Stars aren't born; they're built

This new perception of the PR industry, and the resulting dollars flowing into it, has translated into an unprecedented groundswell of talent.

Earlier in the week, my blog focused on the evolution of the PR industry and its growing importance. What I didn't discuss, though, is how this new perception of the industry, and the resulting dollars flowing into it, has translated into an unprecedented groundswell of talent.

College grads, career shifters, and others are attracted to a new world of PR where mental agility is paramount – in fact, where it's the only way to solve the problems of the numerous factors than can impact reputations.

Historically, when it came to talent development, PR firms have not fared well. The PR industry typically did little to recruit the best available candidates. Even worse, if a candidate did come on board, firms rarely had a defined plan for how to keep them and nurture their growth. 

What's startling is that many senior PR professionals often looked at what a junior executive could bring to the table as a commodity. Write a decent press release.  Get it out on the wire. Pitch a targeted group of journalists. Monitor for coverage and update the client. For the aggressive, hungry self starter, there just wasn't enough challenge and entrepreneurial spirit in this approach, and the result was a revolving door of talent. 

Today, however, PR is so much more. We are way beyond discrete activities like “writing a press release” and well into a world where a Facebook post might significantly impact the value of a company, and where a Wall Street Journal headline matters more when it's rendered in pixels than when it's written in ink. In this world, talent – and the incubation of it – is critically important.

What I've found is that the smaller, entrepreneurial firms are getting it right. They understand that PR isn't about teaching someone how to put out a press release. It's far more complex than that. The firms that are bringing in top-notch talent at the ground floor and making a real investment in teaching these young professionals and helping them harness their creativity are the firms that are winning business. These are also the firms that we're investing in and making certain have the resources to be successful for a long time into the future.

Nurturing talent, that is the real game changer. The PR profession today is attracting not just brilliant communications professionals, but also young stars with backgrounds in technology, business, finance, healthcare, and numerous other industries. This newfound canvas is allowing the nimble agencies scooping up that talent to thrive, create programs, and build technologies never before considered in the PR industry. As a result, clients and prospects aren't hiring firms for the size of their network or how many dots on the map they can show. They're hiring firms for the bright minds, the free thinkers, and teams full of sharp, intuitive PR experts. They want to see stars that have been built within the agency. 

The successful firm of tomorrow is the one that produces results for its clients because it has made the investment in cultivating elite talent that can navigate and influence today's complex communications landscape.

Miles Nadal is founder, chairman and CEO of MDC Partners.