Holiday allowance, how much are you getting and what’s on offer?

16 May 2018

Paid holidays – what’s on offer for employees right now?

Our survey found that 8% of corporate and financial communications agencies give their employees a rather lean 20-22 days’ paid holiday per year; 67% give 23-25 days’ paid holiday while 23% offer 26-30 days; only 2% give a more generous 30+ days.

In-house corporate and financial communications teams fare slightly better.  4% offer 20-22 days’ paid holiday per year; 54% give their employees 23-25 days, while 40% offer 26-30 days off.  7% offer more than 30 days.

Everybody needs time off.  It’s impossible to be productive 24-7, 365 days a year. When employees matter, and the company wants long-term performance, then people know they are valued and they are comfortable taking days off.  If they're not taking all their holiday allowance, it may well be a sign of problems within the workplace culture.  If you lead a company where employees don't take allotted time off, perhaps you should re-assess your leadership and procedures, before your employees use their time off to find a new place to work. 


Make sure your team takes time off to recharge

In a fast-paced industry, it’s easy to fall into a cycle of pushing through too many hours or days of work – to the point where ideas that once flowed easily dry up, and tasks that should be straightforward become excruciatingly difficult.

When employees take time off to unwind and recharge, they come back glowing and ready to tackle their roles with renewed vigour.  Actively encourage them to take time off – it’s a critical element in the wellbeing of your team and your organisation.


It’s always OK to take time off – no ifs or buts

Many employees may find it difficult to use their full paid holiday allowance; after all, it’s counterintuitive to take a break in a culture programmed to believe that it takes near-nonstop work to clinch that deal, beat a competitor or do whatever is needed to succeed.  Rest is often considered the province of lesser mortals, and ends up being put off for a future that never arrives. If these beliefs prevail in your organisation, it’s likely that you will experience elevated employee turnover.

We all add value to the workplace, but the company isn’t going to collapse if a few members of the team aren’t there for a week or two, and they should all be aware of that.  We are not so important that we need to sacrifice our paid holiday for the chance to spend quality, uninterrupted time with our friends and family.


Is it time for employers to rethink their paid holiday policies?

In today’s highly competitive market for top talent, fast-growing and innovative companies are offering employees what seem to be generous incentives to stay away from the workplace.  With agencies in a ‘fight for talent’, losing some of their best players to in-house corporate communications teams, it could well be time for a rethink when it comes to policies around paid time off. 

With employees placing such high value on paid holidays – and understandably so – more flexible, generous holiday allowances may lure in the top talent that the agencies so desperately need.

It’s worth remembering that increased productivity and performance start with free time; this precious time off is the fuel for the energy, creativity and focus that lead to success.


If you would like to find out whether your paid holiday allowances match up, you can read more in our Annual Salary Guide –


Don’t take our word for it….

24 Apr 2018

1.       What was the background story?

I was fresh off the boat after spending seven years working in the United States when I met Sarah and her team at The Works. I had spent my time in the U.S. at a boutique Midwest PR firm, and before that had been a financial services trade journalist in London.

2.      What were your objectives?

I wanted to find a managerial role in either an in-house communications role, or possibly at a PR agency, although at the time I was reticent to go back into the agency environment. Also, because of my situation with a wife and daughter preparing to follow me to London, I was looking for competitive compensation considering my experience and my situation.

3.      How did we support your search?

I engaged with 10 London PR and communications agencies during my two-month search and The Works was the only one that supported me completely. From my first meeting with Sarah, she set my horizons, asked me to rewrite my CV and explained the current PR/Comms jobs landscape and where I fit into that. She was frank, forward and a breath of fresh air. She also advised me to consider agency work based on her expert opinion. I trusted her, and it paid off.

Sarah and The Works team were also unrelenting. I got daily phone calls, regular emails and constant support. They never let up. They also delivered with every single promise they made. They prepped me thoroughly for my interviews, and without a doubt had my best interests at heart through the whole process.

4.       What was the outcome?

In about four weeks, I found a great job at a top London PR agency in an account director role, with a salary and benefits above and beyond what I was initially looking for.

5.       Did anything surprise you whilst working with The Works Search?

Yes, how terrible other recruiters are! I met with 10 recruiters and mostly heard nothing from them. Most would not respond to notes without constant pushing. Others were clearly only out to make their own quotas and aggressively pushed sub-standard opportunities. But The Works was different in as much as they did what I expected of a recruiter - they helped me, they supported me and they reassured me throughout a stressful time in my professional life.

6.       Would you recommend us to other professionals?

If you're a PR and communications professional in London, I would recommend you only go to The Works. They know the industry, they have great connections and they know how to help you become the best applicant you can be.

Thank you Lee Jones, Associate Partner at Instinctif Partners​

​The Works Search specialise in placing PR and communications talent in leading PR agencies and in-house organisations across London. For our latest roles visit our jobs page, or to sign up with us exclusively and discuss your career in confidence contact us on 0207 559 6690 – we would love to hear from you.


The talent shortage in agencies – why it’s not going away, and what MDs need to do about it

17 Apr 2018

When we took a closer look at the 85% of corporate and financial communications professionals who will not consider a move to an agency, we found that 9% of them want a clean break from the comms industry, 6% want to set up their own agency, and 5% want to become freelance /self-employed; if nothing else, there clearly isn’t a shortage of entrepreneurial spirit.

But what of the remaining 65%?  Where do they want to move?  In-house corporate communications teams, of course! 

65% is a significant proportion – a strong reflection of the allure of in-house roles for professionals considering a job move; it’s worth noting that we see this is at every level, not just the senior end of the scale. 


Where does this leave corporate and financial agencies?

Where indeed, when only 15% of the market will consider an agency in their next move? Short of great talent is the answer.  The appeal of moving to shiny, super cool agencies is no longer enough, instead the pull is towards working for a major corporate like Amazon, Aviva, Sainsbury’s, KPMG or Barclays. 

We have seen this growing increase in desire for in-house roles for years; however, it now feels more heightened than ever.  We have frequently talked about the ‘grass is greener’ syndrome and those professionals who are curious as to whether they are missing something, and have gained experience on both sides of the fence. (Read more here: 

In a nutshell, there is a strong desire to represent one brand instead of several, have more of a say with regards to the comms strategy, a new challenge, more control over hours, perceived shorter hours, more pay and better company benefits.  

Struggling to hire the right mix of talent, secure high performers who are able to handle global mandates, and hire in a timely manner, we have seen many comms agencies with very specific roles left open for months on end (some over six months), simply because they are unable to find the right professionals.  Agencies are ‘fighting for talent’ and the trend is set to only get worse. 


What have agencies done about their approach to hiring? 

In all honesty, from what we have seen, only the larger agencies have dedicated recruitment teams and only a few mid and smaller agencies have invested in an HR/recruitment professional.  It’s frequently left to the MDs, Partners and CEOs to muddle through, hoping that their network, recruitment agencies or advertising will give them the answer.


We have felt the effects too in executive search; we now need to approach hundreds of agency professionals to get a great shortlist together for our clients, as so few are interested in moving to another agency. 

Perhaps it’s time PR agencies approached hiring in a different way. Over the years, in search, we have changed the way we source our candidates and fill roles.  The days of advertising and filling roles are over.  The days of giving briefs to multiple recruitment agencies are over.  They no longer work in this market. 


Perhaps it’s time to talk to a search agency that thinks and works a little differently.  We guarantee results.   If you would like to talk in greater depth about how you can make your agency hiring process a lot more effective, do get in touch on 0207 559 6690 or email


How to meet the promotion expectations of career-driven millennials

22 Mar 2018

Technology, software and speed have shaped the millennial generation. They have grown up with the internet and devices; their world is a fast-delivering world, so it’s little surprise that they expect instant delivery when it comes to ascending the career ladder. They have learned to follow a system and get results, such as a promotion – one that’s guaranteed. 

How do promotion opportunities in PR and Corporate Comms look?

Industry professionals are fully aware that the more senior you get, opportunities and expectations for promotions are lessened.  In a corporate PR agency, the average Account Director has seven years’ experience and will have been promoted four times to make an Account Director from starting out as an Account Executive.  This means being promoted every two years is very feasible in the early stage of a corporate communications career.  However, there are many Account Directors with four years of experience, so they are clearly getting promoted every year.    

A few tips on how to manage millennials’ promotion expectations

Our Annual Salary Guide results gave us some insight into possible reasons for millennials wanting to leave their jobs.  By focusing on the things that millennials really value in their career, Comms Directors can boost levels of employees’ job satisfaction and retention.  Our survey revealed four things that are really important to career-focused millenials: 

  • A crystal clear career path
  • Feeling challenged
  • A great company culture
  • Regular pay reviews

If you have millennials looking to be promoted, leverage their desire by pushing their work production and development. Encourage their inherent drive to be promoted by clarifying the expectations you have for promotion. Then help them devise a plan to be promoted by accomplishing goals towards a promotion. This action will allow your millennial employees to have a reasonable timeline that you support.  Check in on a regular basis (monthly ideally; quarterly at the very least) and give them the chance to show evidence of achievement.

Frequent pay reviews are also important.  While company policies can restrict how often you hold these reviews, it is key to know if you’re paying your team their market worth.  Millennials are very open with each other about their salaries, bonuses and company benefits, so they will have a good understanding of their current worth. 

Challenge your career-hungry millennials to improve, develop, and grow.  After all, they are not getting any younger – they are quickly repopulating the managerial positions in companies, so make the most of their drive, and train them to be future leaders.

Our Salary Guide can help Communications Directors stay on top of a number of expectations that millennials bring to the table.  Read more here:

For more advice on how to fill your leadership pipeline with millennials who are keen to move up, please get in touch on 0207 559 6690 or email


How long does it take to become a Director of Corporate Communications or Agency CEO?

01 Mar 2018

For many PR and Communications professionals, a Director or CEO role makes for a strong magnet of ambition and a worthy goal for accomplishment.

When we looked at how many years’ experience is needed to take on these exciting and challenging positions in corporate communications and financial communications (agencies and in-house), our survey showed that an Agency CEO has an average of 15+ years’ experience, with a Board Director /Partner and a Director /Partner both having 10-15 years of experience. In-house corporate communications and financial communications professionals have similar levels of experience – results showed, for example, that a Communications Director has an average of 10-15 years of experience in the field.   

To see the full range of roles in both agencies and in-house organisations, and the number of years’ experience each one comes with, see page 7 of our Annual Salary Guide.  

Are the results surprising?

Yes, and no.

There has been a fair amount of over-promotion in recent years to address millennials’ desires for pay rises and upward career mobility.  We thought this may have been reflected more in the results of our survey, potentially seeing a decrease in the average number of years’ experience professionals have accrued at each stage of their career, but it appears not.  Traditionally, it has taken about 10 years to reach a Director role (or equivalent) in all the time we have undertaken search campaigns in communications (14 years), and this is still the case when you look at these results. 

We did expect to see a notable difference at the lower end of the scale, as we know Account Directors with just four years of PR experience and Account Managers with two and half to three.  A fast-track Account Director can make the grade in five years, although the survey shows the average is seven years.  We do find that professionals’ promotions slow down at this level, and they can remain an Account Director for a good few years to bed in their skills before taking on the challenge of moving up to an Associate Director.  Account Directors are commonly known to want to have an in-house role at this point in their career. However, we have noticed over the last few years that this has changed, and it now seems to be desirable to more junior levels such as Account Manager. 

Are there big differences between in-house and agency? 

We can see that becoming a Director/Partner/member of the board in an agency takes the same amount of time as an in-house corporate communications team, 10-15 years.  This hasn’t really changed over the years from what we have seen, and shows that although millennials are moving up the ranks at pace, they aren’t changing the shape of the career ladder…yet. 

