Five ways to fast-track graduates... for their benefit and yours

The PR industry is unique in the sense that it's the people who matter. The success of an agency or consultancy is almost 100 per cent dependent on the people within it.

People are your biggest asset; so invest in them, says Tom Clive
People are your biggest asset; so invest in them, says Tom Clive
This is because clients aren’t buying a product or commodity; they are buying expertise and advice. 

At a time when budgets are becoming tighter and corporate landscapes more volatile, organisations are looking for public relations expertise that can help them manage the challenges of the ever-changing business world.  

Over the past 10 years or so, the PR industry as a whole has become too commoditised in its approach, churning out irrelevant press releases that have little ROI. 

We must become more consultative and advisory if we are to continue to thrive as an industry. 

With this in mind, it confuses me when I hear stories of junior account executives who are consigned to making coffee, photocopying or building press lists.

Surely, in an industry that relies so heavily on its people, we should be taking a more nurturing and structured approach to developing our junior people as quickly as possible? 

A good PR consultant in 2017 must do more than simply generate coverage for clients. 

Consultants must have outstanding knowledge of the business; be ‘content creators’; be able to provide valuable, objective insight; be able to provide sound advice in a crisis; and become trusted advisers to senior executives. 

In other words, they must become outstanding all-rounders, and below are five ways you can fast-track graduates to this level. 

1. Give broader context

For graduates to fully understand the dynamic of a client relationship, jobs in isolation like selling in the occasional press release can hinder development. It’s important that graduates get a sense early on of all corners of an account. This includes budgeting, client expectations and areas to be wary of, as well as long-term goals. Having that long-term vision is crucial to learning and developing quickly.

2. Transform them into ‘content creators’

PR consultants in 2017 must be able to develop content quickly. Get them writing agency blogs; byline articles for clients; conducting social media activity; and working on client emails from the very outset. There is an art to developing content so have them learning straight away. 

3. Immerse them into your daily activities 

Status calls, face-to-face meetings with clients, journalist meetings, pitching, message development and content creation are just some of the responsibilities involved, and all require a very different skillset. Don’t just expose graduates to one of these elements; show them how to manage all of them.  

4. Challenge them – it’s sink or swim

A good consultant must be able to think on their feet, provide objective advice, and have an ability to build relationships with clients quickly. From our experience, this is something that is difficult to teach, and therefore graduates ought to be challenged to do this early on. You’ll soon recognise if your hire is in the right industry or not.

5. Regular evaluation 

When you’re junior in PR, it’s difficult to always know when you’re going wrong. Don’t wait for a three-month review to point out errors. Criticism and praise should be given in real-time to fast-track development. 

Tom Clive is associate partner at Sermelo 

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