When I tell people that I’m a specialist PR recruiter, they often say, “PR seems really fun; you must have tons of people applying for your jobs.”
These people are only half right.
PR is a dynamic, creative, interesting, challenging, competitive industry that can be fun and rewarding. But do I have tons of qualified people jumping at roles I advertise? Absolutely not.
Most of my time is spent finding creative ways to connect with top PR talent worldwide and developing a strong working relationship with them. It enables me to tap the talent in my network when a client comes to me with a great job brief. The best talent have a multitude of options because there are fewer and fewer people in agency PR.
So why on earth are these people so hard to find? The answer is simply that people are leaving PR agencies and opting for other opportunities
In speaking to talent, I’ve found out why:
1. They’re burnt out.
They are working exceptionally long hours on a regular basis, and some of these endeavors don’t end up in a result (for example, not winning the pitch). Of course, there will be times when everyone has to put in longer hours during pitch season or a major campaign, but when it’s ongoing, eventually even the hardest workers will say enough is enough.
Due to budget constraints, many agencies will not hire enough staff to manage all that they’re taking on. This leaves the top talent carrying a huge load.
Leadership should keep a close eye on workflow, and spread the workload across the employees. If there simply is too much work on everyone’s plate, hire a new employees or intern to help. It’s much more costly to lose an exceptional employee than to hire a junior associate to shoulder some of the responsibility.
2. Promises are broken.
People choosing to work in agency PR are often highly driven thrill-seekers who can handle the ups and downs. In fact, they’re often motivated by the topsy-turvy environment because the reward is enticing. However, there are times when the promised reward never arrives.
Recently, I had a candidate who won an exceptional amount of new business for an agency at the cost of many a night away from that person’s partner. The candidate performed all of this extra work with the expectation of a promised bonus, only to be brought into a room and told—after the work was complete—that there would be no new-business bonuses.
The result? The incredible talent left immediately and had three other offers within a week. The agency was left high and dry.
If you promise something, deliver on that promise. Put it in writing. If you know you won’t have the budget to stick to it, don’t promise it in the first place—otherwise, you’ll lose your best employees.
3. You didn’t ask.
Sometimes staff won’t say exactly what is bothering them. They let it build up and discuss it with their close friends and partner, but as their manager, you’re
the one who could do something about it.
It can be intimidating for an employee to run to a manager. Or he or she may think the concern is trite and that you don’t have time to hear the grievance.
Check in. Ask employees what would motivate them. Would they like to work across practice areas? Where do they see themselves going and how can you help them achieve those goals? These questions will enable you to nip an issue in the bud before it blossoms into a resignation letter. I recruit for a number of agencies that do this on a regular basis, and their staff wouldn’t leave for anything. Feeling valued is priceless.
With a few small tweaks in your staff retention strategies, you could save yourself a lot of time, money, effort, and clients. And most importantly, you’ll keep your staff—happy.
Deborah Musolff is a PR and communications talent agent at Firebrand Talent Search in Sydney, Australia. This article originally appeared on the Firebrand Ideas Ignition blog.