In-house communications teams are similar with regards to it taking 10 years to get promoted into a Head of role.  The notable difference here is gaining a global role; gaining the title of Global Head of Communications can take 20-25 years on average. 

The figure we don’t feel makes much sense in our findings is the one for a Director of Communications (10 years on average); in some organisations, this is the top role.  However, we have put it down to less data for this level; Global Head of Commmunications is a more commonly used title and we gathered more data around this role.  Our experience tells us that a Director of Communications will make the grade in about 15-20 years. 

Who has better promotion prospects?

In-house communications teams don’t have as many layers as agencies, where a lot of ‘senior’ titles have been created over the years to help meet promotion expectations.  This can make it feel that careers in agencies have more momentum and more promotion opportunities compared to in-house.

Something that did catch our attention was a PR/Communications Manager having an average of 8 years of experience – this seems like a lot, as there are many who start in these roles at five or six years of experience.  However, professionals can stay at this level for a long time and frequently move companies only to take on a similar title.  Alongside the fewer layers of in-house corporate communications teams, there are frequently fewer opportunities to move up because the teams are far smaller compared to agencies, and so moving to another organisation with the hope of more scope to be promoted is often a means of moving up the career ladder. 

To sum up…

Almost all PR and Communications professionals will typically have the desire to move up; at the very least, they will want to grow. After all, it is healthy to want to expand, develop, and advance professionally.

Agency professionals may experience more momentum and promotion prospects, but we can see that it takes about the same time to secure the top job.  So no career is better than the other, and many professionals move from one to the other at some point.  Having said that, there are agency professionals who wouldn’t dream of moving in-house and vice versa.   

What’s important is that PR and Communications professionals create and manage their own career paths, and it is not always an upward path. Sometimes, they may need to make a lateral move to position themselves for a later upward move, edging them that little bit closer to that coveted Director / CEO title.

By operating like they are already in a position higher than they are (without losing sight or attention to current responsibilities), and conveying the confidence and intent to be a great leader, that goal will become all the more attainable – whether it takes the typical 10-15 years to get there or not.


For more information about salaries, bonuses, company benefits and levels of job satisfaction, read The Works Search Annual Salary Guide 2017/18:

If you would like to ensure that you are on track with your career aspirations, do get in touch on 0207 559 6690 or email


LinkedIn – back to basics in 6 steps

28 Feb 2018

1. Complete your profile: Obvious? Maybe... but there are still those people who don’t have a 100% completed profile. You’re much more likely to get positive engagement if you complete every section and it’s vital if you’re job hunting. Gaps in your profile could send out the wrong message.

2. Your summary: If you’re ‘googled’, chances are your LinkedIn profile will appear.  Make your summary snappy and succinct. Choose the wording to encompass everything about yourself and what you do. Choose your keywords carefully to appear in recruiters'/hiring managers' searches.

3. Recommendations: Have a minimum of 3 good recommendations. Make them relevant and specific to your skill set.  Write insightful recommendations for other people, to pep up your professional presence – they may reciprocate with a recommendation for you.

4. Share share share: Updates, files and presentations. Make your page a great source of good professional material. People who share more than once a day have more profile views than those who do not. 

5. Become an expert: Join groups and discussions; it’s a quick and powerful way to grow your network, boost your profile and demonstrate your professional expertise.  Offering good advice and regularly contributing will help to establish you as an expert in your field.  

6. Weblinks: Essential.  Make your URL stand out, have links to websites and blogs you write or have contributed to. Rich text is appealing and demonstrates you are an active user of social media.

Now, are you prepared for a recruitment call? Not sure? We have everything you need to wow a recruiter and ace the interview.

The Works Search is dedicated to securing the ‘best in class’ senior PR and corporate Communications professionals.  To get in touch, call us on 0207 559 6690 or email – we would love to hear from you.


Who pays more – agency or in-house?

23 Feb 2018

There are clearly major differences between agency and in-house roles, and pros and cons attached to each. The questions often asked are: Where do you make more money? Where do you get better bonuses and company benefits? Where are the best career opportunities? 


Knowing how important it is for employers to have access to the most up-to-date salary, bonus and company benefits information, we examined these key benchmarking areas in our recent Salary Guide 2017/18.


We frequently hear that in-house communications teams pay better salaries.  However, our survey findings show that the difference appears to be marginal when you compare levels of experience.  Agencies tend to have more layers in their career path, so in order to get a fairer and clearer picture of salary differences, we looked at the number of years’ experience a professional has in the industry.


An in-house Corporate Communications Manager’s average annual salary is £55k; the role with an equivalent amount of experience in a corporate agency is a Senior Account Director whose average salary is £65k (both averaging 8 years of experience).  In this case, agency professionals are better paid.  However, what tends to happen is that we will source a corporate Account Director (with an average of 7 years of experience) into a Communications Manager role, with an average annual salary of £54k.  Therefore, the difference in average annual salaries here is just £1k.  Our survey found that differences in average salaries for in-house and their agency equivalents, factoring in the average years of experience, are marginal.


Having said this, it does change at the top where Global/Head of Corporate Communications and Financial Communications’ basic salary ranges are more generous in-house, and the bonuses are better in places too compared to agencies.  While the salary ranges at this senior level in-house are bigger, the average salaries are similar to those of agencies. 


The distinction between in-house and agency salaries is therefore blurring, with less clear-cut differences at every level and in every sector.  Salary may therefore become less of a factor for PR and communications professionals deciding whether to make the move to an agency or in-house in 2018.


To access the full results of our Salary Guide 2017/18, please follow this link –

Do you feel as though you should be earning more? If you require advice on your current salary, bonus and benefits package, or if you want to take the next step in your career, do get in touch on 0207 559 6690.


Mind the pay gap – let’s take a closer look at what’s really happening

09 Feb 2018

The gender pay gap has been a hot topic for years, dominating discussion in the media and in boardrooms. Last October, a review of the salaries being paid by the BBC revealed that men are being paid 9.3% more than women. About two-thirds of stars earning more than £150,000 are male, compared to one-third female; the top seven earners on the list of the corporation’s best-paid stars are all male. Clearly there is still a lot of progress to be made in terms of gender equality and achieving equal pay is one of them.

According to the annual figures released by the Office for National Statistics, the gap between what male and female workers earn – based on median hourly earnings – fell to 9.1% in April 2017, from 9.4% a year earlier.  It was 17.4% in 1997 when the ONS first collected the data.  While there is a downward trend, more than 10 years on, the gap is still refusing to close. In fact, a report from Deloitte claims that, at the rate the pay gap is moving, it won’t close fully until 2069. That’s pretty disheartening stuff, even for the optimists among us.

In a bid to close this gap, the government now requires companies with over 250 employees to collect and publish data on the gender pay gap, gender bonus gap and a breakdown of how many women and men get a bonus. The aim is to publish the names of companies which are failing to achieve gender parity. It will reveal how widespread the gender pay gap is and will enable comparisons with other companies.  With April 2018 set as a deadline for companies to publish their figures, so far over 500 firms have already done so – and a large number of them have revealed gender pay gaps of over 15% in favour of men for mean hourly pay.


How does the pay gap look in PR and Communications?

With so much media attention, we were optimistic that we would be able to report a narrowing of the pay gap in PR and Communications in our Annual Salary Guide.  However, there has been no change since we carried out our last survey (2015/16).  There is still a £10,000 pay disparity between male and female specialists in PR, and it becomes noticeable among PR professionals as early as 3 years into their careers.

Findings from our Aug 2016 - Aug 2017 survey show that when it comes to in-house corporate communications teams, the pay gap is most noticeable at Senior PR/Communications Manager level (on average, 9 years into their career) where the difference averages out at a staggering £15k in favour of the male employees! However, by the time men reach Global Head of Corporate Communications (say 20 years into their career), we calculated an average difference in basic salaries of an incredible £75k in their favour.  Clearly the gap is widening as the years go by.   

With agencies, we see a similar pattern – by the time a corporate and financial communications professional has reached Associate Director level (on average, 9 years into their career), the gap averages at £10k.  By the time a man reaches Director/Partner level in corporate and financial agencies, the gap reaches a massive average of £60k in his favour!


Why is the gap so big?

A proportion of the gap can be attributed to the fact that more men are in senior roles in companies, which means they are in jobs which have a higher salary attached to them, and also because more women work part-time, which is lower paid per hour.

The difference between what men and women get paid widens as women get older, new research shows.  The Office for National Statistics found differences were smaller at younger ages, but increased from 40 onwards, reaching a peak between 50 and 59.  It also found the gender pay gap was entirely in favour of men in every occupation – PR and Communications, included.

The ONS said the increased pay gap for older women could be explained by taking time out, possibly to have children.  It added that when they modelled the factors that influence pay, the results showed that both men's and women's pay grow for most of their lives. Overall, women's pay grows less than men's and also stops growing earlier than men's pay.


The problem with promotions…

The gender pay gap is not only about men and women being paid differently for doing the same job. It’s also about men being present in greater numbers than women the higher up the organisation you go.  This gap begins to open up at relatively junior levels and widens – primarily because men are more likely to be promoted.  According to our survey, 46% of women in agencies got promoted compared to 53% of men in the same time period.  That’s a 7% difference.  There was an even bigger difference in-house with 33% of women receiving a promotion and 48% of men – a clear gap of 15%.  Our male PR professionals are not only getting more money for doing the same job, more of them are getting promoted. 

Promoting men ahead of women is keeping us all back.  Diversity delivers better results, better culture and better decision making.  Employers need to get on board with reporting on their recruitment and promotion policies as well as how much they pay their men and women. Transparency and targets are what we need to deal with stubborn problems like these disparities in pay and promotion.


Flexible working isn’t working well enough

There are a number of unique challenges that women face when climbing corporate ladders compared to their male counterparts.  Many women who have children find adhering to standard office hours incompatible with childcare provision: for most working mothers, arriving at 9 and leaving at 6 is impossible if you have any kind of a commute.  Flexible working simply isn’t being flexible enough in our client service industry and as our survey showed, 80% of communications professionals (men and women) ranked this aspect of their working culture as either important or very important.  How can we expect working mothers to juggle so much, push for promotion and aim for the board when there are still employers not offering any flexibility in working hours? 33% of respondents to our survey who don’t receive any form of flexibility at work.

The huge disparity in pay can’t simply be attributed to maternity leave and childcare issues.  Women do tend to hide their achievements, or shrink from promoting their skills.  They don’t want to seem big-headed, pushy or arrogant so they assume people will notice their achievements without them being pointed out.  While this approach may work fine as they pursue the path to Associate Director, when they suddenly have to articulate and prove their worth to a male-dominated board, these female tendencies are going to backfire. 


Final thoughts

It’s long overdue – senior management need to address a number of issues, including recognising the challenges and traits women have in and out of work, and work with them to pay them a fair wage for their work, one that’s comparable to their male counterparts.  We live in an age of incredible technology where work can be picked up outside of the office with ease.  Being present doesn’t mean you are doing a better job.  We interview incredible, high achieving women daily and are often shocked by the salaries they are earning. 

Listen up CEOs, it’s your responsibility to make the change.  There are many ways to make savings in a business, but underpaying your female staff shouldn’t be one of them.  


Thanks again to PR Week and Corp Comms Magazine for their recent coverage on The Works Search Salary Guide.  For a more detailed insight, download your copy here

For more advice on salaries and bonuses, or if you think we can help you with a search for a high performing communications professional for your organisation, please get in touch with Sarah Leembruggen on 020 7559 6597.


