THINKPIECE: There are plenty of virtual PR pros from which to choose, but ask questions before committing

Virtual staffing for PR and marketing communications projects is the emerging new paradigm that is rapidly becoming the norm. This trend is explained by three factors: exploding demand for PR pros; the corporate mainstreaming of telecommuters; and the burgeoning cadre of professionals successfully selecting out of the rat race and moving into a saner lifestyle.

Virtual staffing for PR and marketing communications projects is the emerging new paradigm that is rapidly becoming the norm. This trend is explained by three factors: exploding demand for PR pros; the corporate mainstreaming of telecommuters; and the burgeoning cadre of professionals successfully selecting out of the rat race and moving into a saner lifestyle.

Virtual staffing for PR and marketing communications projects is the emerging new paradigm that is rapidly becoming the norm. This trend is explained by three factors: exploding demand for PR pros; the corporate mainstreaming of telecommuters; and the burgeoning cadre of professionals successfully selecting out of the rat race and moving into a saner lifestyle.

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the PR industry will experience a 60% growth rate by the year 2005, representing over 50,000 new jobs. Additionally, with an estimated 19.6 million people telecommuting last year, half of whom were self-employed, the opportunities for temporary and full-time placement agencies appear to be unlimited.

Technology makes the virtual workforce possible. Most private PR consultants are connected to the Internet and use e-mail and faxes to communicate with clients. From national product launches to strategic counsel to boutique PR firms, the virtual PR consultant provides value, expertise, fresh creative perspective and an objective point of view.

How can corporate VPs or agency execs harness the power of the virtual workforce? Research will save you time and frustration.

While placement firms are cropping up all over the country to staff outsourced communication projects, these firms are not all equal. For that reason, ask the following questions:

- What is the firm's specialty?

- Who are their clients?

- What type of consultants do they represent? Are they mostly IT consultants with a smattering of PR and marketing folks thrown in, or does the firm specialize in servicing the PR industry?

- Do they screen applicants through exams and reference checks? Will they ensure a good match through a contractual commitment to replace a consultant who may not work well with your firm?

- Do they honor confidentiality by having consultants sign non-disclosure agreements - both the staffing firm's and yours?

- Most importantly, do they know the candidate they are presenting to your firm or is he or she just one of thousands of names that pop up in their database?

All of these questions are critical when selecting a firm to find candidates for virtual projects. Bottom line: a top-notch virtual PR agency offers corporations and agencies access to a prequalified group of consultants that can hit the ground running.



- Rhonda Silva is VP of Blue Skies Marketing & Public Relations Staffing Solutions.



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