Recently I had a conversation with an agency CEO about the firm's outlook for 2010. Several agencies have been cautiously optimistic about next year being significantly better for business and clients investing more money in PR. This particular CEO was worried, but not about client spending. That, she said, would come back eventually, and there were several projects that were already fueling the new business pipeline. Rather, the concern was for the agency's employees, many of whom had been through a tough year in which staff was reduced and they had taken on extra work while agreeing to salary freezes. What would prevent them from leaving the PR profession all together once the economy rebounded?
It's an interesting question, and probably not one that agency executives consider often enough. Much of the attention during this downturn has been on keeping clients, often going to extreme lengths to do so. But what has really been done to keep employees invested, not only in a particular company, but in the PR profession overall? It's easy to think that in this environment, employees will feel lucky to have a job at all, but that doesn't take into account the need for creative professionals to be challenged and assured that there is value in what they do.
Over the past few years, the industry has focused on educating both clients and other C-level executives about the importance of PR and why it can be more valuable and effective than other marketing disciplines.
But especially during this time, agencies and corporate PR departments should be taking the time to re-educate their employees as well, relaying how their work in PR makes a difference for clients and the business overall. Reminding them about why they went into PR in the first place certainly could not hurt. In an industry that depends so heavily on talent, taking the time to ensure its people feel appreciated and productive is worth the small effort.