Book of the Year - Shining a Light on You - book review

29 Nov 2017

If you are feeling unsettled at work, if your creativity is not being utilised, and you are looking for a more fulfilling experience, Shining a Light on You by Sarah J Naylor will inspire you to make changes and to show you how to find a job you’ll truly love.

By following this practical and encouraging self-discovery guide, you will gain a better understanding of who you are, what fulfills you both personally and professionally, and how to get yourself on the road to your dream job; or perhaps satisfy your curiosity and gain a deeper appreciation for where you are now in your life and your career.

Shining a Light on You is an exciting roadmap for anyone looking to make their next job their dream job.  Filled with inspirational case studies, practical advice and coaching tips, and interactive exercises, this book guides the reader towards gaining a deeper understanding of themselves and getting on a career path that aligns with their passions.

In short, the book proves that with the right mindset, anyone can make that change they’ve been dreaming of.

Sarah J Naylor is a successful entrepreneur, performance coach and business owner who is fully focused on helping people to step beyond their limitations and into their greatness to live a more fulfilled life.

By sharing her approach to life and enthusiasm for what she does, Sarah’s insights provide an irresistible inspiration for drawing passion into our own lives – in whatever form.

In Shining a Light on You, Sarah taps into her 25+ years of experience in recruitment as well as her personal journey of self-discovery to share wisdom, ideas and ways of thinking that have the power to transform lives.

No matter where you are in your journey, if you want work to be more of a dance than a drag, Sarah will expertly guide you through the process of designing a career that you will love.

Get your copy of Shining a Light on You here.

You may be interested to read that the results for the industry’s most accurate salary and bonus survey for corporate and financial communications, carried out by The Works Search, is coming out soon.  Stay tuned.

The Works Search is dedicated to securing the ‘best in class’ senior PR and corporate Communications professionals.  To get in touch, call us on 0207 559 6690 or email – we would love to hear from you.


Need a creative idea? Turn things around by turning things around

14 Nov 2017 by Brian Mairs.

Brian Mairs, former Global Head of Communications at Thomson Reuters and seasoned communications strategist shares his inspiring insights on conjuring creativity in this week's Thought Leaders Connected.

Need a creative idea? Turn things around by turning things around

Here’s a quick and astonishingly simple way to spur some new thinking. Set down in words what you need, then re-arrange the words.

The phrases we use in everyday speech can lose their currency pretty quickly. After a while they lose their meaning, or the meaning changes. The best way then to retrieve the original concept – what they actually originally meant – is to flip them around.

If our clients say they want a press release, it might be better to think instead about how we might release their news to the press. Our clients are probably not demanding that we use that particular tool to convey their message: they know the outcome they want but they are (I hope) happy to take our expert advice on how to achieve it. They don’t necessarily want or need an actual press release: they want a PR campaign that delivers the goods.

Same with thought leadership. It might help to think instead about leadership thoughts. This needs to be insight that guides people: a genuinely new perspective that establishes the writer or speaker as an authority on the subject at hand. Thought leaders do not simply express others’ views: they provide something original gleaned from their own experience of leadership. There is nothing wrong with providing commentary on somebody else’s ideas or actions; it just shouldn’t be called thought leadership.

And there are a host of other compound terms we use to describe our activities as communications professionals.

How about social media? It can be a subset of online channels that includes Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn or it can be a challenge to think creatively about how our media message can be genuinely social and involve the wider community – how we might use these channels to generate conversations.

Content marketing becomes marketing using content: finding ways to achieve our marketing goals by creating materials to attract customers, or potential customers.

The language of business is full of these buzz terms that quickly move beyond their original insight and become instead the hoary clichés of meetings: dives that are deep; competencies that are core; disruption that is creative. And has there ever been a paradigm that hasn’t had to endure being shifted? Or a change that hasn’t been either a step change or a game changer?

These terms are fine as long as they provoke thought, but too often they can shut off creative thinking. It is all very well to think outside the box, but first we need to understand why we have a box, and what actually belongs inside it.

To turn those original terms around is to return to the original thoughts, and can provide a simple but effective catalyst for original thinking: a return to fundamentals that can result in some genuinely new approaches to work.

Give it a try, and let me know how it goes. It might even be a changer of the game …

Thank you, Brian.

The Works Search is dedicated to securing the ‘best in class’ senior PR and corporate Communications professionals.  To get in touch, call us on 0207 559 6690 or email  – we would love to hear from you.


Brian Mairs
Global Head of Communications Financial and Risk

Posted in:


Industry experts share what makes a star performer in Financial Communications

03 Nov 2017

After being kindly reminded by LinkedIn recently that I have been interviewing financial communications professionals for 14 years, I feel I have grown up with many of the stars.  When I review what a star performer in financial comms looks like, I see three things in particular – the innate confidence to advise at a senior level, a steely drive, and charm to influence.  They are often to the point, not afraid to ask for more, and have an air of wisdom about them, seemingly beyond their years.

The ability to secure and retain stars in your company is a challenge for any business leader.  So what do our favourite financial communications leaders say about what makes a star performer in their field?  We asked them to share some of their knowledge.


“A star performer has to have the right balance of analytical ability, narrative coherence and persuasive flair. Only one of the above won’t do – it must be all three.”

Andrew Walton, Senior Managing Director, FTI Consulting

“In financial communications, the perception of the financial community and broader stakeholders is equally important. Our job is to translate complicated financial messaging into terms that anyone can understand. The best professionals recognise this and adapt their messages to strike the right tone with different audiences”.

Oliver Mann, Partner, CNC Communications & Network Consulting

“Head, shoulders, knees and toes.  ‘Head’ because you need to be intelligent; ‘shoulders’ because you need to manage multiple tasks from multiple clients; ‘knees’ because you need to be able to stand firm under pressure from clients, media and other advisers, and ‘toes’ because you need to wear out a lot of shoe leather to widen your network as much as possible.”

Ed Gascoigne-Pees, Partner, Camarco

There is clearly a lot to consider what makes a star – from analytical abilities, the skills to translate complicated financial messaging to different audiences, through to the desire to wearing out your shoe leather by networking.


Being multi-talented is evident and being a ‘master of many’ is what it takes in this ever-changing, complex communications landscape.

I frequently hear that keeping star performers happy, well rewarded and engaged is a challenge.  They can be a bit needy, after all.  So it’s important to give them positive feedback and attention (not just let them ride the wave of success) but not to the point where you’re feeding their ego or neglecting the rest of the team.  Acknowledge their strengths and achievements regularly, but help them learn to monitor themselves and recognise the contributions of the other members of the team.  Make sure the work is fairly divided across the team – it can be tempting to give it all to the rock star, as you know they will get the job done, and brilliantly too.  But doing this can also present the risk of burnout.  The stars are also likely to not want to let things go, so be mindful.  They are pacesetters – so make sure they are working at a pace that’s inspiring to others, not one that they can’t keep up with.

Remuneration is often a high priority to financial communications professionals, especially the star performers.  Business leaders should be aware of the market rates for salaries and bonuses as this certainly helps to keep them happy. 


You may be interested to read that the results for the industry’s most accurate salary and bonus survey for corporate and financial communications, carried out by The Works Search, is coming out soon.  Stay tuned.

The Works Search is dedicated to securing the ‘best in class’ senior PR and corporate Communications professionals.  To get in touch, call us on 0207 559 6690 or email  – we would love to hear from you.


Exactly how long does it take to secure an in-house corporate communications role?

11 Oct 2017

How long will it take a Head of Communications to find an in-house job?

There are some questions I get asked regularly and this is one of them.  It’s not an exact science and, dare I say, it’s about being in the right place at the right time – like many things in life. 

In my opinion, I would say for a Head of Corporate Communications with in-house experience looking for another senior level role, it could take as little as six months, but it’s more likely to take one to two years.  This surprises a lot of professionals, but if you think about it, there are not as many senior roles as there are mid- and junior level roles in comms teams.  Many in-house comms teams have a triangular structure with a few people at the top and more professionals padding out the layers underneath.  This means there are fewer roles to go around.  Furthermore, senior professionals are ‘sticky’, frequently staying in their roles longer than those they manage.  There is a vast number of Heads of Comms sitting in their roles for eight, nine, or ten years, which means that there isn’t the natural movement that you observe at other levels.  The desire for in-house roles is widespread, with up to 90% of professionals we speak to on a daily basis (in-house or agency experience) only showing interest in moving in-house.  The pull of agency life, in the majority of cases, has lost its appeal. 

And how long does it take for a Communications Manager to switch companies?

If you are a high performing Communications Manager, and have the skills and experience that will be considered a great fit for the brief, then it’s possible to move within six months, although I would say it’s more likely to take a year.   You may need to go to a few interviews during that time to find the right fit and to perfect your interview technique. 

Just how competitive is it when it comes to securing an in-house role?

Very competitive.  The lion’s share of the mandates we are retained to fill are in-house, and because we have a lovely client portfolio across financial services, professional services, property, energy and retail, we are lucky enough to handle some really exciting roles.  It’s our job to find what our clients want – and we can.  For example, if a client asks for a former journalist who has moved into comms, is great at thought-leadership, speaks German and has strong social media abilities, we will find at least five high performers for the shortlist.     

If you get selected for a shortlist, what should you do?

Getting selected for a shortlist is an achievement in itself, so do not waste the opportunity. Over- preparing for your interviews will give you confidence.  There is no room for complacency when aiming to secure a role.  Celebrate getting an interview – the small wins count in life.  Let it give you the confidence to believe that even if it doesn’t work out this time, it will!

So what’s the one thing you can do to help yourself to secure an in-house role?

If you are on the lookout for a new role, then you need to keep in touch with your favourite search consultant and let them know what you have achieved recently, and what you are open to moving forward.  Help yourself by making sure that you are front of mind by calling or dropping them a line every quarter.  In a market where roles are prized, you need to keep them up to date so they’re thinking of you for their shortlists.  Just to give you an idea, we have over 21,000 contacts on our database so don’t assume your name will come up first. 

What don’t most corporate comms professionals do well when looking for a new role?

They don’t use their network well.  You can be proactive yet discreet.  There will be two or three people in your network who are very well networked themselves and would put out some feelers for you because they like you/rate you.  Perhaps you have worked with them previously?  Take these fans out for a coffee/glass of wine and be upfront and exact over what you want.  Trust them.  We all like to help each other, so ask for their support and then you have people working for you in the background recommending you.    

Other tips: keep your CV up to date with your achievements so you don’t forget them; make time to network as it will serve you; and stay in touch with people who can help you.

You may not realise that 70% of our success at The Works Search has come from placing high performing senior corporate and financial professionals in-house in London.  Please do get in touch on 0207 559 6597 or email if you would like our support to secure a hidden gem. 


A Thought Leaders Connected interview from Mariyam Rawat on her journey through the PR landscape

19 Sep 2017

1. Can you give me a brief overview of your background and experience?

  • Science graduate
  • Started work in a lab at Boots HQ
  • Worked across most of the pharma value chain
  • Started working in crisis management during my time in medical affairs
  • Following completion of a MBA in 2007 moved to commercial side
  • Began working in consulting at the end of 2009
  • Took time out to have my daughter and returned part-time and then as a contractor
  • Decided to re-focus  and update my knowledge on crisis and risk  management -and began a part-time MSc at Kings College in Risk Analysis which I am due to complete in Autumn 2017

2. What would you say are your three key attributes that contributed to your career success?

  • Passionate
  • Hungry for knowledge/ improvement
  • Resourceful

3. Moving from in-house to agency isn’t as common, what motivated you to move from Sinclair Pharma to FTI Consulting? 

I had considered it for a few years when an agency member suggested I should give it a go. After Director comms & IR role I wanted a new challenge where I could step out of my comfort zone and work in other sectors outside of pharma.

