Wanted: Magic Bullet Recruit Who Can Do Everything.

The PR industry is growing. +7% according to the latest Holmes report.

The industry in the UK now employs more than it ever has – in the region of 70,000 people.

Over 50% of agencies predicting staffing levels will increase in the coming year – and we’re definitely one of them.

The future is bright.

Yet we, like so many other growing agencies, see recruitment as our number one challenge in the coming year.


Put simply, despite record numbers of graduates, the talent is hard to find.

The blame for this lies primarily with an evolving industry – the mix of skills and abilities the successful PR agency of today is looking for, is very different to that of 10 years ago.

10 years ago a sound knowledge of the media, how to write and how to run a good media event was a good starting point.

Today, it can sometimes feel like we are looking for that magic bullet of a recruit – one who knows their content from the back-end, is as comfortable navigating a boardroom as they are the finer details of Facebook’s algorithm and can insert a brand into culture as easily as a formula into a profitability spreadsheet.

While that may not always be the case it highlights the point – recruitment today is not easy – but if this does describe you my email address is…

You may be wondering why a job ad in the right places doesn’t work and, to be fair, it sometimes does. But you are often left looking for the proverbial needle in a haystack; wading through the hopefuls with limited experience, the disaffected looking for a way out, the not qualified trying to avoid the issue and the genuinely good guys who just don’t have the magic combination of skills you are looking for in that instant.

And business only grows if you hire great people, individuals who can stand toe to toe with the outstanding professionals who you already work with and add something on top.

So where does that leave the industry… put simply, looking for ways to make that needle a little more obvious and there are a few out there worth considering:

  1. Recruitment consultants are an obvious first place to start – they can be expensive and the long-term results aren’t always guaranteed. But, if a specific skill-set or level of experience is required then they can act as a good intermediary.
  2. Friends. Years ago, (in the early days of Facebook so don’t judge us!) we created a term for a client campaign called ‘friends win friends’. It doesn’t sound like rocket science and it isn’t. We hire great people, friends tend to be like-minded, so chances are our staff know other great people… friends win friends. But as you continue to grow there’s a limit to this approach.
  3. Buy Potential. Not exactly a quick fix but recruiting people with raw potential is both exciting and beneficial. Whether it’s the recent graduate or the musician looking for a change of direction, if you see that spark of potential it’s always worth the shot.
  4. LinkedIn. If I’m honest this is the single greatest weapon in fighting the recruitment battle. Profiling the right people, with the right skills and being able to have an initial conversation to see if there’s a good fit – is priceless. But you need to invest a lot time and energy in finding the right connections.

For me, tools like these are a bit like the movie Hitch – while there’s a chance you might meet your perfect partner if you head out to a club one night, there’s a better chance of a match if you can thin out the crowd – making it a better process for everyone involved.

All of this needs backed up with substance – you need to deliver a great place to work and great projects to work on. You need a distinctive culture and values that permeate through your entire company and you need to prioritise recruitment at the highest levels of your business.

So maybe it’s not about finding that magic bullet of a recruit but rather spending more time on the range, honing your own offering and ultimately aiming more accurately to generate better results.

Richard Nelson
Global Executive Director