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Is PR a career for life?

PR can, at times, be an incredibly fast-moving and high-pressure industry, which can make it exciting, but how does that affect the longevity of PRs’ careers? We’ve reached out to 10 PR professionals to give us insight into their career trajectories to find out whether PR really is a long-term career option.

PR can fit around the different stages of people’s lives

Amanda Fone, executive chair and founder at f1 Recruitment: “PR is a pretty flexible and rewarding career. But to get on, you have to give it your all. In your 20s and early 30s, before caring responsibilities kick in, like most careers, it’s possible to dedicate yourself to becoming an expert with promotions and pay rises every year. PR is one of those meritocratic professions, which means you can forge ahead quite quickly if you have commitment, creativity and a flair for the profession beyond great qualifications.

“There are reasons that people return to the PR and comms sector after time out of the profession. The career can fit around different stages of people’s professional and personal lives - full-time, full-on, full focus or more part-time, contractor, sole trader across a 30- or 40-year career span. We all know that women’s careers (in any profession) can be more squiggly and less linear than men’s careers. A career in comms can give women and men the flexibility they need, especially during the ‘squeezed middle years’ when caring responsibilities can be at their heftiest.

“Why do people return to comms? For all the above reasons. The work is interesting, often project-led, and all about problem-solving and providing creative solutions. It is also about client relationships, trust, insights, anddelivering great work on time and within budget. All of this works well in a hybrid working, flexible, 24/7 global market.”

Agencies must find out what motivates people to retain them

Kieran Kent, CEO at PR Agency Propeller Group: “Throughout your career, you should always be learning and growing. I’ve spent over 25 years working in a PR agency environment. One of the major benefits of being agency-side is that you are working with so many different types of companies and people on a day-to-day basis. There is always a new client brief or industry sector to learn about and you are dealing with entrepreneurial, ambitious leaders who you can learn from. Being agency-side also helps you keep some perspective.

“To retain your best talent, give staff their own personal development plans based around their skills, interests and motivations. Some staff will be driven by winning new business or growing clients, for others it’s about team management or developing new policies within the business. Talk to staff one-to-one and give your star players an opportunity to own an initiative or an area of the business that they are passionate about.”

PR can adapt to your changing lifestyle...

Jane Griffin, founder and director at PR Agency Positive Story: "I'm celebrating a quarter of a century in PR this May! I think it's a great long-term career option as it can be so varied - between agency and in-house work, as well as the opportunity to set up on your own, as I've done more recently - and of course, the varied sectors and services to specialise in. There's never a dull moment.

"I feel that PR is also a career which adapts well to your lifestyle. Since having my daughter six years ago, running my own PR consultancy from home has been the perfect solution. I am grateful for the wealth of support and feeling of community available from the CIPR, which keeps me up-to-date and has allowed me to progress my career on my own, including becoming chartered last year. The numerous opportunities available in the PR sector mean that there will always be one which works for you now, plus the opportunity to change and adapt your work to fit your future needs."

… but you need to be willing to embrace change

Amie Sparrow, founder of PR Agency Enough Digital: "The key to my PR career has been the willingness to upskill and embrace change. After a decade of experience in in-house and agency roles, I identified a demand for Digital PR expertise in the job market. I self-studied SEO for a couple of years and integrated it with my PR expertise to use both to enhance brands’ online visibility. This unique blend of skills enabled me to launch an agency, which I probably wouldn’t have done if I stayed in a traditional PR career.

“PR professionals must augment their traditional skills with digital skills, but they will not be motivated to do that unless PR firms value those skills more than the size of the PR’s black book. The PR industry must recognise digital fluency as a significant amplifier of foundational PR expertise - and reward it - if we are to stay relevant in the long term."

Keep up with developing technology to keep up career momentum

Fran Prince, director at Cartwright Communications says, “The future of PR remains bright, but it’s all about diversifying and moving with the times when it comes to keeping up with a successful career. For me, staying ahead with digital transformation—including the arrival of AI—has ensured clients remain confident in our abilities as an agency and shows we understand the ever-evolving media landscape.

“More technical and integrated campaigns have become necessary with metrics that reach beyond circulation, brand awareness and reputation, but taps instead into improving SEO value such as Domain Authority and building direct referral traffic via backlink campaigns. Likewise, targeted lead generation tactics that work together to reach a strategic goal and can represent growth, ROI and actual conversions is a must. It is no longer enough to just report on vanity metrics.

