Mumsnet's Rowan Davies: Five takeaways on PR after judging the Best Places to Work Awards

The PR industry is missing a few tricks in terms of staff packages but overall it is a highly attractive option.

Mumsnet users tend to have quite strong opinions on employment issues that affect families, starting hundreds (if not thousands) of conversations about the issues involved on our forums every year. It’s why we set up our Family Friendly programme to celebrate best practice and innovation in the field.

There’s no magic bullet when it comes to being a family-friendly employer, but there are two things that our users want, whatever their individual circumstances: flexibility, and a company culture that makes people feel they can ask for what they need (even if it can’t alw­ays be granted). Lots of people worry that the simple public confession that they have a family and would like to see them occasionally will torpedo their careers.

So, judging the Best Places to Work in PR awards was hugely interesting – and it was fantastic to have the chance to ask impertinent questions of business owners and executives at the top of their game.

As someone who has never worked in the PR industry, what did I learn?

  • PR has very specific demographics. This will be blindingly obvious to people who work in the sector, but it was news to me. It appears to be both overwhelmingly female and overwhelmingly young (by which, as a moderately ancient person, I mean people under 30). When an industry benefits from the talent of so many young women, it has a responsibility to work with them to develop their careers while accommodating their decisions about pregnancy and childcare – and there was some evidence that this doesn’t always happen. A surprising number of companies with otherwise all-singing, all-dancing benefits packages offered only statutory minimums for parental pay and leave.

  • If you’d be willing to consider something, say so upfront. You’d be willing to think about matching your paternity pay and leave package to your maternity package? That’s great – but your staff don’t necessarily know this. If it’s something you’d be happy to consider, stick it in your HR policy document so that everyone’s on the same page. You could be losing out because someone else is being more bold about what they’re willing to offer.

  • PR really is a people industry. Many of the people we spoke to emphasised that identifying and retaining talent is the top priority for their companies. With that in mind, perhaps the industry would benefit from recruiting more supercharged individuals from non-traditional areas: older people, non-graduates, mothers looking to change careers.

  • In PR, the start-up game is strong. Those of us who work in tech and new media are sometimes guilty of thinking that start-ups must revolve around social platforms and people who ride complicated bicycles to work in Old Street; seeing so many vibrant and viable start-ups from across the country was a welcome corrective.

  • PR really does sound like a great industry to work in. Some companies offering great packages didn’t even make the category shortlists because of the sheer abundance of good practice on offer. On the basis of what I saw, PR takes some beating for ambitious entrants to the jobs market.

Rowan Davies is Mumsnet head of policy and campaigns and a Best Places to Work judge

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