The quest for PR professionals is a never-ending task, particularly in an agency environment. As soon as the client team roster fills up, it seems another person leaves and Sisyphus must roll the rock back up the hill to find a replacement.
And it is little wonder. As a recent study has highlighted, communications careers are booming. Today there are 4.8 PR people for every reporter, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. This comes as more companies are looking for communicators to help tell their story to the public and need the right resources to bring these stories to life.
While the availability of so many jobs may be great for the profession, it creates a hyper-competitive environment to find the right talent.
That may be because the career arc of a communications professional is a well-trodden path. Most PR professionals take one of two routes; either they study communications in college and work their way through the ranks or they start in journalism.
Along they way, PR professionals have developed a very particular set of skills, skills acquired over a very long career: they learned how to communicate, how to present and how to sell.
If these three skills are what PR professionals are looking for at the core, why not consider other career paths that offer training in each? You’ll find skills that fill needs across the agency and better yet, they won’t be overly recruited by all your competitors.
Sales professionals. The classic “C” student in college, a sales professional graduated and found work in a field outside of their major of study. That could be anything from car sales to financial products. After going through intensive sales training—learning everything from negotiating techniques to listening to the customer—they spend their days communicating to the public and finding the right product to fit their needs. Change “public” to “media” and “product” to “story angle” and you have the best media pitcher on your team.
Recruiters. We’ve all heard the old saw about the poacher becoming the game keeper when a journalists joins the dark side of PR. What happens when you hunt the poachers? Industry recruiters know their sectors inside and out and can quickly connect with an audience on a phone or over email by presenting a much better solution than the present one. But what they don’t have is what an agency can offer: more stability in their own careers and a defined career path. Conduct your own poaching expedition inside the recruiting firms specializing in your industry and see what talent you discover.
Lawyers. These are professionals trained to research, quickly synthesize large amounts of information into briefs and present a compelling argument to a diverse group of strangers. Lawyers also suffer from high levels of burn-out in legal careers and the difficultly in finding a career path in a saturated market place. If you find a law student out of school a few months in need of a career boost, communications might be just the ticket for them.
Artists. Perhaps no trope is more tired than that of the starving artist. What artists may lack in immediate job prospects, they make up for in their ability to conceptualize abstract concepts and provide clarity of vision. In an age where every client seems to want an impactful infographic, the artists on the team are the resource you need to illustrate data and turn words into visuals.
Programmer. Where will the infographic sit? How will the public find it? How do we convert our static information into dynamic content? The world of agency PR has quickly turned into a high-tech shop with requests to design microsites, programming scripts and learning how search algorithms operate to lead the audience to the right content. A background in programming can help an agency team crack the code and deliver search queries that convert to sales leads. A word of caution on this one, you think PR is competitive, wait until you find out what a good programmer will cost you.
All of the above may not know how to put together a media list or assemble a monthly report right away. But it is probably easier to teach them to be a PR professional than to teach a PR professional to be the things that make them unique.
Consider rolling your rock up a different hill during your next search.
Eric Hazard is a director at Cognito where he helps financial companies tell interesting stories to the world. When he’s not at the office he enjoys hiking in New York’s Catskill mountains and amusing gifs of panda bears. Follow along on Twitter.
Photo: Sisyphus metaphor via Shutterstock