COMMENT: PLATFORM; Forget job titles to ease this PR skills shortage

PR agency hierarchy could be to blame for the recruitment problems currently experienced by the industry, says Matthew Ravden

PR agency hierarchy could be to blame for the recruitment problems

currently experienced by the industry, says Matthew Ravden



Unless I’m much mistaken, there is a quite serious skills shortage out

there right now. It also seems to be particularly acute in the

technology sector.



Agencies can make life unnecessarily difficult for themselves by having

rigid, hierarchical management structures which intimidate potential

employees and make recruitment decisions more complicated than they

should be.



Even going beyond recruitment, the traditional agency hierarchy -

account director, account manager, account executive - promotes

divisiveness and inefficiency.



Divisiveness because junior people are made to feel junior. If you’re

taught that tracking features is an ‘account exec task’, then you’ll

spend your time desperately trying to shed that mantle, gain promotion

to the next level and then dump the ‘rubbish’ onto the next unsuspecting

junior.



Similarly, if you work in an environment where account managers do most

of the media liaison, you’ll probably distance yourself from it when

you’re promoted to account director. So we have many, talented people

in the industry who have lost touch with the art of getting coverage

because it is perceived to be below their station.



Dividing up the PR function into job titles is arbitrary to say the

least. What, after all, is the difference between an account executive

and an account manager? If I were to ask 100 different agencies, I’m

sure I would get 100 different answers. Basically it doesn’t matter.



The alternative is to develop an extremely flat structure, where job

titles are de-emphasised and teamwork is paramount. That might sound

like idealistic waffle, but actually it isn’t. If you remove job titles

from business cards you discover that clients don’t actually care about

them. It means individuals are not perceived in terms of their level of

seniority and the specific role that goes with it, rather in terms of

their PR skills, personality and style.



The upshot is an agency full of all-rounders, rather than an

uncomfortable mix of specialist senior managers and specialist

dogsbodies.



The traditional PR hierarchy is not an accurate reflection of career

growth. It deals in career jumps, not career paths. It’s far healthier

and more natural to have a continuum, where there is a smooth path -

essentially tallying with experience - from the most junior to the most

senior member of a company. There will always be a pecking order, but

it’s a tacit knowledge rather than something that dictates every action.



The same fluid approach to management structures can be usefully applied

to recruitment. Again, the key is to forget about job titles. When we

recruit, it’s not so much a case of looking for account managers, so

much as simply looking for bright, ambitious, like-minded PR

professionals.



Focusing recruitment on job titles means homing in on others’

definitions of an account manager, rather than the qualities you are

looking for in your own agency.



Of course, I can intellectualise all I like, but much of the success or

failure of a recruitment campaign comes down to chemistry. Our third

interviews take place at the local pub and I’m sure it is more

intimidating and nerve-racking than any formal interview process. At

the end of the day, though, people who are likely to fit in and thrive

in such an environment fall in love with us, and invariably it’s mutual.



Matthew Ravden is managing director of consumer-tech agency Bite



Before commenting please read our rules for commenting on articles.

If you see a comment you find offensive, you can flag it as inappropriate. In the top right-hand corner of an individual comment, you will see 'flag as inappropriate'. Clicking this prompts us to review the comment. For further information see our rules for commenting on articles.

comments powered by Disqus

Latest Articles

John Lewis to tell brand story with "tasteful" 150th anniversary celebrations

John Lewis to tell brand story with "tasteful" 150th anniversary celebrations

Department store John Lewis is to use its 150th anniversary this year to talk about its history, which "not enough people know about", according to director of communications Peter Cross.

Labour hires Obama election strategist David Axelrod to fight General Election

Labour hires Obama election strategist David Axelrod to fight General Election

The man who helped Barack Obama win the 2008 and 2012 US presidential elections is to work for Labour along with members of his team.

Sky adds Fever PR to its roster after splitting with Cake

Sky adds Fever PR to its roster after splitting with Cake

Pay-TV giant Sky has added Fever PR to its agency line-up for a wide-ranging brief covering products and services.

Max Clifford trial jury to continue deliberations after Easter break

Max Clifford trial jury to continue deliberations after Easter break

The jury in the trial of celebrity publicist Max Clifford has been sent home for Easter and will reconvene on Tuesday for further deliberations about its verdicts on 11 charges of indecent assault.

Home Office brings in Munro & Forster to campaign against FGM

Home Office brings in Munro & Forster to campaign against FGM

The Home Office has tasked Munro & Forster (M&F) with supporting its campaign to eradicate female genital mutilation (FGM) as part of a wider retained brief.