4. You have recently joined a Crisis and Issues team at one of the Big 4, tell us about this? 

Organisations are facing multiple threats to their value and reputation due to a number of external or internal factors ranging from the geopolitical such as Brexit to internally driven issues due to some imbalance in operational discipline. Working as part of a multidisciplinary team which can support clients across the entire crisis and issues lifecycle allows me to draw upon my practical and academic skills to offer clients a unique solution.

5. In one sentence, what is the biggest challenge in your role right now?

Impressing upon clients the importance of considering and preparing for the impact of Brexit sooner rather than later.

6. Your top tip for influencing C-suite?

Always put your clients’ needs at the heart of what you do.

7. What is the most important lesson you have learned in life so far?

Sometimes the greatest opportunities in life are delivered in unfamiliar packaging, learn to recognize them.

8. What’s the best piece of professional advice you’ve been given along the way and by whom?

My first work mentor taught me to always improve on what I did yesterday.

9. You have a busy personal and professional life, what do you do outside of work to de-stress?

Spend time with my four year old who has a creative nature and keen imagination which can be a huge amount of fun and going to the gym.

10. What should the industry do to improve employee wellbeing?

Be more open to implementing innovative working patterns. Offering individuals a platform to create their own perfect balance between personal and professional interests will be critical to talent management, as society ages and technology changes the landscape further.

Thank you, Mariyam.

If you are a senior professional and interested in being interviewed for our Thought Leaders Connected newsletter, we would love to hear from you.  Get in touch with Sarah on 0207 559 6597 or email


What I learned from 3 days with the Army Training Regiment

29 Aug 2017 by Sarah Leembruggen.

So when the agenda for the latest retreat arrived in my inbox, you could say I was a little surprised –we would be spending three days undertaking army leadership training and needed to bring trainers, walking boots and a waterproof!  I can’t say I greeted the news with glee – after a few wobbles and weeks of procrastination, I gave myself a talking to, took a few deep breaths and accepted the invitation. 

The training was hosted in part, by Lieutenant Colonel Nick MacKenzie of the Army Training Regiment in Winchester.  He is a CEO equivalent although I’m not sure this does him justice as he is in charge of thousands of acres of prime real estate in Winchester, as well as hundreds of staff and overseeing the training of thousands of young men, transforming them into soldiers in just 14 weeks.  Needless to say, I was impressed.

It was fascinating to hear how the army ‘does business’ and from what I could see, it’s run better than any business I know, and I have been fortunate enough to have had insights into many.  It was a memorable few days of leadership presentations, team challenges, clay pigeon shooting, an Officers’ entry test, a formal dinner, obstacle courses and the most challenging of all, the high wires. 

Facing fears on the high wires

When I caught sight of the high wires, the first thing I thought was, ‘How do I make my excuses?’  In front of me were lots of 13-metre tall telegraph poles, a ropes wall and flimsy looking wires.  I’m not really one for heights – I have been known to squeal going up in the lift at Norton Rose (it has horrible glass walls).  We were briefed in front of the wires and I can safely say I didn’t hear a single word of the instructions.  Fortunately, my partner had the foresight to say, ‘Let’s just go first’.  A wise move – go before the fear could really take hold.  I just put one foot in front of the other, climbing to hideous heights.  My saving grace was my mantra; I just kept telling myself ‘I can do this, it’s easy’.  Sometimes, you just need to tell a little white lie!  I was determined to make it to the top of every challenge as my pride, ego and competitive nature took hold of me.  Occasionally, I looked down just to check that my partner was still holding on tightly to my safety rope – phew, I would be forever grateful! 

The one exercise which really stood out to me was climbing up a telegraph pole on tiny, loose steel rods and getting to the top – only to then have to climb onto a half metre square platform above my head.  I really thought I was stuck and couldn’t reach the top.  My mantra was starting to fade.  I’m still not sure how I managed to hoist my body up and over that platform, although I do have a fellow colleague to thank for the help. 

So what did I learn? 

In addition to a more positive perception of the army and the realisation that I have more courage than I give myself credit for, the three days taught me that friends (old and new) are an amazing support when you are up against it.  I also learned that pushing myself out of my comfort zone is memorable; it’s fun and surely life is about having fun?

I also saw an army that was a far cry from the one so often depicted in movies – where shouting is pretty much how everything gets done.  There’s clearly a PR opportunity here – I saw supportive, encouraging, emotionally intelligent soldiers and not one person raised their voice!  Everyone was extraordinarily patient, incredibly generous and funnily enough, on time for everything.

It really was a unique experience and I have returned to the office clearer on my purpose, thankful to the support around me, with a little more courage to achieve it.  Perhaps I can cope with the Norton Rose lift now? 

Thank you to Nicky Coffin at Centred Excellence and Lieutenant Colonel Nick Mackenzie.

If you have any character building experiences you would like to share with us, do get in touch on 0207 559 6597 or - we would love to hear from you.


7 reasons agency life is brilliant for your career

08 Aug 2017 by Sarah Leembruggen.

1.       Variety /Exposure

Whether it’s liaising with a diverse range of clients to dabbling in different industry sectors, one of the biggest benefits to working in an agency is the opportunity for variety. This in turn has an impact on the campaigns you will be dealing with, especially in terms of working across industries and different clients, and exposure to various communications disciplines. Also the agency structure impacts variety – with matrix structures PR professionals in agencies can have a number of different managers.

2.       Expertise

Being a part of an agency means PR pros will be a part of specialist expert teams when they are working on campaigns, which is an excellent opportunity to gather niche knowledge and exposure to dedicated disciplines such as digital, public affairs, internal comms and branding.

3.       Time to be inspired

In having the chance to work across different industry sectors there is ample opportunity and time for you to work out which sectors you love, and develop your skills and career in that direction.

4.       Commercial acumen

Having first-hand exposure of running accounts efficiently and of course winning new ones, and servicing your client base well, gives PR professionals in agencies valuable direct experience of running a business, which is of course an asset in any career projection.

5.       Cutting edge

In such a highly competitive industry agencies are constantly streamlining and improving their service offering in order to stay ahead of the game. The pace and creativity is cutting edge and agencies will undertake some of the most sophisticated and challenging communications within the industry. This means PR pros working in these environments stay ahead too.

6.       Contacts

With exposure to influential members of the media, you have the opportunity to build up a black book of contacts.  Developing and nurturing media relations over time ensures consistent coverage of your PR campaigns plus the opportunity to carry these lasting relationships through to your next role. 

7.       Objectivity

Working in a PR agency gives you an objective steer on how to grow an organization and promote their product.  You will have a unique bird’s eye view of the market and be working with a variety of clients which gives you the edge on current trends and market insights- a highly desirable quality for future employers.


The Works Search specialise in placing mid to senior level PR and communications talent in leading PR agencies and in-house organisations across London. For our latest roles visit our jobs page , or contact the team on 0207 559 6690 to discuss your career in confidence.


Executive Search 2017: half-yearly market update for Corporate and Financial Communications

27 Jul 2017

1.       The results are in …

We are pleased to report that we have successfully filled 95% of our retained in-house and agency executive searches this year, and shortlists have been met with delight.  The majority of our work now is retained, which is a change from last year as this is something we have purposefully made happen.  It’s amazing what a difference six months can make.  It’s a joy to be paid for all the work we do, giving us time to demonstrate our expertise and being able to fully commit ourselves to finding high performers. 

2.       In-house versus agency

The desire for in-house increases as we have successfully placed more professionals in-house this year than ever before – in fact, 76% of our filled search assignments this year have been for in-house corporate communications teams and only 24% of completed search with London PR agencies.  This is change from last year where 60% of filled search assignments were in-house.  The desire for in-house is so strong (90% of our active candidates will only consider an in-house move) that we are making a huge effort to find desirable in-house roles for our candidates. 

3.       Completed searches

These include Heads of Corporate Communications, Heads of Media, Senior Corporate Communications Managers, Financial and Investor Communications Managers; Agency Directors and an Agency Account Director.  We haven’t quoted our clients (as not everyone has started their role yet) but you will have heard of them all.  This year, the same as last, we are filling roles where our clients do not have to interview more than four professionals to make their hire. 

4.       Which industry sectors are hiring?

The in-house corporate communications team who have hired the most (in order of popularity) are real estate, law firms, management consultancies, retail, asset management and enterprise.  

5.       Investment in communications

We have helped build out a whole comms function for one business and we have undertaken a number of replacement hires as usual.  However, what has been interesting is that we have seen more newly formed ‘investment hires’ in-house and with the corporate agencies, which is encouraging considering the political landscape.  It feels like a confident market remains.  

6.       Baby boom

Maternity contracts in particular are popular this year.  There was clearly something in the water last year, as I can’t remember the last time we have helped on so many.

7.       Corporate agency update

Corporate agencies continue to make newly formed investment hires from Associate Director and Director/Partner level, and have been more active with their hiring than the financial-led agencies.  We hear them talking about winning more projects than retainers these days, which is changing their business models and making it more challenging to forecast.

8.       Financial agencies – thoughts

Financial agencies have been a little quieter with hiring this year as a few have struggled to hit their high targets, potentially from fewer deals around.  The agencies who have had requirements are the smaller, newer ones on the block with high momentum and strong financial backing.

9.       Most difficult to fill

A Senior Financial Communications Manager contract for a well-known retailer requiring consumer facing experience.  As they didn’t give it to one agency to fill, no agency could put enough manpower behind it to fill it.

10.   Biggest misconception

Giving a new role to three search agencies will increase your chances of finding someone.  Wrong.  Agencies’ roles take us 8 times as much work to fill, as most people don’t want to move to another agency.  It’s labour-intensive to select a great shortlist.  We prioritise our time to the clients who have committed to working with us solely, as we have committed to filling those roles.  Agencies are fighting for talent and although most CEOs realise this, they haven’t quite caught on that they need to work with one great search firm.  When we are retained on a role, we will commit to filling it with an industry-best or at worst, a high performer.   

As you know, The Works Search is dedicated to securing a 'best in class' professional, a top 5% industry performer.  We focus on executive search for senior and mid-level corporate and financial communications professionals and have a proven track record for delivering on search assignments.  We are proud of the fact that if you meet four of our candidates, we guarantee you will hire one.

Do call if we can be of assistance on 020 7559 6690.


A guest interview from Jo Preston, Director at Teamspirit who shares her career advice and insights

12 Jul 2017

Can you give me a brief overview of your background and experience?

I have been in the PR industry for over 15 years and started at a small agency working on tiny B2B clients. Those clients are hard to land coverage for, so the grounding is really solid. I moved on to handle the reputations of companies and individuals as diverse as Euro Disney SCA,  the Evening Standard, Andrew Lloyd Webber and the RNLI before settling six years ago at Teamspirit, where I am a Director specialising in consumer issues, reputation management and communications consultancy. I am the strategic client lead across clients spanning the financial and professional services sectors. I also head up People and Recruitment for the agency.

What would you say are your three key attributes that contributed to your career success?

Across the PR sector communication is key; and the ability to build relationships with clients, prospects and media has been an important component of my career to date. Emotional intelligence is also vital, particularly in my People role. Agencies can be pretty emotional places and I have needed empathy and understanding in spades.

What is the best and the worst thing about working in an agency?

Agency life is busy, sometimes frantic, which is probably both the best and the worst thing about it! While sometimes it feels like we exist at warp factor 9, I thrive on multi-tasking, and love working with a brilliant team to get results that drive our clients’ business forward. Getting under the skin of new clients and working out what they really need from a communications campaign is challenging, but hugely rewarding.

What keeps you awake at night?

