to soak up plenty of knowledge about the worlds of either corporate and tech, brand, healthcare or change. We often look to our interns to fill permanent vacancies where and when we can, however, we want to create a diverse network of talent, so we do look to other channels.”

“Internships can really shape your view of PR when you’re starting out in communications, so it’s nice to have quite a few interns come back to us later on in their careers. I think it shows our investment is paying off.”

Case study

Tara O’Donnell, UK managing director at communications agency Text100, describes how new people are quickly made to feel at home, and part of a team:

“Whatever the level, integration is prioritised for any new joiner when starting here. Immersing new staff in the company strategy and culture starts from day one. We have a new joiner induction process which includes human resource, finance and IT policies and practices. Most importantly, new joiners meet their new manager to discuss the individual’s roles and responsibilities as well as an in-depth introduction to client work.” 

“New starters get a buddy who introduces them to the cultural elements of the office, but the entire workplace is available to answer questions. As a global agency, engaging with the wider global Text community is important as well so all new staff are encouraged to make their introduction to our global network.”

“When it comes to communication, naturally we use the traditional forms including email, the intranet and company meetings. We also encourage social media use across the organisation and our ‘texties’ become brand ambassadors, using the likes of Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook.”

“Finally, our social pillar is pivotal within the organisation. It’s extremely important that people enjoy what they do and our social events give new joiners the opportunity to meet colleagues and experience Text100’s social-side. From communal lunches, to Friday drinks in the office, and extracurricular activities like running club or annual activities such as the summer and Christmas parties, we do a lot of fun things together as a group.”

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