“Recruiting and Retaining Talent”: csuitepodcast Show 30 Part 1

Blog post by Russell Goldsmith, Founder, Audere Communications

Show 30 of the csuitepodcast was the first of three shows recorded at the Global ICCO PR Summit that took place in Oxford at the start of September.

Part 1 of this episode was on the topic of Talent Creation, Recruitment and Retention within the PR & Communications industry.

Joining for this first section of the show were Mohamed Al Ayed, CEO and President of TRACCS, Tanya Hughes, President of SERMO, Talk PR’s global network of independent communications agencies, and Susan Hardwick, Co-Founder of Global Women in PR – all three had just been part of a panel session at the conference.

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My guests all agreed that the critical issues that were being discussed around this topic were global and as Tanya explained, a key theme in her own Group’s international conference was not just on finding the right people, but keeping them happy with job satisfaction and work-life balance too.

When I spoke with Weber Shandwick’s Colin Byrne in Cannes, he said the big issue was the fact that PR agencies’ approach for talent has been to steal each other’s staff and that actually PR needs to recruit the kind of people who are currently going to work at Social Media Platforms or the World’s top Advertising and Digital Agencies, something Karen van Bergen, CEO of Omicom Public Relations Group also touched on in her opening keynote at the ICCO Conference.

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Sarah agreed.  She explained that her Spanish agency’s Head of Digital came from an advertising agency and in their Hong Kong agency, they’ve just recruited a creative from a Film Production House.  However, she warned that it works both ways as she’s seen her own talent recruited by Ad and Digital agencies too.

Given Susan’s role in Global Women in PR, I asked her if one way of keeping talent in the industry was to tap into the growing freelance network, particularly in encouraging mums back into the industry.

However, Susan said that whilst freelancers plug gaps, do project work, add value when necessary when you don’t need to employ somebody for 52 weeks in the year, or offer specialists to balance out the team, the difficulty, particularly in relation to mums coming back to work, is in dealing with is the very big gap between leaving work to have children and coming back, as our world changes very rapidly.  She therefore feels there needs to be work on both sides, i.e. perhaps offering retraining to allow returning mums to get up to speed.

Sarah added that in her experience, she felt employers are actually fairly flexible, certainly in her agencies, particularly in creating work-life balance and ensuring people are happy at work.  However, she said that recent experience for returning working mums, particularly after having their first baby, can be a bit of a shock and given the PR industry is a service industry, even if people are working part-time, they are expected to be available to service their client and do longer working hours.

H+K Strategies’ Richard Millar previously said on this series that that the make-up of his agency had fundamentally changed over the last two or three years and that he couldn’t remember the last time he interviewed someone with a typical PR background.  Mohamed made an interesting point on this as he talked about the evolution of the word talent, where it has evolved from ‘employees’ through ‘resources’.  He agreed in that those people who PR recruits don’t need to be PR people by education.  However, in his view, talent is defined by the organisation’s recognition of the skill and the personality of an individual that will suit and best serve their purposes.  At TRACC, Mohamed actually has engineers, a doctor and a psychologist in the team.

One aspect we touched on was retention of as much as attracting new talent and one of the ways Sarah looks to achieve that at Talk PR is in the organisation’s ‘Learning & Inspiration Programme’, which consists of 52 Masterclass workshops, each geared around personal development for everyone in the agency, from junior to board level.  They include everything from helping people to present or run meetings, to handling conflict and business and financial management.  They also aim to inspire the team by getting external speakers in and organising cultural trips plus development for the team’s client relationships too, including measurement and evaluation or helping to pitch great stories to the media and influencers.

When summing up, my guests offered the following advice between them when it comes to attracting the best talent to the industry:

  • Create a great environment in which to work, i.e. a place where people will be banging at your door and want to be part of your team
  • Do great work and promote the hell out of it
  • [ensure] Transparency, Ingenuity and Integrity

#ad – Many thanks to global media intelligence provider CARMA for supporting the series of shows I produced from ICCO.  Please do visit their website to find out more about how they can help you deliver actionable insights through media monitoring and PR measurement.

All previous shows of the csuitepodcast series are available on Soundcloud or itunes and please, if you subscribe, can you give the show a positive rating and review on itunes in particular.