When COVID shutdown the world in February 2020 businesses put a halt on hiring. We know this first-hand as we went from 40 vacancies to 0 in the space of two weeks. Managing Directors looked to cut costs and ensure their businesses could survive an unforeseeable future. One of the first hiring needs axed were entry-level talent.
By June 2020 things were turning around and by December 2020 hiring was back in full swing. However, there was one big problem. Most PR agencies didn’t run a graduate or internship programme in 2020. This meant in 2021 there were very few Junior Account Executives ready for promotion to Account Executive.
This means in 2022, this shortage of Account Executive’s will knock onto the Senior Account Executive level unless the industry can progress junior talent through the ranks faster than normal.
It’s clear that the fight for PR talent is the most intense it has been in the last decade. Candidates are receiving multiple headhunt messages a day, PR agencies can’t hire talent fast enough and everyone is feeling stretched.
This is resulting in salaries increasing and outlier counter offers becoming the norm. At Latte, we have seen the biggest shift at the Junior Account Executive and Account Executive level. This is no surprise considering the lack of hiring at this level in 2020.
The line between Junior Account Executive and Account Executive is blurring and the moment if someone has 4 months experience or more, they can secure £24k to £25k in a London-based PR agency. With inflation is at 5%, and salaries at the junior level not seeing a real increase in the past 10 years, maybe this pay bump of long overdue.
For other levels, we are seeing candidates secure the top salary level within their job bracket. For example, an Account Manager who is newly promoted is now able to leave their role and secure another AM position at £35k rather than the normal £32k-£33k we were seeing pre-pandemic.
As salaries continue to rise, the challenge for PR agencies is what to do with service fees? Maybe it’s time to increase them.
It appears that all PR agencies are growing, new agencies are popping up and agencies that previously were coasting along are now experiencing a boom. From chatting with a variety of MD’s it appears that COVID shone a light on the need for reputation management and an increased desire to better communicate with customers.
The challenge for the PR industry when everyone is growing is that they can’t develop team members fast enough. This is because it is rare for a PR agency to accept mid to senior-level talent from a non-PR background. Hiring managers always require the candidate to have experience in developing PR strategies and understanding the media landscape.
That means the only way to bring more talent into the sector is from the ground up. When there aren’t enough Account Directors in the sector, and no one is willing to bring people in from other sectors, we continue to amplify the scarcity of the candidate market.
Candidates care about what you stand for and the culture you’re creating. More importantly, they’ll leave you if you do the talking but not the walking. Whilst purpose was on the rise prior to COVID, 2020 gave people the chance to reassess their careers and what matters to them in life.
We’ve seen a rise in people wanting to work for an agency that either has purpose at the core or that exists for more than just creating a profile. This doesn’t mean you have to be a B Corp or work on purpose-focused campaigns.
However, if you want to attract the best talent, it does mean that you need to think about how your business is building its team culture and what initiatives you have in place to give back. Is your diversity policy authentic and in action? Do you have a set of principles on which you will / will not take on clients? How do you ensure team members don’t burn out? Are you focused on someone’s personal and professional development?
Also, your brand needs to look on point. Your website and social media channels speak to only two people – clients and potential new employees. Ironically, many PR agencies, who are experts in creative and engaging communications, have mediocre and disengaging websites.
In 2020, everyone cared about job stability. In 2021 everyone wanted to let the dust settle and tried to figure out what flexible working really meant to them.
In 2022, they’ve got it figured out and they don’t want to be burnt out like last year. Employees who feel that have an unsustainable workload, lack of internal support, or that their employer is not hiring adequate team members, will look to finding a new job that offers a better work-life balance.
They’ll also be drilling down on this at interview so it’s best you are ready to discuss what you’re doing to discuss burnout and more broadly, employee wellbeing.
Written by Dean Connelly, Recruitment Director and Founder of Latte Recruitment. For business enquiries or hiring advice, please contact via email [email protected]
To attract the very best talent for your roles, a key requirement is to write high-performing job ads that are appealing, exciting and inclusive.
This difficult time has forced businesses to close, reinvent themselves or invest in new ways of working. Whilst on the other end of the spectrum, others have seen high-growth and need to recruit talent quickly.