I don’t think the fear of whether a big campaign will land ever completely leaves you, but I think that fear is essential to making those campaigns successful. I have to say very little keeps me awake though –I like my sleep way too much.

What is the most important lesson you have learned in life so far?

To value the amazing talent and ability that exists at all levels of an agency or organisation.  We have so many incredible people at Teamspirit and they all bring something different to the table. I love discovering that someone has knowledge or talent that I was unaware of and working out how best we can use those abilities.

What’s the best piece of professional advice you’ve been given along the way and by whom?

I can’t actually remember who this came from, but a really vital learning has been to consider the long term. A disappointing pitch loss can often in the future turn into a win if that prospect is nurtured in the right way.

What areas of PR and communications do you see as growing or important in the future?

The important thing is going to be ensuring that PR agencies aren’t silos for traditional media relations activity. I do believe that side of things will remain important, but at heart we are, or should be, communications consultants, and as such we need to be thinking broadly about the content and channels that will deliver for a client business – whether that be social or digital, SEO, influencer marketing or any other of the myriad options that can drive results. Transformation is at the heart of communications, the content and channel is just the mechanism for that transformation.

How do you de-stress?

I don’t actually get stressed very easily, but a glass of wine or two never hurts.

Team Spirit has a great culture; what do you think the industry could do to improve employee wellbeing?

At Teamspirit we believe that we should put our people first. They are the reason we are able to do a good job for clients, and we want to look after them. I think as an industry we are getting better at recognising that, but there is still work to be done. Over-servicing clients is still a real issue, and that clearly has a knock on effect on employees across the spectrum. It’s something that we have done a lot of work on over the past few years to understand and reduce – we are not perfect yet, but we are getting there.


Thank you, Jo.

If you are a senior professional and interested in being interviewed for our Thought Leaders Connected newsletter, we would love to hear from you.  Call Sarah on 0207 559 6597 or email


Moving in-house - good, bad or ugly?

01 Jun 2017

In our experience we have found that the majority of PR and communications professionals who are working in an agency want to make the move in-house if they have not already done so. However we believe in the importance of making a balanced decision when considering an in-house move. Here we highlight a few ideas to consider when planning on transitioning your career in-house.

Why do so many PRs want to move in-house?

We often come across a ‘grass is greener’ ideology in the in-house vs agency question. It is vital to keep in mind the key positives and negatives of working in-house in order to make an informed decision. The positives include that you would be at the heart of the strategy development in the business. The benefits of representing one brand allows focus and a deep knowledge, and working with one ‘set’ of media. In-house is also often perceived as an easier life – although in truth this is not the case and comes with a very different set of challenges. The downside of working in-house is that it can be very politically challenging – if you do want to move in-house, you need to make sure it is to a business which believes in communications and understands your value. You may also find it is slower to progress and that you might need to move to another in-house role to gain the promotion you desire.

Have you considered all the angles?

In coming to a decision on moving to an in-house role from an agency role, have you fully considered the implications of what the day to day reality of working in-house would be like? Some useful things to think about are -

Will there be opportunities to develop and move up?
Will you gain the experience you need to secure your boss’s job?
Who are you learning from? Are they any good?
How much proactive work vs reactive is there?
Will you have the ability to do great things with the budget at hand?
What’s the attitude like towards communications in the business?
What are the gaps in your expertise and how can you fill them?
Do you like the internal stakeholders?

When is a good point in your career to move in house?

We have found that transitioning into in-house is especially effective the further PR professionals are in their career as you have developed your basic communications skill set. Many Account Directors move into a PR Manager position which is something we have found to be very effective, and also agency Associate Directors and Directors flourish in in-house Communications Director roles. We have also had experience of agency Directors entering as Heads of Comms, but typically this is something which is usually harder to achieve unless you are high profile and likely to be working as a Partner or MD of a business.

Think big picture

Be careful not to pigeonhole your prospects by your choices – if you join an in-house technology company for example, it might be that you are perceived as a tech specialist when you want to move, which is ideal if you want to stay in the sector but more challenging if you don’t.  Perhaps most importantly, the question to pose is, will this job take you closer to your ultimate job? Don’t just think about this next move but the one after- what will the impact of the move be further down the line? It’s vital to always consider the bigger picture in your career.

What’s your view on careers in-house vs agency? Tweet us @theworksrecruit #IHvsagency. Also read our recent blog ‘How to fast-track your career’ where leading PR professionals discuss in-house and agency life.

The Works Search specialise in placing mid to senior level PR and communications talent in leading PR agencies and in-house organisations across London, on both a contingency and executive search basis. For our latest roles visit our jobs page, or contact the team on 0207 559 6690 to discuss your career in confidence.


Career insights & advice from Mike MacFarlane, agency partner and self-starting entrepreneur

24 May 2017

1.       Can you give me a brief overview of your background and experience?

I started my career in 2006 when I joined what is now Merchant Cantos, to help drive relationships with founder-CEO’s and small cap companies.  I was very inexperienced and on the quiet side, but working near industry pioneers such as Lucy Parker and Tessa Bamford – both hugely talented and super-intelligent – which taught me a lot.

In 2008 I left to found a new business called NewMedium.  The small team I assembled had strong instincts about future trends, and we quickly grew from a fledgling startup to an ambitious small agency with high-status clients and attracting dynamic young talent.

We created our ‘IR Squared’ brand in 2010 to collaborate with PE houses and PR agencies; creating films to support companies before, during and after major transactions such as IPO.

By 2013 we needed a platform to incubate our future growth aspirations, and so in January 2014 we were officially acquired by Instinctif Partners.  We could see that Instinctif Partners was really going places, and offered the perfect platform for our international aspirations; enabling us to increase our revenue contribution by a factor of four within two years.

Our proposition has evolved and I believe that one of the reasons that we have worked with so many great companies and brands all over the world is that we have led the market.  We’re now much more than filmmaking, we’re about creative and content strategy, content marketing, brand affinity, global connectivity, employer branding, thought leadership and internal communications.  And our content to support major transactions is award winning.


2.       You have flown up the ranks, built and sold a business.  What are your three key attributes that have contributed to your career success?

Firstly, keep a human perspective on what really matters.  Don’t get lost down a corporate rabbit hole or give in to adrenaline, because that’s not when your best work will come.

Secondly, don’t worry too much about ‘conforming’ to the ‘conventional wisdom’.  Focus on original ideas and doing good work that speaks for itself.  Everything else will flow from that.

Third, surround yourself with good people and give them the freedom to succeed or fail.

I also think it’s important to try to leave western middle-class values at the door.  People connect with the world through different of prisms, and an unconscious bias toward the one that is most familiar can poorly influence ideas and decisions, especially in a global village.


3.       Selling your business to Instinctif was a great achievement.  How has that enabled you to do things differently? 

The awards and industry recognition that Instinctif Partners has achieved in the last three years is remarkable by any standard.  It’s a great place to be with some amazing clients.

Being acquired created the opportunity to integrate our proposition across every practice area to enhance the service offering.  For me, taking a truly international approach to filmmaking and content ideation was important, and Instinctif offered a global platform.


4.       What keeps you awake at night? 

The boundaries between advertising, content marketing, communications and PR are ever dissolving.  There is a huge opportunity to develop creative and digital solutions for companies and brands who need new thinking and strategies, both locally and globally. 

The opportunity to work across all of a company’s marcomms objectives, from talent attraction to internal comms to thought leadership and reputation management; and to build new strategies that tie customers more strongly into what a brand is all about; and then to deliver that with global connectivity, is very exciting indeed.


5.       You are a great networker.  What is your top tip for influencing C-Suite?

You can’t shape the market by only responding to RFPs, so being prepared to lead change by proactively developing new and innovative creative solutions and then sharing the ‘art of the possible’ is at the heart of making new connections.  Networking events have never been my preference – I much prefer to spend quality time one-on-one.


6.       What is the most important lesson you have learned in life so far?

Be prepared to have your mind changed, but never compromise on your integrity.


7.       What’s the best piece of professional advice you’ve been given along the way and by whom?

Never postulate an answer without first asking the hard questions.  I can’t remember who first said this to me.  There’s often a misconception that ‘creative’ is sacrosanct.  But the practical reality is that postulating a creative solution or strategy without a foundation in research or data significantly impedes ROI and can hugely compromise an outcome.


8.       In one sentence, what is your definition of a great PR?

Filmmaking has been a large part of my career, so I am biased, but from caveman to Instagram, people have always communicated in pictures; so for me ‘great PR’ includes engaging visual storytelling that connects and resonates with the audiences that matter.


9.       You are incredibly busy in your professional life and travel a lot, what do you do outside of work to de-stress?

In Q4 of 2016 alone I worked on projects in Russia, Singapore, Japan, Hong Kong and California…before finishing the year on a muddy outdoor film shoot in a field in Sussex. 

Aside from collaborating with global colleagues and new business development, a lot of travel is about helping clients to tell their stories, which means meeting people and going to places that most people don’t.  That is very rewarding, but it also means that for the rest of the time, I’m very happy to enjoy the simple pleasures of London life!


10.   What should the industry do to improve employee wellbeing?

The best policy to ask employees to subscribe to is three very simple words: use good judgement.  In my experience when colleagues are liberated from rules-based regimes, initiatives and hierarchy, and empowered to govern their own working life, they are happier, more creative, more loyal…and their productivity soars.


Thank you for taking part Mike.

All opinions are personal and do not necessarily reflect Instinctif Partners.

At The Works Search we are dedicated to securing 'best in class' professionals, top 5% industry performers.  We focus on executive search for senior corporate and financial communications professionals and have a 100% delivery track record for search assignments. 

If you are a senior professional and interested in being interviewed for our Thought Leaders Connected newsletter, we would love to hear from you.  Call Sarah on 0207 559 6597 or email


Insights & advice from Alex Clelland- agency partner, financial journalist and head of banking comms

07 Apr 2017

1. Can you give me a brief overview of your background and experience?

I've been in PR for around 15 years after five years as a financial journalist and a previous career as a probation officer and social worker, which I think has served me well in communications in terms of psychology and working with people. I've worked in-house for around 10 years, largely at banks headquartered elsewhere in the world, and spent five years at agencies. Most of my work has been in financial services but I have branched out into technology and leisure and hospitality in my current role, which is really enjoyable and an interesting change.

2. What would you say are your three key attributes that contributed to your career success?

I would say the things that have driven me forward, and continue to do so, are curiosity, taking a long-term view and a lack of preconceptions about people and issues. This is what took me from prisons to the bond desk at Reuters and now to promoting hotels in Cape Verde.

3. You have moved from journalism to in-house to agency to in-house and back again to agency again.  That’s quite an achievement.  What three skills have enabled you to make these transitions? 

I don't see it as that much of an achievement or a particularly radical move. It's just part of developing as a communications professional by taking the most interesting opportunities available at times when I felt I had outgrown what I was doing. Being interested in people helps, as does wanting to try different things, and being willing to take a risk or two.

4. For people working in an agency, in-house can be viewed as ‘the grass is greener’.  What was your biggest frustration about working in-house?

I would challenge the idea that they are as different as people like to make out. In-house you still have an evolving roster of clients and you share many of the same challenges as being in agencies. But in short, the biggest frustration about working in-house has to be interminable meetings where your attendance is mandatory and your interest is, at best, marginal. Agencies, on the other hand, don't have enough meetings.

5. Your top tip for influencing C-suite?

Listen carefully but always say your piece. You're being paid for your counsel and people want to hear it (just be careful how you say it).

6. What is the most important lesson you have learned in life so far?

Sit down and shut up. Or don't just do something - sit there. It's far too easy to react to events without thinking them through, in both our personal and professional lives, and we run around frantically to feel like we're doing something. I have had to work hard at this and meditation helps. I have had a few close shaves with extinction because of chronic health problems and that teaches you patience and perspective. You don't have much choice. 

