December 8, 2010

Training your own is the future of PR

A lack of talent is the main problem with the PR industry according to Sir Martin Sorrell, head of global marketing group WPP. Speaking to PR Week editor Danny Rogers, he said that PR compares unfavourably with other related industries in our selection, recruitment and development of talent. Rather than going out and hiring the best candidates and developing them, agencies (in particular) have the habit of poaching key practitioners from their competitors. Whilst this works in the short term, this auto-cannibalisation of the workforce can only lead to a distinct skills shortage should the sector ever go through a significant expansion.

It is also something often heard about entry level roles in PR: agencies will only accept candidates with experience; they want someone with the rough edges knocked off, preferably by someone else and at someone else’s expense.

In the Channel Islands we have a few advantages and disadvantages in play. The lure of the bright lights of London is enough to turn the head of many a young PRO, and this is something we have to accept and adapt to. There is also a very small talent pool. On the plus side, we are a long way from London, and the sector is relatively small. We don’t often have to follow our best young executives to the pub to see who they are meeting in case one of our competitors is looking to steal them. We also have a relatively strong media presence on the island, enabling us to find people with media experience that we can help transfer into PR.

At Orchard we hire at many levels and alongside the experienced consultancy team we have recent graduates and school leavers on the books. Any agency based here that insists on hiring experienced candidates only is on a hiding to nothing.

A key part of keeping our talent pool together is to develop this team into experienced practitioners and help them develop new skills that we can use to support our clients.

At the moment I’m doing the CIPR Diploma, we have two account executives doing the CIPR Advanced Certificate, and we have a gap year student on a one year placement with the company; he wants to be a journalist, but I’m sure we’ll talk him round.

The point of all this is that even though our investments may sometimes walk out the door we know that they do often come back and that there are people out there now with the right skills to work for Orchard. Knowing that we can take a promising graduate,with limited experience, and develop them into a competent and effective PR professional is also important. With such a limited talent pool it is the agencies that are prepared to put the hours into developing staff that will have far fewer problems finding the right people for our business – because we can always ‘make’ them ourselves.

Posted by Chris.

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