Hiring in communications field remains weak

One economic report this week pointed to signs of recovery, as another noted that the continuing jobless claims dropped to 5.8 million.

One economic report this week pointed to signs of recovery, as another noted that the continuing jobless claims dropped to 5.8 million.

For the PR industry, there have been signs of growth as well, as agencies have reported adding mid-level and senior-level staff and corporate recruiters have noticed increased interest from clients. Yet, industry leaders agree the industry will remain prudent about hiring well into the second and third quarters of 2010.

“Most people will be adding talent but they are going to do it pretty cautiously,” says Gary Stockman, CEO of Porter Novelli.

Reports, like the GDP report and jobs statistics that came out on Thursday, along with the upcoming holiday season and third quarter and end-of-year earnings, have created a dynamic of caution.

“We have to get through this holiday season to allow the last of the badness to wash through the system and then see if some of the signs of life that we're starting to pick up translate to the sort of increases that we think could happen in 2010,” says Corey duBrowa, president of accounts services and the Americas for Waggener Edstrom.

Several agency leaders note growth in the healthcare, CSR, and corporate practices while Lisa Ryan, SVP and MD for Heyman Associates, says companies are increasingly seeking expertise relating to corporate reputation and crisis – both concerns brought on by the economic changes.  

“A good deal of that [rebound] will be tethered to things like the jobs picture,” says duBrowa. “That will need to improve before consumers really start to spend and businesses start to get a sense that any type of uptick they observe is sustainable.”

Digital skills continue to remain a focus point for both agencies and companies. Scott Widmeyer, chairman and CEO at Widmeyer Communications, said that the firm has looked to freelance talent to build up the healthcare, education, and digital practices.

“It's not to where it was before but it's certainly moving along much more quickly now,” says Richard Marshall, MD of the corporate affairs practice at Korn/Ferry International.

Healthcare is strong across the board in hiring, from pharmaceutical to nonprofits to the b-to-b companies, says Ryan. But, even job seekers in the PR industry are remaining cautious as they weigh the uncertainties of a new company or industry.

“The top-tier players are scrutinizing opportunities much more closely because they don't want to make a wrong move in a market like this,” says Marshall. “Confidence is really fragile right now, and I think people, in some regards, overreacted to the marketplace and held back.”

Michael Kempner, president and CEO of MWW Group, says he has started to see pick-up in the consumer sector and is adding staff to that practice, along with sustainability and corporate reputation.

He notes that these are areas that the firm views as “growing and where we anticipate significant future growth.”

CORRECTION: In a previous version of this article, PRWeek reported that Gary Stockman's title was president and CEO. His title is CEO. We regret the error. 

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