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Triggers that make PRs leave their jobs

Holding on to its best people is vital for any organisation to flourish, so what makes people hand in their notices? PRs discuss what has made them leave jobs in the past, and what factors encourage them to stay.

Lack of challenges and poor working environment

Carl Stroud, head of media at PR agency Smoking Gun: “It’s difficult to pinpoint one single factor over any other that triggers an exit. It’s more gradual. 

“As a professional your goals and ambitions evolve, meaning a role that may initially have been rewarding and fulfilling, begins to seem less satisfying. Clients that were once shiny and new - providing challenges that allowed you to flex creative and strategic muscles become familiar and mundane. 

“The working environment and culture are vital too. Changes to either can swiftly transform a workplace from somewhere you want to be to somewhere you are certain you don’t. 

“When deciding on next steps, leadership is a defining quality. Do you buy into the direction of the business, the aspirations, the desires? Is there a sense of an agency wanting to do the best possible work, tell others about it and have fun doing it? If the answer to those questions is yes, then that can make your choice very easy indeed.”

Talking the talk, but not walking the walk

Dan Goodrich, account director at integrated agency KWT Global, London: “For me, this comes down to culture, culture, and more culture. You’ll hear it at every interview ‘We’ve got a great culture here’ but it’s not always the case. Culture is often code for: ‘We’ve got a ping-pong table and we go for drinks on Thursday’ - both great, don’t get me wrong, but as you progress through a career, you realise the importance of empathy, a supportive team, and an emphasis on personal and professional development. I’m now in an environment which truly does what it says on the tin.”

Lack of career support

Stacy Stapes, people, culture and training manager at PR agency Babel PR ’When speaking with colleagues about their desire to change jobs and join us, many expressed they had the urge to develop professionally within a stimulating and supportive environment, as was the case when I changed careers to focus on people and culture.

“We believe there are three key elements in creating this environment; bespoke development programmes, two-way communication and clear career progression paths. To retain talent, managers need to regularly check in with teams about their progression and offer training opportunities to develop their professional skills.”

We are committed to our team’s professional development and personal growth. With this being said, there’s only so much that can be achieved whilst standing still, so make sure that when your team is ready, they are offered an opportunity with more responsibility - or they will seek this elsewhere.”

Being expected to be ‘always-on’

Lauren Richardson, senior account executive at agency Marketing Signals: “Different factors motivate different people, which makes it difficult to create one blanket solution to hold on to your best people. You could be offered a huge pay increase to leave your job, but if the culture isn’t the right fit for you, or the job will impact your work/life balance then it’s not really worth the move. 

“One trigger that has resulted in me moving in the past was an ‘always-on’ work culture and difficult management, which made me feel burnt out and constantly stressed, ultimately affecting my productivity at work and my mental health. After this, I made sure my next roles offered stability, a good culture and management that provided adequate support and development, as well as celebrating their employees and ensuring good work/life balance. I’m now in a role where I get all that and more, which is amazing!”

Poor communication with employees

Ruby Kite, talent lead at integrated communications agency The PHA Group: “My search for an employer that prioritised open communication between its employees and senior leadership led me here; I knew that my voice would be heard, feedback acted on, and suggestions considered. The culture of continuous improvement also stood out to me, with ways of working, benefits, and policies regularly updated in line with industry trends, employee expectations, and business needs.

“I had never previously experienced such a forward-thinking approach from an employer, nor a notable emphasis on transparency, both of which have empowered me to carve my own career path, enabled me to take on responsibilities that align with my passions, and afforded me the knowledge that my contribution is genuinely valued. For companies battling to retain talent, I recommend asking, listening, and responding to employees, whether through anonymous surveys, company-wide forums, working groups, or a combination of all three.”

Being overworked during Covid

Liz Bhandari, director of content marketing agency Brandari Limited: “The Covid pandemic served as a catalyst for me to re-evaluate my life and pursue my dream of running my own business. Recognising the fleeting nature of life, I resolved to attain more freedom and fulfilment in my career. My overworked state during the pandemic convinced me that the grass isn't greener elsewhere and seeking another job would not improve my circumstances. Starting November 2020, I dedicated two years to meticulously planning and constructing my business. Finally, in August 2022, I took the leap and transitioned to running my business full-time, allowing me to do what I love.”

Lack of a work-life balance

Leanne Coppock, freelance content marketing consultant at Search etc.: “Since the pandemic the way all of us work in the UK, especially in service-based industries like PR, has shifted so much. Having the flexibility to work remotely, hybrid and at hours which suited my personal life gave me a whole new perspective on work/life balance. Additionally, the pandemic highlighted the importance of looking after all of our mental wellbeing and reminded me personally what’s really important in life.

“I’ve worked agency-side for several years now, but have recently made the change to go self-employed and launch a freelance PR and content consultancy in 2023. This is a personal goal I’d always wanted to accomplish and I finally took the steps to begin a new career path for myself this month.

“It's been positive and refreshing to be finally making the move to launch my own consultancy. This allows me to not only have full flexibility with my work routine, but I can now spend more time with family and have better balance in my life. It’s nice to have this balance without comprising professional growth and still being able to deliver top-tier campaigns.”

Case studies

The absolute last straw!

Not being valued or appreciated

Richard Knowles content creation manager at Napthens Solicitors “Holding on to good people should be easy. Listen to them, appreciate them, pay them well and develop their careers.

“I moved on because none of those elements were present, whilst I was constantly told they were.

“When the office you are based at closes due to administration of the company and you only find out a month later, then have no option to go back in to collect any belongings, it says that you’re not valued or appreciated.

“My advice to anyone is ask yourself, do you feel appreciated, do you think your career is moving in a direction you want and do you feel you can ask your line manager anything and they will be supportive in their response?

“If the answer is no, then find somewhere else. I have and I’m really happy.”

Lack of cohesion

Lianne Robinson, founder and director of content marketing agency Unfolded Content: “I left the security of my last PR agency role seven years ago because one thing was becoming very clear. The synergy between PR, social media, website content and other marketing just wasn’t happening - this wasn’t a reflection of my agency’s approach, but the disparity happening in internal marketing teams. I could see that the world was moving more towards content and there needed to be a more cohesive way of doing things. I couldn’t find an agency that had this nailed so I took the plunge and created my own.“

Having a good work-life balance has been highlighted as key by many of the contributors to this feature, which is why it is important that your job does not expect you to work ridiculous hours. In this feature we look at how to tackle the long-hours culture in PR.

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