PR bosses: PR recruitment agencies and poorly trained uni graduates are a problem

L:R Edelman's Michelle Hutton, PPR's Michael Pooley, Moderator Tim Burrowes, The Hallway's Louise Pogmore, Klick's Kim McKay.

L:R Edelman’s Michelle Hutton, PPR’s Michael Pooley, Moderator Tim Burrowes, The Hallway’s Louise Pogmore, Klick’s Kim McKay.

A group of Australia’s leading public relations agencies bosses say they are unhappy with the quality of candidates being found by PR recruitment companies and also the level of training in public relations offered by university courses.

Speaking at Comms Conn conference in Sydney the panel, consisting of CEO of Edelman Michelle Hutton, PPR general manager of Sydney Michael Pooley, Head of PR at The Hallway Louise Pogmore and founder of Klick Communications Kim McKay, told the audience they were generally dissatisfied with many public relations recruitment firms.

Asked how good the major public relations recruitment agencies were, Hutton replied: “not that good.”

“Look I think a lot of recruitment agencies still provide people with traditional PR skills, but we know how to find people with those skills. What we don’t know is how to find people who also have the other skills we need,” she said.

“The conversations I’ve been having is with recruitment agencies outside of PR. They get it. They know how to find the upcoming data or analytics person. So if we are going to work with a recruitment agency we are more likely to work with people in that space.”

Pogmore agreed but said that she was overcoming the PR industry skills shortage through training her recruits. “I will take a person with a traditional PR background and give them a broader understand of the marketing mix. From a personal point of view, that’s really exciting and some people really want to grasp onto that and others find it too much,”  said Pogmore.

Klick’s Kim McKay described how she recently hired a number of positions and struggled to find people with the right talent.

“It is incredibly hard to find great talent especially people who deliver on what we do and have that mix of tradition PR and social,” McKay said.

“It was a hard slog to find some really great talent. We found them but it wasn’t an easy process.”

Hutton said told the audience that the changing needs of clients meant she was increasingly looking outside traditional public relations for the right candidates.

“We’re finding more and more that people who have worked in other creative, media and digital agencies want to come work in public relations. Because they can recognise that the PR agencies are poised to take on a lot of ad work,” she said.

PPR’s Sydney boss Michael Pooley said they tried to avoid using recruitment agencies. “We get a lot of people not through recruiters,” said Pooley.

“On the point around training. It is interesting to watch account managers who have come up and been promoted to account director and they are embracing a whole new set of skills.”

Asked if PR graduates were coming out of university with the necessary level of skills Michael Pooley said: “not and the moment.”

“Agencies are at the coal face and are seeing what’s happening a lot more quickly. It’s harder for some of the university courses to be able to adapt more quickly.”

“I think it has to be on us in the industry to actually work with the universities to ensure on what they’re teaching their students as an output matches what is required.”

“They need to be thinking about content. Their course is no longer about learning to write a media release anymore, and they are changing — there is a real appetite (for change) from the universities we speak to.”

“We are also recruiting from different areas, where once we saw CVs that had PR degrees and you’d say yep tick that’s fine but today we want people who understand creative, people who understand stats, data and getting those people who do things like video production and design.”

Nic Christensen


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