Industry Insights - Media - Not enough people!
Executive Vice President, APAC
Waggener Edstrom Worldwide
Not Enough People!
Investing in our people needs to start on day one and be sustained
Several factors contribute to the shortage of experienced PR talent in
the market. Firstly, the PR industry is organised into distinct sectors
or practices that do not always cross over. Skill sets are not directly
transferable within sectors, especially at director level or above. For
example, a consultant specialising in finance PR is not likely to
specialise in technology PR at the same time. This means the talent pool
Besides, tertiary educational institutes are not graduating enough from
PR and communication studies. The education system is not generating
enough PR talents. In addition, in today’s economically depressed
environment, agencies are finding it hard to maintain the profit margins
they had 10-20 years ago. Operating costs, including salaries, have
been in an upward trend but client budgets, on the other hand, haven’t
increased proportionately. When one is in a demanding business
environment, it is a stretch for many companies to invest in time and
resources to actively engage employees whether through training or
compensation and benefits.
• The allure of going in-house PR also poses a challenge for us by
draining talent away from agencies. Many people spend several years in
agency before deciding to go in-house because they believe that they can
get greater work-life balance or higher pay. This is not necessarily
true nowadays but the perception persists.
• Retaining talent is challenging as well because the agency environment
is very dynamic - consultants working on several accounts
simultaneously is not unusual. It attracts people who enjoy challenges,
love to learn and who are excited about the variety of working in such
an environment. However, it is a risk that people can burn out and leave
the agency altogether, or they choose to stay in PR but lose their
passion for it as a career.
I believe we have one of the most generous benefits for our staff. We
offer all employees, regardless of level, 20 days personal leave per
year. This increase with length of tenure. In comparison, we’ve seen
some agencies offer between 14 to 16 days off only. We offer
work-at-home days. In fact, it is on our team scorecard this year to
ensure at least 5 work-from-home days for every employee. We do not see
it as benefits to our staff but for the company. We have this
implemented because we believe that our people can be more effective if
they have flexibility, and are empowered to plan their time and work
Also, we have dedicated staff devoted to training and development. We
also have leadership development tools that we use across all countries
in our agencies. Psychometric personality profiling is mandated for
mid-to-senior levels, and go-forward career planning completed for all
employees twice a year. There are several internally developed courses
on leadership, mandating a certain number of training hours for
employee. This is in fact another metric on our scorecard to meet.
Moreover, we have put in place an annual global exchange programme open
to all employees in the agency, where employees tell us which office in a
different country they’d like to work in for two weeks, and we choose
the best entries. We’ve found it to be a great motivation for our staff,
enabling them to have a global view of the business whilst showing them
that we invest in our people.