7. What’s the best piece of professional advice you’ve been given along the way and by whom?

My boss at RBC, Derek Hutchison, gave me a very useful tip for the art of persuasion - before any important meeting try and pick off each individual in advance. Then you're way ahead when you walk in the room - no surprises. It works for clients, media or internally.  He also had a saying for when things went wrong - "Nobody died". That's an important perspective when you feel you have failed. 

8. In one sentence, what is your definition of a great PR?

A great PR needs to know when to listen, when to talk, who to talk to and what to say.

9. You are incredibly busy in your professional life, what do you do outside of work to de-stress?

Play music, read comics and jump in rivers. Rinse and repeat.

10. What should the industry do to improve employee wellbeing?

I'm really fortunate to have flexible working arrangements which take into account my health issues and help me stay on top of my game without compromising my wellbeing. My issues are chronic but everybody has times when they would benefit from more flexibility in their arrangements. As an industry we need to be more aware of how we can get the best out of people. Sometimes that means putting them in charge of their work lives to find a balance.

Thank you Alex for taking part in our interview.

At The Works Search we are dedicated to securing 'best in class' professionals, top 5% industry performers.  We focus on executive search for senior corporate and financial communications professionals and have a 100% delivery track record for search assignments. 

If you are a senior professional and interested in being interviewed for our Thought Leaders Connected newsletter, we would love to hear from you.  Call Sarah on 07765 258 602 or email


Staff turnover a worry?  5 steps to retain your high performers for longer

07 Apr 2017 by Sarah Leembruggen.

During a recent conversation with an agency MD, she said that her biggest challenge was staff retention at mid-level.  Losing Account Directors and Account Managers to in-house is becoming common practice.  The loss of mid-level operators has an impact on clients, the teams’ workload and it’s an utter headache to replace at those levels. 

It struck me that she isn’t the first one to say this, and as an observer of how a large number of businesses are run, I thought I could share my advice.  Here are 5 easy steps to holding on to your high performers – for longer than just a short stint with the company.

Step 1 - Mix it up with a change-over

According to our annual salary survey findings, the number one reason you lose your staff is lack of career progression, and this it at every level.  In today’s mobile work world, your employees come in with one eye looking out the door for their next big opportunity.  When they reach the point where they can’t see themselves moving up any time soon, and the intellectual stretch levels off, then you need to act.  It may feel a little unconventional, or even uncomfortable, but mixing it up is a great way to make a positive change.   Take the bold decision to move that Account Director off a few of their clients (or all of them) and give them completely new ones.  It’s like having a new job, learning new industry sectors and ways of working.  The knowledge of the client is still kept in-house for a smooth hand-over, but this bold approach will shake things up for your high performers and keep them growing and developing.  Remember your people come first, not your clients.  Happy employees mean happy clients.

Step 2 - Crystal clear clarity

A clear career path, or lack thereof, is part of the number one reason why people leave – not money, as many people think.  If your best people can’t see what their future holds in the company, then why should they stay?  A simple solution is having absolute clarity about what it takes to move up at every level.  This shouldn’t stop when you get to director level, either.  When all your staff are regularly reviewed against clear criteria (and I don’t just mean a revenue figure) and what they will need to do to progress, then you will have more engaged employees.  More engagement means better results all round.

Step 3 – Money matters

It’s a top five motivator for most people, so pay market rate or above market rate.  Simple.  Use the salary survey on our website or ask me to come in and assess your whole team.  Invest in your employees, and they will return the investment several times over.

Step 4 - Take a hard look at your company benefits 

However large or small your business, 25 days of holiday allowance is standard.  It’s easy enough to close between Christmas and New Year in addition to this – you are only a phone call away.  In my mind, it’s a good idea to survey your employees and ask them which company benefits are important to them.  Don’t assume anything - who knows if it’s a contributory pension, healthcare or a massage on a Friday that your employees want.  An anonymous survey will tell you.  Find out what is important to them and make a change.  Even if it’s just one to start with, it can make all the difference.  Major corporates have some impressive company benefits so there is no harm taking a little of the sparkle away. 

Step 5 – Light touch flexibility

From an MD’s standpoint, clients come first, so being present in the office is important to create a good team culture but you have employed grown-ups.  A really simple and well-loved benefit is having a flexible start and finishing time.  What about having an hour or half an hour flex around contractual start and finishing times every day, i.e., if you start an hour later, then you finish an hour later.  This can make an enormous difference to your employees’ lives and you will stand out in the market.  It costs you nothing apart from happier employees.  How do I know? I have done it. 

If you’re an agency CEO or MD looking to hire a rainmaker to take your business forward, or you would like some help with hiring high performers, then please feel free to call me, Sarah Leembruggen, on 0776 258 602. 

As you know, we are a specialist The Works Search is dedicated to securing a 'best in class' professional, a top 5% industry performer.  We focus on executive search for senior corporate and financial communications professionals and have a 100% delivery track record for search assignments.  We are happy to advise on team structure and are known for our expertise on salaries and market insights.


A guest interview with George Hudson, financial & corporate communications professional at AB InBev

23 Mar 2017

1.      Can you tell us a little about your background and career to date?

After 17 years of working for some of the City's leading PR agencies where I specialised in advising clients in the leisure and consumer sectors, I was presented with the opportunity to join the group reputation and communications team at FTSE-100 global brewer SABMiller in 2015. Since then it has been an extraordinary journey as SABMiller received a £79bn takeover approach from AB InBev, the world's largest brewer, at the end of 2015. This was a very high profile deal, generating intense media, investor and regulatory scrutiny. Being inside the tent as opposed to being an external adviser during this critical time was fascinating. Post-closing of the transaction, which was the largest acquisition of a UK-listed company and the third largest M&A deal of all time, I have been working in an interim business continuity role at AB InBev responsible for integrating SABMiller's best practice communications approach and processes into AB InBev's framework.


2.      What would you say are your three key attributes that contributed to your career success?

There is no substitute to rolling your sleeves up and getting stuck in, especially in the early stages of one's communications career. If you are agency-side, clients expect you to have a broader skill set than simply financial or corporate comms, they will want to know your view on the digital, public affairs, brand and internal communications piece as well.  Being able to juggle all of these will stand you in good stead. Relationship building is vital to success be it with internal stakeholders or with external advisers, corporates and PR practitioners - and not just journalists. The financial PR world in the City is very small - so be careful not to burn bridges.    


3.       What is the most important lesson you have learned in life so far?

That you never know what's around the corner and that you should seize any interesting opportunity, even if it is outside your comfort zone. 


4.       You started your career with some great PR agencies and then moved in-house.  What skills have you built on?

The fast moving and demanding nature of agency life, juggling multiple client needs at the same time as drumming up new business has meant that I am used to working in high intensity, stressful environments where one needs to have a thick skin. Understanding the interplay between internal and external communications and how nuance matters in the written and spoken word is another key transferrable skill that I have developed in-house. In addition, having deep sector knowledge and relevant-experience always makes one more credible and compelling.


5.       The AB InBev and SABMiller merger must have been fascinating to be part of – what’s your take-away from this experience?

There are three key take-aways from the deal: first, that management, as well as comms teams, should always invest time in building up a bank of goodwill with key journalists and stakeholders so it can be called upon in times of strife; second, that you should never forget your internal constituency be it employees or the leadership - ensure all communications are timely, are sympathetic and recognise the multiple uncertainties that arise during a take-over approach; third, expect the unexpected, especially in the early stages of the process when external parties can easily put a cat among the pigeons e.g. shareholder advisory groups, disgruntled investors, former employees, regulators etc.


6.       What’s the best piece of professional advice you’ve been given along the way and by whom?

On the agency-side, John Antcliffe, the co-founder and former CEO of Smithfield Consultants, once said it usually takes at least three years to convert a prospect into a new client and to do so you should treat them as if they were a client along the way - which will equip you with good inside knowledge and solid relationships so that you will have won the pitch before stepping into the room.

Thank you George for taking part in our interview.

At The Works Search we are dedicated to securing 'best in class' professionals, top 5% industry performers.  We focus on executive search for senior corporate and financial communications professionals and have a 100% delivery track record for search assignments.  If you are a senior professional and interested in being interviewed for our Thought Leaders Connected newsletter, we would love to hear from you.  Call Sarah on 020 7559 6597 or email


Life after Financial PR

23 Feb 2017

During her time in the Life Sciences division of Financial Dynamics (now FTI Consulting), Anna became fascinated by the degree to which people focus on reactive health. She couldn’t understand why we were not paying more attention to being proactive, why wasn't there more effort going into preventing people getting sick in the first place. Struggling to find adequate answers Anna decided to do something about it.

I asked Anna why she wanted to set up Gazelle Partners…

“When I worked in financial PR, my colleagues will know I was always the one smoking at 6am before a press release went out. I was the one tucking into bottles of wine in the evening and not managing to go to the gym.  I was tired all the time, wasn’t sleeping well, was unhappy and had pretty much lost my way. Looking back, I didn't have the support that I needed. I didn’t know how to help myself and I felt stuck in a rut. I did not realise then that small lifestyle tweaks could make such a big difference both mentally and physically. 

We wanted to create an opportunity for people, who are struggling mentally  or physically to learn how they, as individuals can improve their status quo. How they can take back control, learn the skills they need to make changes sustainable. It is all about creating an environment in which you, as an individual, can flourish.

Many of the people we work with are seeking greater happiness, many are lacking energy and clarity, some just want to nail a PB on an event or lose body fat and some don't really know what they want - but they know they need something! Around 25% of the people we work with are battling with some degree of depression, anxiety or stress.

As our programmes are personalised, we tailor the journey to the individual. We do a lot of listening and a lot of supporting. I believe one of the greatest gifts you can give another human being is time. We listen, we develop fun and achievable action plans and we provide ongoing support. This combination has seen some incredible changes".


About Gazelle Partners

Gazelle focus on mental and physical wellbeing, covering four key areas: nutrition, exercise, sleep and state of mind. They have a variety of programmes and products from workshops, to 30 day challenges to 8 week programmes. All are personalised, some involve one-to-one sessions and some are completely digital, all focused on the merits of being proactive. 

To date, Gazelle Partners have offered their programmes to individuals within organisations who have bought their services. However, they are frequently asked by participants if their husband/wife/friend etc. can do it. Due to popular demand, they are now launching a private programme, and it sounds amazing value!


They have a one-time offer of just £295 plus VAT, read more here.

Join Gazelle on their facebook page to see video diaries from previous participants’ experiences or follow Anna on LinkedIn. If you would like more information on the private programme or how Gazelle can support your business email


If you have an interesting story about a career change from PR communications, we would love to hear from you.  Feel free to get in touch with us on 020 7559 6690 or email


A guest blog from Guy Corbet on How Communications Might Remain Relevant

22 Feb 2017

The PR and communication industry is struggling to remain relevant while other marketing disciplines are running rings around it.  The industry should take responsibility for its future.  It should start to make its own weather.

For communications to keep up with the rest of the marketing mix it must do two things.  It must start taking seriously the need to prove the value of what it does.  Then it must make sure that what it does is worthwhile, and demonstrably so. 

Obviously, this will mean doing more of the valuable stuff.  That much is obvious.  Less palatably, it should also mean culling the bad work.  Cutting out the mediocrity could mean hard times for some agencies and in-house teams.


Time to step up

Despite the best efforts of professional PR story tellers, other marketing disciplines are more successful at convincing clients of the value of what they do.

Take online advertising.  Fraud is rife.  Half of internet advertising is never seen by humans and yet spend has grown by 15.3% in the past year alone.  

