Staffing Focus: PR Tribes - What's the best mix?

In-house comms departments encompass a broad range of personalities. PRWeek and APCO researched the optimum combination for effective teams. Illustrations by Jonathan Williams.

Stakeholder Charmer: PR Tribes
Stakeholder Charmer: PR Tribes

As in-house comms teams have shrunk over the past few years under the pressure of dwindling budgets, comms directors have been forced to make tough decisions about who to keep.

Is it better to hang on to digital specialists and those with great relationships with the media, or delegate that work to agencies? Should you keep the person with impeccable organising skills, or would it be more useful to have someone who is strong on strategy?

PRWeek joined with PR agency APCO to research senior members of in-house comms teams to find out how prevalent six different PR 'tribes' are. Overleaf you can see a graphic representation of each tribe, together with the proportion of PROs who identified themselves with each group.

The majority felt they could not be defined by a single category, seeing themselves as a blend of two to three different types. This perhaps reflects the increasing breadth of responsibilities laid at the door of today's in-house comms professional.

But strategy king or queen remains the tribe with which most PROs identify.

'The incredible range of skills and responsibilities required of the modern PR function means you need a mix of different people if you want to make the PR premier league,' says Chris Genasi, director at APCO. 'Our research shows that the perfect cocktail for a top team is two parts thinkers and four parts doers. So at the next PR pow-wow, every head of comms needs to ask if every tribe member has a seat at the table or if there are some absent friends who need to be brought inside the tent.'

Stakeholder Charmer - 33%

Stakeholder Charmer

 You're aware that being persuasive starts with being a great listener. You're never happier than when you walk into a roomful of people at an event and look for your contacts. You've either met, or aim to meet, Carole Stone. A handful of London's media-land members clubs rely on you for business.

Strategy king/queen - 72%

Strategy King/Queen

  Like a human helicopter, your particular skill is seeing the big picture, forming the right strategy so that others can fill in the details. You're most comfortable when setting the agenda, and are quite fond of distilling comms strategy into pithy three-word mission statements.

Media junkie - 23%

Media Junkie

  You already have a bunch of ideas for any new TV show within days of its launch. You've done your time delivering press releases in fancy dress to the receptions of magazine publishers and now call a handful of nationals journalists 'friends'. Well, work friends anyway.

Padberry addict - 29%

Whether it's pulling out your iPad on the train home to defend your brand on Twitter, or juggling your home and work schedule via two iPhones, you're a native in the land of technology. And you're sure all that time on Foursquare will pay off at some point.

Clipboard wizard - 43%

Clipboard wizard

Never without a 'to do' list, you like little more than to know that everything is nicely scheduled and that every member of the team is working on their allotted task. You are the person your manager relies on to make sure events run like a Swiss clock. Your guilty pleasure is filling in forms.

Ideas dreamer - 42%

Ideas Dreamer

 There's a good reason your desk is next to the window. You're the person who comes up with 20 new ideas a week. Twelve of them are totally unfeasible, albeit fascinating, four of them would give your CEO a heart attack, but the remaining four could well transform next year's profits.


Source: 96 in-house respondents, surveyed by email in June 2011. Percentages refer to proportion of respondents who identify with each type

Competition: The winner of the prize draw for a Kindle, drawn from respondents to the ‘Tribes’ questionnaire, is Charlotte Harvey, senior external affairs manager at Amey.

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