The opportunity is here to attract the best people to PR

As we approach graduation season, some students will soon launch their careers at PR firms across the US.

As we approach graduation season, some students will soon launch their careers at PR firms across the US.

It's a great time to get into our business. PR's role and value are becoming more pronounced in organizations, while technological advances are spurring new excitement and creativity in the work. These trends were reflected in data recently collected by the Council of PR Firms.

Firms surveyed last month averaged a 10.8% increase in first quarter revenues over Q1 2005, and 89% of those firms expect revenues to rise in 2006. Sectors generating the most volume for firms in 2005 were, in order, consumer products and services, tech, healthcare, financial services, and industrial (b-to-b). More than half of revenues were generated in marketing communications (54%), followed by corporate communications (24%) and public affairs (12%).

Growth has intensified the need for talented people. The Bureau of Labor Statistics from the US Department of Labor recently stated: "Keen competition likely will continue for entry-level PR jobs... Employment of PR specialists is expected to grow faster than average for all occupations through 2014."

For those in the industry, it's an exciting chance to attract the quality and diversity of talent that will keep building PR's prominence.

Look to the future

We recently surveyed our members on various talent issues; the findings will be provided to the Commission on Public Relations Education for a report due later this year. When asked about the technical skills one needs for success, writing was most important - by far - followed by oral communications skills and educational background/major. (Consequently, found the survey, 88% of firms administer some type of writing test to prospective employees).

In terms of success factors, firms rated intelligence, attitude, and presence/poise as most important, in that order. Having "business sense" is clearly a must at PR firms. According to Harvard Business School professor Dr. Ashish Nanda, who spoke at the Council's most recent leadership seminar, finding the right combination of management, counseling, and leadership skills makes staffing professional service firms more challenging than most other businesses.

We need diversity of experience, views, culture, and gender to capitalize on this moment. The Council is creating vehicles to provide information and inspiration about the opportunities in PR:

Diverse talent. We have established a diversity committee to work with ethnically diverse third-party organizations to help attract and retain African-American, Hispanic, and Asian candidates.

"Successful transition" program. Within the past year, about one-third of member firms have hired professionals who bring needed talents to the firm, but do not have agency experience. We're working on a program to help increase the success of these pros who bring diversity of experience and perspective to client needs.

Collateral and teaching. Communicating the intellectual and financial rewards of a PR career through all forms of interaction.

Members of the Council and of the PRSA's Counselors Academy can use PRQuickStart, a jointly developed tool to offer "a day in the life of..." look at a PR firm. A great way to learn more about PR career opportunities, including internships, is through the Council's searchable database, Find-A-Firm. There are also booklets available free on the Web site about careers and working with a firm.

Kathy Cripps is president of the Council of Public Relations Firms.

The Council is dedicated to strengthening the recognition and role of public relations firms in corporate strategy, business performance, and social education, serving as an authoritative source of information and expert comment and helping set standards for the PR industry. For more information about the Council of Public Relations Firms, call 1-877-PRFIRMS or visit our Web site at www. prfirms.org.

This column is contributed and paid for by the Council of PR Firms.

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