PR hiring and recruitment on the upswing

Talent recruiters say the rebound in the job market for PR pros has already started, with much of the strength coming from the senior management level.

Talent recruiters say the rebound in the job market for PR pros has already started, with much of the strength coming from the senior management level.

“It is very strong at the top end of the market and stubbornly weak at the lower end, which is why you see unemployment rates so high,” says Don Spetner, senior client partner of the corporate affairs practice for executive recruiting firm Korn/Ferry International.

Korn/Ferry is placing senior talent in positions that pay a minimum of $250,000 a year, Spetner says.

In fact, he says this area of the business has been so busy that at one point Korn/Ferry had to turn down searches. The firm's revenues are up by 30% versus 12 months ago, he says.

“Corporate profits are very strong, and the demand at the lower levels is getting strong in that sector,” he says.

The growing demand for talent is supported by a recent quarterly report, The Creative Group Hiring Index for Marketing and Advertising Professionals, which surveyed 500 marketing and advertising executives (375 of them at companies with more than 100 staff and 125 of them at agencies with more than 20 staff).

The survey found 93% of them were confident in their company's prospects for growth in the first quarter of 2011. As a result, a net 4% of them anticipate hiring in the next three months, up one point from the previous quarter.

When the executives were asked in which areas they plan to add staff, account services ranked first (at 16%) followed by social media and PR (each at 15%). Interactive media followed at 14%.

Porter Novelli currently has approximately 25 positions open across all levels, says Scott Grubin, the agency's chief talent officer. He says the demand is being driven by organic growth and new business, particularly in the areas of consumer, healthcare, and digital.

“Digital is still hot,” Grubin tells PRWeek. “The critical thing for us is making sure that people who we bring on board can integrate digital and leverage it in the right spaces for our clients.”

The need for digital expertise has also been a key staffing driver at Constituency Management Group, the PR and diversified services arm of IPG, which currently has more than 50 staff openings.

“The demand is in all areas of digital, including social media, but also web development and digital marketing,” says Judith Harrison, SVP of staffing, diversity and inclusion. “I am also seeing tremendous pickup in consumer and consumer tech.”

She says talent is needed at every level. “We have lots of account coordinator openings all the way up to the most senior roles.”

Dave Senay, president and CEO of Fleishman-Hillard, said 2010 is a prologue to 2011 in terms of hiring. He added that there will be more hiring of planners and creative directors.

“You can't overlook content and the creative idea. It's driving more of what we do,” Senay said about why there will be hiring in those areas.

Some of Fleishman's hires this year included Steve Hardwick, regional president and GM of the New York office; Stephani Marchesi, SVP and MD of integrated marketing; Jason Vines, SVP in St. Louis; and Maxine Winer, GM in Chicago.

The firm also let go up to 9% of its staff in its Washington office in August.

 The Creative Group survey also found that nearly half (48%) of executives said they are concerned about losing top creative talent in the coming year, up seven points from the previous quarter.

“Agencies should be concerned,” Spetner says. “We're at the dangerous burnout factor moment—people have really been sucking it up for the last three years with no raises, minimum bonuses and in some cases pay cuts while taking on more workload because of fewer staff. New opportunities look really attractive right now, particularly given the stock market has returned.”

 “People are becoming more comfortable about hearing about other opportunities,” agrees Grubin. “What we're doing is making sure we're leveraging all of our resources, not just dollars, against our high-performing talent to make sure they have the opportunities to grow their career.”

He says retention strategies include allowing talent to work with new clients, take on different assignments and relocate to other parts of the world within the agency's network.

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