Help wanted, but only if you're data savvy

A number of new titles are popping up all over PR agencies as shops move from polishing their content creation chops to focusing on data.

Image source: Getty
Image source: Getty

"Digital intelligence director." "Senior analyst, predictive analytics." These might sound like job titles at a market research firm, but they are actually recently created positions at major U.S. PR shops.

The new positions reflect the effort by firms to beef up capabilities in measurement and analytics. It’s the next step for PR agencies that had been focusing on building out their content creation chops with roles like creative director, copywriter, and planner, which were long much more common at creative agencies.

"We’ve now been seeing a lot more focus on data and analytics for our clients, and so we are bringing people on board who have that knowledge and memory muscle, if you will," explains Edelman global COO Matthew Harrington.

That includes within Edelman Intelligence, the firm’s research arm. One job post on Edelman’s website is for a "digital intelligence director." One key responsibility: design of client measurement frameworks. He or she will also oversee "analytic functions for projects and programs of all complexity levels, including those with high senior management visibility."

The firm is also investing in other types of digital roles, such as UX designers. "We have a variety of digital roles around design experience capabilities. It has been an expanding universe for us," says Harrington.

Ketchum, meanwhile, is seeing the rise of the specialist, due to the transformation of clients’ businesses. Michele Lanza, partner and head of global talent acquisition at the Omnicom Group agency, says it is looking for experts in "predictive analytics, creative planning, media buying, medical writing, influencer relations, crisis management, and client experience."

This past summer, for instance, Ketchum hired a "senior analyst, predictive analytics."

However, Lanza points out that Ketchum doesn’t just need hard skills. "The soft skills needed to be successful are also shifting," she says. "The ability to be flexible, adaptable, curious, and comfortable taking risks is more critical than ever."

As a result, Ketchum is seeking candidates not only from the PR industry, but from ad agencies, startups, newsrooms, consulting firms, and on the client side, including at nonprofits.

However, she notes that as employers, PR firms "ironically have a reputation issue."

"Many of the candidates we want to attract and hire from outside the industry still see us as a PR shop," says Lanza. "We have to continue to educate prospective candidates on how our business has evolved and the type of work we are doing for clients."

Karen Bloom, principal at recruitment firm Bloom, Gross & Associates, says her staff is not seeing as many shiny new titles in the content creation space, but instead a shift by boutique and mid-sized firms "to use more traditional ad agency titles."

For example, some firms are moving towards titles such as project manager, director, senior director, and executive director, instead of the more common assistant account executive, account executive, vice president, and so on, whether to reduce complexity for clients or suggest broader capabilities.

Peppercomm has added several director roles over the past 18 months, including directors of analytics, marketing services, technology, and customer experience.

"It is time to meet client demand for more integrated marketing and communications solutions," says agency partner and president Ted Birkhahn. He adds that the firm decided years ago to follow the director route with its titles, but notes that PR agencies usually use the account-executive-to-VP model.

"But ‘director’ has actually worked quite well for us, because candidates [outside PR agencies] are more familiar with that naming convention," says Birkhahn, adding that the new titles are helping his agency attract entrepreneurial candidates. "They like that they get to be involved in the actual creation and development of these new roles and these departments."

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