Editorial: Want top talent? Go recruit at Ivies

It’s known that cream rises, and management consultants have made it their business to scoop off the top talent from colleges.

It’s known that cream rises, and management consultants have made it their business to scoop off the top talent from colleges.

It’s known that cream rises, and management consultants have made

it their business to scoop off the top talent from colleges.



They’ve paid for it, of course. Starting salaries for an MBA graduate

are legendary. A joint study by the Council of PR Firms and

Fleishman-Hillard found that average starting salaries were dollars

90,000, with signing bonuses averaging dollars 27,000.



But the expense doesn’t even start there. Undergraduates are wooed on

college campuses (expense no. 1) and paid handsomely to spend two years

learning the ropes as ’analysts’ (doesn’t that word sound good?). Then,

they are encouraged to attend business school (expense no. 2). And those

candidates that they’ve missed in the first round, they’ll spend even

more money recruiting (expense no. 3) in the business schools.



It’s a system that’s been developed over years and years. And it’s

worked.



So what is the response of the PR community as it contemplates its own

talent problems? The lamentable answer: give up, before it has even

started.



Faced with these numbers, the industry collectively deduces that

recruitment in the well-trodden hunting ground of the big cats is a lost

cause. Don’t you think that’s a little bit defeatist? Does the industry

have no faith in its own appeal to intelligent people?



PRWeek agrees that the management consultants have got the MBA market

locked up. And it endorses the conclusion of Jack Bergen, president of

the Council of Public Relations firms, when he says that the Ivy League

and smaller liberal arts-focused colleges are a better source of

candidates.



But for whatever reason, PR firms eschew on-campus recruitment at Ivy

League institutions (and the so-called Little Ivies such as Bowdoin and

Amherst) because of a perceived lack of interest on the part of

undergraduates.



The reality, however, as PRWeek found, is that these well-known breeding

grounds of talent are far more open to the embraces of PR than was once

thought.



For an analysis piece on this issue (see p20), PRWeek called the career

offices of Princeton University and the University of Pennsylvania. In

both cases, the career services directors told us that they have tried -

in earnest - to encourage PR agencies to do on-campus recruiting, but

the response has been virtually zero.



At these schools, the likelihood is that you’ll find students with a

gift for self-expression: historians, English majors, debaters,

linguists, and drama students all make fine prospects for an industry

looking to hire communicators.



So are we really saying that Ivy League graduates wouldn’t be interested

in the challenges of PR? Should we really be happy that once again, we

can’t even sell ourselves outside of a very small, safe, community?



Our evidence suggests that far from giving up, we haven’t even tried

yet. It also suggests that Ivy League colleges are willing to

listen.



And we have a sneaky feeling that if a PR agency were brave enough to go

and do a great job selling itself, and the profession, the students

would be interested too.



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