That's right.  Fake online ads which either don't exist or are never seen make a more convincing case for budget than PR often does.  What a sorry state of affairs.

No doubt advertisers blind their buyers with science.  Perhaps they throw so much big data around that it mesmerises their clients who become compelled to spend.

Even if the evidence behind advertising effectiveness is made-up (and fraudulent), it is telling a more convincing story than the PR industry.

And it is not alone.  Huge numbers of Twitter accounts are fraudulent too.  Many argue live streaming is snake oil.  Measuring digital views online is seen as nonsense.


Demonstrating value

Rather than grumble about these deceptions, or remain blind to them, the PR and communications industry needs to think about how it is seen by management. 

Then it needs to do more to prove how its effectiveness would justify more influence with management, and the budgets to make yet more impact.

It is time to stop fudging and start to assess business impact.  Every communications plan should start with it.  It should not be the afterthought tacked on at the end.

Every plan should spell out how it will assess what it's trying to achieve, and how that helps meet the business objectives.  Coverage should only ever be presented as a means to an end, not the end itself.


Opportunity knocking?

For the first time in years, the momentum should be with the communications industry. 

Boards are recognising the value of reputation, though it is worrying they are concluding those reputations are too important to be left to the comms teams.

But it is easy to see why.  As PR and communications rarely set out to prove effectiveness, there is little to distinguish between good work and bad.  

So both good and bad continue.  It is no surprise that PR is often associated with the rubbish, not the riches.

Look at the PR industry awards.  Many winners are brilliant.  But some entries amount to little more than turning up for work, and they get prizes for that. 

Not measuring effectiveness simply perpetuates the reputation PR has as being fluffy and lightweight.


The Darwinian check

Make no mistake, good evaluation will expose bad work.  It will reveal for what it is the stock-in-trade activity which lines agency pockets, but does little or nothing for the brands it should serve.  

Done well measurement will help everyone raise their standards, or it will shut their doors.  That should not be something to fear. 

It would lead to better, more creative, more interesting, more effective work. 

It would serve clients better by delivering more impact.  It would even start to make the case for PR to sit at the big strategic table.  It would make PR and communications irresistibly relevant.

That comes by putting evaluation first, not fudging it or leaving it to the end. 


Guy Corbet (@GuyCorbet) is an independent communications consultant and an associate of The Measurement Practice which helps clients and agencies better measure, understand and improve the value their PR and communications deliver.

If you have any thoughts on how PR communications can remain relevant, we would love to hear from you.  Drop us a line on 020 7559 6690 or email  


A view from the top

31 Jan 2017 by Sarah Leembruggen.

Has hiring been affected since Brexit?

The recruitment industry is a great barometer for how the PR and corporate communications industry is fairing.  As we saw from our analysis last year, it’s very consistent as we handled the same amount of in-house and agency roles in 2016 compared to 2015.  The industry is robust and we are leaner and better run nowadays.  The amount of senior hires didn’t change either, however, the most notable difference was we filled more partner/MD roles with corporate consultancies compared to financial PR agencies.  Normally, it is the other way around.


Which agencies aren’t doing well and who is faring better?

In my opinion, it feels like the top level advisory agencies have fared better than the execution agencies across the industry.  Some corporate and financial agencies didn’t fare as well due to less M&A and fewer IPOs which has affected their profitability and will no doubt be reflected in bonuses to come.  Most agencies pay out bonuses between December and April.  However, we have heard a number of times that public affairs teams have thrived as clients have wanted advice on Brexit. 


Surely everyone doesn’t want to move in-house?

The ‘grass is greener’ syndrome is here to stay.  We can have 10 conversations with board level professionals down to Account Director and they will only want to move in-house.  Similarly, in-house professionals rarely want to move back agency-side.  This is been happening for years although for some reason, agencies haven’t really woken up to it yet.  Have you ever wondered when you are looking for an AD with financial services experience why you don’t receive any decent CVs?   The agencies are now fighting for great talent but I fear a lot don’t know the best way to work with a search agency like us or have given enough thought on how they differentiate themselves and their culture. 


What’s the most common mistake that Head of Comms make when hiring?

They often think that advertising will fill a corporate communications role with an industry best.  The PR and corporate comms market is a passive one and 80% aren’t looking for a job and don’t have the time to check adverts.  Adverts are skimming from a 20% pool of people and typically not our industry’s best.  We know this as we have analysed the quality of candidates coming our way from adverts for the last 13 years!  I appreciate it’s often part of the company’s process but the days where adverts work well is over.  It’s not how the majority of our sector looks for a job. 


How can I keep my good people longer?

From our findings, the number one reason why people move jobs is not money (that’s number two) but career progression and feeling challenged.  Our suggestion for the in-house teams is to get your high performers to swap roles.  If you want to keep them challenged, then mix things up.  The expertise will remain in the team and the stakeholders may have a mild panic but it’s worth it for keeping them an extra year.  Another option is sharpen up your digital skills.  It’s not enough to outsource digital, it has risen to the forefront and it would be a good idea to reinvent yourself to stay relevant.  Training up your teams at all levels will help with career progression. 


We have lots more meetings to come so I’m sure there will be further thoughts to share.  If you are interested in commissioning us for an executive search then please do get in touch.

The Works Search specialise in placing super senior PR and corporate communications talent in leading PR agencies and in-house organisations across London, on an executive search basis. For our latest roles visit our jobs page, or to discuss your career in confidence contact us on 0207 559 6690 – we would love to hear from you.


Sarah Leembruggen shares her toughest lesson yet and New Year’s Resolution

04 Jan 2017 by Sarah Leembruggen.

In this blog I reflect on what has gone well – and not so well – in the last year and how I will be moving forward with my team in 2017.

Anyone who works closely with me will know I love change.  I will embrace a new process wholeheartedly. In fact, those around me can struggle to keep up and I have been told on many an occasion ‘to slow down’.  If I can see that something is going to work for the better, I will be all over it, nudging it through from every angle.

Step one – sole agency works

Let me explain, the change I wanted to make is to ‘only’ work with our clients on a sole agency basis. We have two service options to fill a role - executive search and a contingency (paid on result only) sole agency service.  My reasoning has been from our analysis of filling jobs and the numbers don’t lie.  Our stats show, that we successfully fill 75% of our sole agency roles and 100% of our retained searches and 100% of these candidates passed their probation with flying colours. Results to be proud of. 

Step two – proud to be different

I appreciate this is not how the majority of recruitment consultancies work and many companies are used to working with multiple agencies on a role.  However, we have never wanted to be like the rest of the industry.  We want to stand out from the crowd and be ‘the’ search consultancy, known for a quality performance, superior knowledge and showing great care. 

When I think about it, we have been talking about this sole-agency service for two years. So where have we gone wrong?

I wasn’t brave enough to fully embrace the change myself.  Of all people – the change instigator. It comes down to what we didn’t stop doing. If we want to offer a sole agency service, then we need to stop offering a multi-agency service.  Clients will soon understand as they get fantastic results and the team will get used to the change soon enough when they feel like high performers. Offering both services just hasn’t worked. 

Step three – finding high performers is time consuming

Resourcing for high performers and keeping in touch with them is really time consuming as we operate in a passive market.  It can take us a week of focus, sometimes more to fill one role.  If only we had spent our time just handling sole-agency roles.  My ‘ah-ha’ came when I looked at the annual stats.  My team and clients don’t need to change as I thought but I do. 

Step four – time to ‘women up’

Change comes from the top and that’s me.  I need to ‘woman-up’ and believe in this sole-agency service as it works.  I have been doing it for years and really well.  So my lesson has been to take courage, stop doing what doesn’t work immediately and believe in myself.  Old habits die hard but our values underpin everything we do and I will not accept poor results.

Step five – only work sole agency briefs

So my New Year’s Resolution is this. We will only work sole agency briefs. Next year’s results will be different as I need to slow down the greying.  It’s going to be a different year.

What New Year's Resolution have you made? We’d love to hear – share your stories @theworksrecruit.

The Works Search specialise in placing board level PR and corporate communications talent in leading PR agencies and in-house organisations across London, on both an executive search and contingency basis. For our latest roles visit our jobs page, or to discuss your career in confidence contact us on 0207 559 6690 – we would love to hear from you.


PR Account Directors – Is it a mistake to move in-house now?

10 Nov 2016 by Miriam Hanna.

Believe it or not at Account Director level, the hard truth of the matter is you're better off moving to another agency if you want more money and better bonuses. Why?

Attractive salary

Agencies have wider pay bands and a better understanding of your market worth compared to in-house PR teams. There is also quite a common misconception we come across that in-house pays better. You can uplift your salary by an average of 20% on a move to another agency. If you're a corporate Senior Account Director with financial services expertise your market worth is between £45k and £70k, and financial PR Account Directors are paid between £50k and £80k. It comes down to supply and demand. Another agency is likely to give you a healthy uplift as your level is in demand right now.  There are far fewer in-house Comms Manager roles on the market and competition is fierce, particularly in London.

Options, options, options

Unlike in-house roles, you will be in a position to select as there are plenty of roles with great agencies to consider.  The current market shows your level is in demand right now and we are confident that we can get you three, well matched, exciting interviews – no problem. It's all about supply and demand and if you're good at what you do, then now is a prime time to look at agencies that want to get people in place before Christmas

Professional development

Perhaps you want better flexibility, a company with values which you buy into and want to feel invested in again with fast track management training? Or you want FTSE clients to advise or just a clearer career path - it's all there for the taking. Agency life is renowned for having a greater variety and breadth to work across sectors and different clients, and developing niche specialisms as you work on different accounts. In-house by comparison can be slower and of course you represent one brand instead of many.

Faster progression

If you want to be a credible Communications Director one day, business acumen is required and there is no better place to hone these commercial skills in an agency as you are a 'profit centre', compared to a common view of being a 'cost centre' in- house.  If you want a CEO to respect your advice and give you a seat at the board table, being business savvy is paramount and these skills are developed at Account Director upwards. Stay agency, keep learning and keep moving forward.

The Works Search specialise in placing board to mid-level PR and communications talent in leading PR agencies and in-house organisations across London, on both an executive search and contingency basis. For our latest roles visit our jobs page, or to discuss your career in confidence contact us on 0207 559 6690 – we would love to hear from you.


An interview with PR, Marketing Communications and Leadership Strategist Anita Hamilton

01 Nov 2016 by Sarah Leembruggen.

Could you give us a brief overview of your career to date?

I have been fortunate to have experienced a diverse, at times very exciting, career in both strategic and operational roles. The early part of my career was in marketing, PR and communications roles in the media – I’ve held senior positions in news and in entertainment media; in commercial radio, national newspapers and TV launching or re-launching some of the UK’s most famous media brands. I’ve also worked in agencies working with a range of consumer brands and more recently with the corporate sector – with governments, international brands and organisations, and have developed leadership communications programmes to support women’s progress in the workplace.

What do you attribute your success to?

I have always enjoyed work situations where I am charged to make changes or to work on developing new projects. You learn not to fear failure and that by taking risks you make real gains. I combine a creative approach with warmth and empathy to get results, but I am tenacious and determined for myself and for my clients. Working in leading national newspapers early in my career and being married to an international news journalist has given me a tremendous appetite for news in all forms.

What have been your top three career highlights?

  1. Most recently developing training and coaching programmes which are designed to help women improve their confidence in the workplace - the result of years of communications experience and a background in psychology.
  2. Working in entertainment media – at Capital Radio for many years, in TV making programmes for Channel 4, the BBC and ITV – were demanding but exciting too. It’s hugely rewarding to see media audiences and engagement grow as a result of effective marketing and PR strategies. 
  3. I enjoy working with senior management or leading figures to raise profiles or highlight issues. Running the international PR and comms strategy for the annual Templeton Prize, whose recent winners include Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, is a good example.

