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5 February 2013 - 3:19pm | posted by | 2 comments

The PR industry needs to act now to safeguard its future

Sandy LindsaySandy Lindsay

Talent – it’s a curious thing. Agency heads can work our socks off trying to promote our consultancies to the next generation of PR talent and come up empty handed, and then one day a super-talented graduate will come walking through the door, completely out of the blue.

The truth is that the PR industry currently has a job on its hands to find the right people to help it own the ‘digital space’, a land grab being fiercely fought over by other disciplines, including those web bods, advertising or many others.

Let’s be clear – a PR agency is ONLY about its talent. PR agencies don’t have state-of-the-art manufacturing systems, specialist software or valuable IP (well rarely anyway). Without decent talent, our industry will shrivel and die – and it could happen very soon, with those aforementioned types constantly snapping at our heels.

And the fight for talent is even more keenly fought for an agency like ours based in Manchester.

There is still a misconception among the remaining misinformed few, that the best brains head south to London, leaving the so-called ‘provinces’ an intellectual wasteland. Well, having worked in the thriving Manchester PR industry for two decades, I can tell you that isn’t the case.

The north west is home to some of the brightest, most creative people in the UK. On a daily basis we devise and implement exciting, challenging and strategic campaigns, and it’s all down to the brains of the people making it possible.

But the sector - not just in the north west but right across the UK - needs to work together to keep it that way.

The 2011 PR Industry Census collated by PRCA and PRWeek found that 51 per cent of the UK PR industry is based in London, while just six per cent is in the north west. However, the same research found that the north west has the highest percentage of young people, with 61 per cent, compared to London’s 55 per cent.

That’s why it’s business critical for us to move the boundaries of discussion outside the M25, and own the debate over the future of our industry in the regions as well. In order to be a contender, we’ve got to show ‘the talent’ that we have everything they need to succeed – and more.

That’s why I’m chairing this year’s PRCA careers day taking place at Manchester Metropolitan University on 11 February, which will offer graduates the opportunity to gain guidance on breaking into the industry and delivering award-winning campaigns across the range of media. I’m being joined by representatives from leading agencies in the region including BDB, Havas, Pelican, Weber Shandwick and Fourth Day, as well as Rod Cook, director of comms at Derbyshire County Council and Julian Fisher, head of media output at Markettiers4dc.

I’m looking forward to a great day, and to meeting tomorrow’s talent and learning as much from them as I hope they’ll learn from us.

Sandy Lindsay is managing director of Tangerine PR and the north west group head of PRCA, the Public Relations Consultants Association


5 Feb 2013 - 16:21
reedphil's picture

An interesting topic, and no-one could disagree that PR agencies are only as good as the talent they attract and retain.

The key is to widen the net. There will always be a need for PR graduates and for experienced PR bods with the right skills, but we also need to be attracting hardcore digital people and social engagement experts. Consumer PR, in particular, is becoming less about column inches and more about the brand experience, and the PR industry needs to reflect that in its approach to recruitment.

Diversity is a big issue in PR, but the argument tends to be limited to ethnicity and social background. I think the real diversity challenge is in broadening the range of skills we associate with PR.

7 Feb 2013 - 10:20
haydensutherland's picture

I'm a 'digital bod' as you described and I think this highlights one area where the PR industry has dropped the ball. Over the years I've worked alongside many PR agencies (both in London and further afield) who continually refer to digital as "something over there that digital folks do, whilst we do PR over here". On the other hand, the digital industry now talks about 'engagement' , 'influence' and other factors that contribute to a multi-channel campaign - especially around areas such as search engine optimisation. In short, the Digital industry has moved up close to the PR industry, ate a lot of it's lunch and invented new disciplines such as Content Marketing... that should have been driven by the PR industry in the first place! Until it learns to broaden it's reach and truly understand the use and impact of digital comms, the PR industry will not attract the right young talent it needs at all and then I really would fear for it's future.


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