“Consumers still interact with thousands of articles a day in a number of formats which span longer form features, social media and video to name but a few. Other areas digitally-informed PR can address includes supporting website and social content including rich snippets in Google which answer an audience's queries speedily, or even refers them to a product or service.”

Forward-thinking agency programmes and policies are essential

Ally Weller, associate director at PR Agency Full Fat: "Having been in the industry for ten years, I have seen the journey from traditional phone call pitching to the growth of influencers and AI. As an ever-evolving industry, PR is a viable long-term career option. Working in an agency allows access to multiple brands and strategies, creating a constant stream of opportunities to learn and grow.

“For a long, fulfilling PR career, my secret is to use every opportunity to network and find talented people who complement your skill set but also those in different sectors and walks of life so that you can learn and empower each other.

“I’m seeing more and more agencies like Full Fat prioritise diverse recruitment, robust employee programmes, and inclusive policies. As an industry, we still have a long way to go in retaining good talent. Incorporating DEI strategies, fostering diverse partnerships and inclusive campaigns and policies are the way forward."

Longevity requires evolution

Kirsty Langan, associate director at PR Agency GingerMay: “To forge a long-term career in PR you need to be passionate about the sector your clients operate in. For me that’s technology which is fast moving so keeps me interested and always learning. My years of specialist industry knowledge makes my consultancy highly valuable to them.

“Evolving to meet client needs is also key. Today they have more and more data at their disposal and are looking to measure as much as possible. PR must be part of an integrated communications strategy to demonstrate its value.

“I’m lucky to work for a company that gives me flexibility in the way I work. When my kids were younger that allowed me to develop my career whilst being around for them and now it allows me to find balance in other ways. Exercise is really important to me now - longevity also comes from taking care of my health.”

Agencies which foster long-term careers make all the difference

Emma Laye, people director at PR Agency tigerbond: “The world of public relations is often seen as a fast-paced environment, but the reality is that it can be a launchpad for a long-term and fulfilling career. We take pride in fostering long-term growth, with numerous examples of individuals who joined us fresh out of education and are now leading our senior management and leadership teams.

“This dedication to fostering long-term careers isn't unique to our agency. The PR industry, by its nature, offers a clear path for progression. Agencies like ours provide a structured environment where you can hone your skills as you move from entry-level assistant to seasoned director and beyond. Continuous learning is paramount in this ever-evolving field. Many agencies, like us, offer dedicated training programmes to ensure you stay at the forefront of the latest trends and best practices.

“The beauty of PR lies in its versatility. Whether you thrive in the fast-paced, collaborative environment of an agency or prefer to transition your skills to an in-house role, the opportunities for growth are endless. PR is more than just a job; it's a chance to build a stimulating and rewarding career that allows you to make a real impact on the world around you.”

Your career can progress alongside an agency’s growth

Paul Campbell, director at PR Agency Babel PR: “In some PR agencies, rapid career advancement from consultant to director level within a decade or so can be a realistic trajectory for those who work hard, collaboratively and consistently demonstrate proactivity. We embrace a culture where time is not a barrier to professional growth, exemplified by several colleagues ascending from consultant to associate director roles within just seven to eight years.

“Yet, as professionals reach senior levels, a pivotal question arises: what's next? The trajectory of career progression can be closely aligned with the agency's expansion and provision of new opportunities. In agencies like Babel, where growth is constant, team members have the flexibility to align their personal development with the company's evolution, stretching their experience into new areas.

“However, some individuals in PR may opt to transition to a new agency that offers different opportunities, establish an agency, go freelance or pivot towards in-house roles to explore new opportunities beyond agency life.”

There’s still room for improvement across the industry

Jon Morgan, CEO of PR Agency Venture Smarter: “PR can be a fantastic long-term career option if you're passionate and willing to adapt. The secret to longevity in PR is a mix of resilience, adaptability, and a genuine love for storytelling. PR isn't just about spinning stories; it's about building relationships, understanding human psychology, and staying ahead of trends.

“In terms of talent retention in the PR industry, there's certainly room for improvement. PR agencies and organisations should invest more in employee development, mentorship programs, and creating a supportive work culture. Recognising and rewarding talent is essential for retaining top performers. Additionally, offering opportunities for growth and advancement can help keep talented professionals within the industry.”

It takes some commitment from both PRs and agencies to create meaningful, long-lasting careers. While agencies will always have room to improve, developing up-to-date programmes and policies to encourage employee retention, it’s also up to PRs to keep evolving and find a space in the industry that nurtures growth.

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