Wider remit for PR professionals in tough job market

New research has suggested that senior PR professionals are increasingly taking on wider marketing responsibilities, amid findings that the number of high-level comms moves have dropped sharply.

Internal move: Nintendo’s Pearce (inset) took on integrated role
Internal move: Nintendo’s Pearce (inset) took on integrated role

A report by business analysts Pearlfinders claims senior in-house appointments have fallen by 40 per cent in Q3 compared with the same period last year. However, one of the areas in which the research identified growth was an increasing number of posts that called for PR professionals to handle wider responsibilities, most notably overseeing the firm’s marketing function.

Anthony Cooper, MD of Pearlfinders, pointed to the findings that of the 57 PR ‘decision maker’ moves the research found in Q3, eight per cent of those involved senior corporate affairs executives shifting into chief marketing officer-type roles – a six per cent rise on last year. He said: ‘We’re seeing a softer job market, with decision makers often staying in roles and adding expertise to those roles. We’re seeing extra responsibility being added to the PR director’s job spec – you could call it empire building.’

Cooper suggested responsibilities of chief marketing officers (CMOs) necessitated a shift from expertise in data, analytics and technology to ‘comms, charisma and influence’, adding that ‘many firms are now seeking senior figureheads who can bridge the gap’.

Such recent moves have included Thomson Reuters’ PR chief Jolie Hunt being poached by AOL to become CMO in July, while Converse created a brand comms director role for Splendid’s Alex Weller in September.

The trend has also been seen in some internal appointments, with Nintendo’s Shelly Pearce taking on the marketing and PR director role after serving as head of European PR.

Newly appointed SABMiller comms director Catherine May said she recognised the trend outlined by Cooper, stating she had seen ‘increasing concern’ from large firms around reputation management’s link with brand marketing. 

She added that as the roles merged, PR professionals were now in pole position to grab the expanded responsibilities.
Amanda Fone, managing partner, f1 recruitment, said: ‘We will see more board-level appointments where PR may be someone’s main area of expertise, but their repertoire of wider marketing skills will give them the competitive edge.’
Pearlfinders interviewed in-house comms and marketing figures to collate the report.

Comms job moves rejuvenate the clothing sector

Having slowed down to a near- standstill in appointments this time last year, clothing is now the leading sector for comms job moves, according to research by Pearlfinders.

Breaking down the job moves of senior PR professionals for Q3 revealed the clothing sector made up 17.5 per cent of the job moves last quarter. This is part of steady growth during the year, from a low point of just one per cent in Q3 2011.

Coming second out of a total of 23 sectors designated by Pearlfinders was retail with 14 per cent, a growth of about 11
per cent on last year. 

The third  most active market for job moves was financial services at 10.5 per cent, albeit down 3.8 per cent on Q3 2011. Of the rise in clothing and retail over the past year, Pearlfinders’ Cooper said: ‘These sectors have fortified their more junior ranks with social and exper-iential expertise.

‘The financial services sector is also hiring PR talent once more,after a period of defensive consolidation and contraction.’

How I see it

Simon Sproule, Corporate vice-president, global marketing comms, Nissan

Many comms challenges no longer fit neatly into either a marketing or PR category. Every time we approach a product launch, comms should be approaching it with a 360- degree integrated approach and communal budget, rather than thinking which area [marketing or PR] needs it most.

Scott Wilson, UK CEO, Cohn & Wolfe

This is evidence of the coming of age of PR, and the fact that people with a PR background can only be a good thing. Within the world of FMCG, we are seeing a lot more clients approaching marketing challenges through the lenses of the paid, owned and earned model.



Key stats


Percentage drop in senior comms moves compared with Q3 2011


Percentage of PROs given CMO roles among Q3 2012 job moves


Rise in PROs given CMO roles among Q3 job moves 2012 compared with 2011


Clothing sector’s share in senior PRO moves – the highest

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