Five ways to overcome your healthcare comms talent drought

Recruiting and retaining talent tops the charts of challenges facing PR agencies and in-house communication departments across all sectors.

Have you ever found yourself banging down HR’s door for a warm body? asks Shalon Roth
Have you ever found yourself banging down HR’s door for a warm body? asks Shalon Roth

However, the drought is acute in healthcare, where consultants are expected to be functionally talented, steeped in nuances of multiple disease areas and fluent in industry regulations – a blend of expertise that's hard to find even in the best of candidates. 

It's no wonder that agencies and comms departments poach from each other; however, increasingly more talent is leaving – both sides – to freelance.

Whether it's to take care of the kids, an ageing parent or to spend their weekdays getting bronzed on a Costa Rican beach, PR pros are leaving our pocket of comms in droves. 

Instead of fighting over the last shred of talent, it’s time to get resourceful.

1. Embrace flexible/remote working to scoop up seasoned talent 

Many PR pros have left their urban-based positions for lifestyle improvements, so you’ll have the pick of the litter if you’re not fussed about where they’re based. What’s it to you if team members work partially from home or a provincial town in France? As long as the work is of high quality, stakeholders are happy, and there are touchpoints to maintain team cohesion, there's no need for everyone to be in the office. 

2. Recruit from other sectors

Many pros want to change gears and use their PR powers for good – to help patients. They may be media mavens, captivating copywriters and client whisperers, but don't have a lick of healthcare experience. While prior knowledge is convenient, how many times do we teach ourselves a new therapy area for a pitch anyway? Plus, you'll gain fresh perspective, which may help shake up stale campaigns.

3. Raise awareness of PR as a career option in universities

Some students on track for scientific degrees suddenly realise they don't want to spend their lives bent over a microscope, and here's where we should be recruiting for data communications. They may not know how to write a press release, but after getting a PhD in some pathway we didn't know existed, we should have confidence they'll be a quick study.

4. Staff ahead

We’ve all been there – banging down HR's door for a warm body. There's nothing worse than panic hiring, whether it's that mediocre freelancer (as many are) you swore you wouldn't contract again or lowering standards to expedite permanent hires. Try staffing ahead – use quarterly cap planning to identify when resources can be shared with busier teams or hire amazing talent before the need is critical. Don't let great candidates fall through your fingers! If you're in a cycle of growth and they're really that good, they'll find ways to add value until a more formal position is available.

5. Get white-labelled work. 

We're in an on-demand economy, so why not take the pressure off the team and outsource a few deliverables? Some virtual agencies don't mind working for their peers if they have capacity and aren't conflicted.

Shalon Roth is the founder of PR-it and co-author of 'How to Succeed in a PR Agency: Real Talk to Grow Your Career & Become Indispensable'.


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