Speaking at yesterday’s PRmoment event Partner and Deputy CEO at Ketchum Jo-Ann Robertson called for agencies to be bolder in hiring people from diverse backgrounds, broadening the skillset of PR professionals to meet changing client needs, and enhancing the quality of managers in the communications world.
“For me talent is the most important thing for any communications agency but it’s also our biggest challenge. “I think it’s important to hire for attitude and train for skill but it’s rarely applied in communications agencies. We talk so much about skills that sometimes we overlook the attitude. What often happens is agencies will hire people with the right attitude but they forget about training for skill.
“It’s important for agencies to be able to identify what they want an employee to do within the organisation. The skill requirements of a PR agency there are obvious things like writing, communication, strategy planning, and creativity. These are the conventional things that we’ve done since agencies were first introduced, but now there are new skills that are required such as understanding research, analytics, social media and technology. As agencies we need to identify these talents in our employees and ask ourselves what areas we want them to be strong in. You can’t get all the skills you want in one person but getting the balance right is really important. At the moment we have a lot of the old skills and not enough of the newer ones.
“I think we also have to make sure that we have good managers as this is something we really lack in the PR world. It seems to be that when you get to a certain level in your career you automatically become a manager and I don’t agree with that. Great managers are people who can balance the day to day direction of an agency but also someone who inspires and motivates, it’s someone who has long-term career planning for their staff and again there’s very little of that.
“Another thing I’ve observed during my time in communications is that too often agencies hire people like themselves because they know they will get the job done in the way they do it. It’s a human trait, we all like to be surrounded by people like ourselves. But I think it’s something that is slowing down the progress of our industry. We really need to be looking at diverse areas to bring people in from, different industries, different backgrounds, with different skills. If you bring people from diverse backgrounds there’s a new skillset to use, we need to embrace their new ideas and try to implement them rather than constrain them.
Even when we do bring in people from diverse areas, we don’t always support them and I think that we don’t really set them up for success. So I think it’s important for us to look at how they can contribute to the future of the agency, to the future of our clients and the future of the industry. We need to make sure they have a mentor and a coach that can really help them navigate what can sometimes be a complicated industry.”
“PR is always changing, but there is a lot that has stayed the same, and there is still a lot that we could do better. To bring about change we need to hire for attitude and train for skill, we need to make sure we have the right people managing talent, and we need to be braver in creating a more diverse workforce.”