Opinion: How recruitment can close the PR skills gap

Peter Cobley, managing director at recruitment consultancy Found Us, explains how he thinks talent pipelining could help tackle the PR industry’s skills gap. 

Peter Cobley 1

Peter Cobley

Recruitment in the world of public relations has been through a bumpy ride lately. The Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR) refers to a significant skills shortage, and there are so many agencies cropping up each year that this issue might worsen. As a result, I think it’s about time the sector started to take recruitment more seriously.

The problem
PR agencies aren’t short of grads that are keen to break into the industry. They’re short of the time to train them up effectively. Over time this has resulted in a real shortage of senior level candidates – I’m constantly speaking to businesses crying out to fill these roles.

Recruitment is time consuming, and if you’re outsourcing this process it can also be costly. This is potentially the biggest barrier – big agencies don’t have the time, and small agencies don’t have the time or the cash. However, there is something that all agencies can do to solve one of the biggest problems causing the skills gap, particularly at a senior level.

Why talent pipelining might be the answer
Talent pipelining is an increasingly important technique in the PR battle for talent. Yet, a worrying portion of the agencies I speak to regularly aren’t developing their talent pipelines properly, which I think is a big contributing factor to the skills gap.

This technique requires talking to people that aren’t actively looking for an immediate role, so that when they do, further down the line, they will have you in mind.

This is an age-old approach for recruiters, but it is also a really good technique for agencies that do their own recruitment, as candidates are responsive to being head-hunted. For example; I once contacted a senior London broadcast candidate about a role, who was personally delighted to have been asked to look at a more senior role that involved managing broadcast media for a major supermarket. However, currently, just a handful of agencies I talk to are using this method in their recruitment process.

There are other benefits to talent pipelining
Not only will this approach give you more control over the kinds of candidates you employ, but targeting people yourself will make them feel more special, which is a good introduction to the business.
This approach is about developing relationships, much like PRs do with journalists or clients, and finding out about that person away from their professional achievements or experiences. Not only will this help you figure out if they will be a good cultural fit, it will put you ahead of others in this competitive market as you can build an organic relationship that candidates are more likely to trust.

The skills gap in PR will likely to worsen, which could have an impact on the sector’s growth. But this means that, more than ever, new recruitment approaches need to be taken. And talent pipelining is a good place to start.

  • Peter Cobley is managing director at Found Us.
  • For the latest jobs in PR, please go to Gorkana Jobs.
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