PR firms must show creativity in hiring

Carol Panasiuk, APR, is senior vice-president and general manager of Toronto-based Cohn & Wolfe. Hey! Where did everybody go? If you're like most managers in the public relations industry, then you've started to notice a real shortage of talented communications...

Carol Panasiuk, APR, is senior vice-president and general manager of Toronto-based Cohn & Wolfe.

Hey! Where did everybody go? If you’re like most managers in the public relations industry, then you’ve started to notice a real shortage of talented communications professionals out there.

With Canada’s employment rate at an all-time high, companies in many industry sectors – not just public relations – find themselves competing for increasingly limited human resources in an environment of ever-rising expectations. Suddenly, the business of finding, recruiting and retaining people has become a much larger component of a manager’s job.

Ours is a ‘creative’ industry. Accordingly, we need to exercise more than a little creativity when it comes to dealing with our staffing crunch.

The solution involves three major steps: (1) moving outside the comfort zone to find talent; (2) developing a compelling selling proposition; and (3) building a corporate culture that rewards talented people.

All Roads Lead to PR

Open your mind to the idea of hiring from other fields and recruiting people with experience gleaned in industries not traditionally viewed as sources for PR talent.

While journalism continues to provide us with many capable practitioners, any field with an emphasis on written and oral communication can supply talented people; look for those with backgrounds in areas such as sales and marketing, advertising, management consulting and teaching.

Government has long been a source for specialists in public affairs, but it can also offer up candidates interested in other PR disciplines. The not-for-profit sector, meanwhile, boasts many individuals with strong communications skills, plus backgrounds in nursing, law and financial services – good candidates to fill positions in health care, corporate and financial or investor relations communications.

PR firms that show imagination when recruiting end up with personnel from wildly diverse backgrounds, who bring new expertise and new perspectives to the task of solving communications problems for clients. At our agency, an aspiring actress-cum-receptionist is now an account executive. Another candidate, who came to us with a combination of zoology, sales management and corporate communications expertise, now holds a senior position in our technology practice.

To find the best-qualified people, you need to turn everyone in your organization into a recruiter and sales person, by encouraging a sense of ownership of the process. Every interview must be taken seriously. Employees involved in the hiring decision need to know how to conduct interviews, do follow-ups and check references.

And remember – treat the candidates you don’t hire with courtesy and respect. Those who are treated properly will come away with a favourable impression of your company – and they may well pass that on to other colleagues.

Your Unique Selling Proposition

When it comes to making an offer, bear in mind that – even in today’s hot market – money isn’t always the deciding factor. For most candidates, in fact, it’s third or fourth on their list of reasons for joining a company. And those who do take a job for the money – or trendy offerings like an office putting green or cappuccino machine – are also the ones most likely to jump to a competitor that offers more money or another nifty perk.

People are attracted to an employer for many different reasons: compensation, inspiration, the opportunity to acquire and use new skills, a sense of ownership. If you want to ensure that your job offer is accepted, then it’s important to communicate proactively the company’s core values. Place a strong emphasis on those fundamentals that many up-start companies overlook: honesty, professionalism, a solid infrastructure and a long-term view.

Be prepared to move promptly when you do find talented people. Make your best offer, and then let candidates make up their minds. Bear in mind that the real key to finding and keeping the best people is offering a home for their talent – an environment where they can learn and grow and be rewarded. Focus on building your reputation as a hot company with growth potential, not as a deep pocket.

Also in this report:

* Dot-coms put best face forward: PR playing a larger role in communication strategies of online enterprises p.B2

* Branding dot-coms with PR poses challenges: Companies must resist impulse to move too quickly, or to shift positioning constantly p.B4

* PR meets investor relations: Disciplines converging in high-tech world p.B5

* High-tech PR expertise in short supply p.B6

* Web impacting corporate reputation: Companies want to know what’s being said about them online – and by whom p.B8

In Brief: The Garden picks CDs to take on daily creative leadership

Plus, Naked names two new leaders of its own and Digital Ethos comes to Canada.

The Garden promotes two creative directors

ACDs Lindsay Eady and Francheska Galloway-Davis have taken over responsibility for day-to-day creative leadership at The Garden after being promoted to creative director roles.

The pair will also help develop the agency’s creative talent, formalizing mentorship and leadership activities they have been doing since joining the agency four and three years ago, respectively. In addition to creating the agency’s internship program, the pair have worked on campaigns for Coinsquare, FitTrack and “The Coke Challenge” campaign for DanceSafe.

Eady and Galloway-Davis will continue to report to The Garden’s co-founder and chief creative officer Shane Ogilvie, who is stepping back from daily creative duties to a more high-level strategic role, allowing him to focus on client relationships and business growth.

Naked Creative Consultancy names new creative and strategy leadership

Toronto’s Naked Creative Consultancy has hired Yasmin Sahni as its new creative director. She is taking over creative leadership from David Kenyon, who has been in the role for 10 years and is moving into a new role as director of strategy, leading the discipline at the agency.

Sahni is coming off of three years as VP and ECD at GTB’s Toronto office, where she managed all the retail, social and service creative for Ford Canada. She previously managed both Vice Media and Vice’s in-house ad agency Virtue.

Peter Shier, president of Naked, says Sahni’s hiring adds to its creative bench and capabilities, as well as a track record of mentorship, a priority for the company. Meanwhile, Kenyon’s move to the strategy side, he says, makes sense because of his deep knowledge of its clients, which have included Ancestry and The Globe and Mail.

Digital Ethos opens a Toronto office

U.K. digital agency Digital Ethos is pursuing new growth opportunities in North America by opening a new office in Toronto.

Though it didn’t disclose them, the agency has begun serving a number of North American clients, and CEO/founder Luke Tobin says the “time was right to invest in a more formal and actual presence in the area.” whose services include design, SEO, pay-per-click, social media, influencer and PR,

This year, the agency’s growth has also allowed it to open an office in Hamburg, Germany, though it also has remote staff working in countries around the world.

Moray Hickes was the company’s first North American hire as VP of sales, tasked with business development in the region.