Tell us about your involvement in White Water Women and what the programme aims to achieve

I work with the leading coaching and training company White Water Group to deliver programmes to develop leadership communications skills and behavioural awareness for women. My interest in this area has developed over the past four years resulting in courses and training, sometimes creating bespoke programmes for clients or individuals direct. Women often articulate a lack of confidence that can hold them back.  Confidence is not a skill in itself; it’s a result, a tool kit of skills and self-awareness that turns thoughts into action. It works - improving confidence in the workplace to achieve promotional goals or to build resilience can be achieved through training and practice. 

How do you define great PR?

Delivering the right outcome for a client is great PR.  It could be could be helping a business survive in the face of a wave of unfair adverse publicity (I have experienced this and it’s the most rewarding if demanding type of PR).  Great PR could also result in increased footfall or highlighting an important issue resulting in behaviour change.  When I started my career in PR and marketing there used to be an argument that PR alone could not result in sales.  My experience and the perceived view are now very different.

What would you recommend to other professionals as vital to standing out at your level? 

It’s imperative to understand that effective PR and communications is more than the process. Clients and agency teams can get caught up in the latest comms fad without proper consideration for the outcome. Standing out involves using experience and knowledge to advise and follow through on what works most effectively to meet each communications challenge. And, like our clients or employers, we are all brands ourselves. Having an appreciation for our own brand values – what makes us good at our profession, our behaviour as a good leader or collaborative team member is what others will remember.

Thank you Anita for taking part in our interview.

The Works Search specialise in placing board to mid level PR and communications talent in leading PR agencies and in-house organisations across London, on both an executive search and contingency basis. For our latest roles visit our jobs page, or to discuss your career in confidence contact us on 0207 559 6690 – we would love to hear from you.


Why move jobs now?

25 Oct 2016 by Sarah Leembruggen.

Are you finding your job search for your ideal PR and corporate communications role is getting pushed further and further away in the busy lead up to Christmas? The final quarter of the year can be a tricky time to get a new job – but it can also be a truly crucial time. This week we share a few of our tips on why it’s important to get your job search done and dusted – now.

1. You’re hot property

Many organisations, and many PR and corporate communications professionals, want to put off hiring or moving to a new role until there is essentially more time for the interviewing process – ie January or February – but equally, many do not. Volumes of teams want people in place, with notice period completed, so you can really hit the ground running in the New Year. It’s an attractive prospect for many organisations to have the less productive training periods and settling in completed by year end, so you can really start delivering results from a clean slate in 2017. If you are open to a new role before the end of the year you will be highly appealing to prospective employers in your sector.

2. Beat the competition

There’s something very exciting and satisfying about having the search finished, and a new start lined up for the New Year. Putting off a job search can mean you’re having to start again from scratch in quarter one, and you could be spending another three months looking for a whole new set of opportunities and going through more interview processes – if you’re keen to get out of your job, this could be a big headache. January to March is a peak time for jobhunters returning to work after the Christmas break and can also mean extra competition in an already highly competitive market. Getting the stress and hassle of a job search out of the way as part of your busy and demanding last quarter of the year can make a lot of sense.

3. Decision deadlines

Both organisations and PRs looking for their ideal new role are really up against it in the last quarter of the year, they are against the clock tying up loose ends and pitching, planning and partying. This can be hugely beneficial in speeding up decision making and the process of hiring someone into the team. If you are looking to find a new role quickly then the last quarter of the year can be an enormously successful and streamlined time to do it, as the Christmas deadline is fast approaching.

Interested in a confidential chat about moving jobs before the end of the year? Call the team on 0207 559 6690 or email your CV now.

The Works Search specialise in placing board to mid level PR and corporate communications talent in leading PR agencies and in-house organisations across London, on both an executive search and contingency basis. For our latest roles visit our jobs page, or to discuss your career in confidence contact us on 0207 559 6690 – we would love to hear from you.


Be ready for the unexpected at interview

19 Oct 2016 by Sarah Leembruggen.

Make sure you are as ready as anything for your all-important interview with a few key tips from us. As PR and corporate communications specialists we have heard many stories of the unexpected happening during interview – here’s a few scenarios to be aware of.

1. No warm up

Many organisations want to be as time efficient as possible – but also, they really do want to see how you act under pressure. It may be that they kickstart the interview without much in the way of an introduction or warm up – ‘What’s your greatest success from the last quarter and what did you learn from it?’ Brace yourself for a quick start.

2. Knowing your interviewers

In our experience the interviewers may well change with short notice before interview – it may be a completely different person conducting the interview, or it may be that more people join in and it becomes a three-person panel. They key thing is that you have done your research and are comfortable with this – at the very least you should know the names and job titles of the potential team, and ideally have also done background research so you know a little bit about them to avoid getting caught short. This will only help you stand out as an exceptional professional who has done their homework on the organisation.

3. Personal questions

Quite a common occurrence unfortunately, but it’s important that you know how to deal with personal, and even discriminatory questions – an example could be a question about your marital status or reference to your age. Prepare some responses to potential questions you think may come up and you can practice giving polite but firm answers if you feel some boundaries are being stepped on. Hopefully, these questions should not occur if you are interviewing with a quality organisation.

4. ‘Absent’ interviewers

Many senior PR and comms professionals conducting interviews have a very full plate, and you may find that your interviewer is not really paying you the attention that they should – you would be surprised how often we have heard this happening, but it’s a common occurrence in the world of PR and corporate communications. If you feel that your interviewer is paying more attention to their phone it can be extremely offputting and affect your sell – we advise a very polite and open ‘Would you like to deal with that?’ during the interview to reference that they are not present, and to open up an opportunity for them to address any issue or crisis that is causing them to be distracted. It’s better for you to have even 30 minutes of full attention rather than an hour of none.

What unexpected things have thrown you off your game during an interview? We’d love to hear – share your stories @theworksrecruit.

The Works Search specialise in placing board to mid level PR and corporate communications talent in leading PR agencies and in-house organisations across London, on both an executive search and contingency basis. For our latest roles visit our jobs page, or to discuss your career in confidence contact us on 0207 559 6690 – we would love to hear from you.


An interview with Tricia Stewart, Executive Coach and Director of Peridot International

18 Oct 2016 by Sarah Leembruggen.

Executive coach and Director of Peridot International takes part in our guest interview this week, sharing her expert advice on how organisations and senior professionals can achieve their career goals.

Could you tell us about your career path to date?

After university I joined the RAF, where I learnt about leadership, in particular the accountability of leaders to those they lead. I then moved to Waitrose, proving to myself and others that my skills were transferable to the fast moving food retail world.  Joining Scottish and Newcastle PLC gave me my first taste of working for a FTSE100 company.  

At this stage I specialised in organisational development becoming the people expert on sales and acquisitions within the business and transformational restructuring. Following the sale of S&N I continued working with businesses challenged by the need for organisational transformation, working in both the financial and care sector. During this time I took the opportunity to become a non exec director for a not for profit organisation, taking particular responsibility for corporate governance and Board development.

Stepping down as HR Director of the largest residential care provider in Scotland, I challenged myself to follow the advice I had given to others and establish what I wanted to achieve with my career. Building on my skills and experience from mentoring and coaching colleagues and teams within businesses I took the plunge, retrained and have been working as an Executive Coach for the last two years.

How do you help senior professionals achieve their full performance potential?

As a coach my role is to help people clarify their goals, work with them to develop their implementation plans and hold them to account. Having worked in business for many years I know how easy it is to be overtaken by events and become reactive. As a coach I provide the space and challenge for people to reflect on what they are doing and how they are working towards their goals.

What obstacles do you most commonly come across when assisting organisations in reaching their goals?

The three most common discussion points are leadership, motivation and communication within the organisations. The sector and size of organisation really doesn’t matter, these are underpinning competencies that people need to get right before people and their organisation can excel.

What advice do you give to CEOs in working towards their performance goals?

Set measurable objective targets, focus and find a trusted advisor who can give independent feedback. As a CEO it can be difficult to find people prepared to recognise both your strengths and weaknesses and the perspective of others can be invaluable.

What is the biggest challenge you have faced in your career so far?

The biggest challenge was deciding to walk away from a corporate career and the rewards that are associated with it to establish myself as an Executive coach. 

What are the top 3 things you consider to be most important for a senior professional to be successful in achieving their career goals?

First establish your own goals not those set by others. All too often people follow other people’s expectations and not surprisingly end up dispirited.

Seek out people you trust to help and advise you and give you feedback. We all need support at some point so make it reciprocal.

Recognise that set backs are likely to occur so be open to what you can learn and incorporate that knowledge for the future. Those people who continue to learn and develop will continue to move forward in their career.  

What advice would you give to PR and communications professionals aspiring to high-profile careers?

Your integrity and values can’t be replicated, these are your brand. Ensure that you manage and protect them. You can learn new skills and gain more experience but without integrity you won’t be trusted for the significant and influential roles. 

Thank you Tricia for taking part in our interview.

The Works Search specialise in placing board to mid level PR and communications talent in leading PR agencies and in-house organisations across London, on both an executive search and contingency basis. For our latest roles visit our jobs page, or to discuss your career in confidence contact us on 0207 559 6690 – we would love to hear from you.


Top PR and communications jobs of the week

17 Oct 2016 by Abby Warren.

Head of Media

Award-winning and FTSE listed financial services company looking for a Head of Media in this rare stand-alone opportunity - apply now. For more details on this role and similar roles, contact Millie Ginnett by email or on 020 7559 6692.

PR Senior / Account Manager - Immediate starter wanted

Join the exemplary property team and work with some serious A-list brands in this impressive and growing consultancy - immediate starter wanted. Apply here or contact Warren Madlin for further information.

Financial communications Account Director

Market leading global strategic communications consultancy – your chance to join this impressive financial and corporate communications team. Click to apply or contact James Baybutt for more details.

The Works Search specialise in placing board to mid level PR and communications talent in leading PR agencies and in-house organisations across London, on both an executive search and contingency basis. For our latest roles visit our jobs page, or to discuss your career in confidence contact us on 0207 559 6690 – we would love to hear from you.


Why aren’t you finding the right PR to join your team?

11 Oct 2016 by Sarah Leembruggen.

Whether you think your organisation is growing successfully or not, it’s always very worthwhile to brush up your recruitment strategy and make sure you are appealing to superstar PR talent in a fast-paced market.

1. What’s your reputation like?

This is something which you may well not have thought of asking – but it’s an important question and can give you a valuable steer on your plus points, and vital insights on where you need to improve. Speak to an experienced search expert who specialises in your sector and have an honest conversation about your reputation in the market and how you are measuring up against your competitors. What changes can you make to improve your desirability? What feedback can you communicate through the business to develop your employer branding? Be open to flexibility and moving with the market – this is a war on talent!

2. Finding your source

Whether you have a dedicated in-house recruitment team sourcing the very best gems in the market, or whether you have a long-standing relationship with a successful, experienced specialist search team, you need to have a good awareness of tried and tested sources of success. Have you done an analysis on where your most recent, successful hires have come from? This may sound simple but you would be surprised how many organisations don’t do this – it’s a fantastically easy way to tap into your most fruitful pool of potential new employees. What are your competitors doing that you can do better? Be open to new ideas to help bring talent down the pipeline.

3. Slow process

In a fast-paced, competitive, talent-led market, there is no room for a slow process. You need to be on top of your process, showing interviewees how impressed you were by them, asking the right questions in an interview, actively speaking to the search consultancies you are partnering with, and keeping up a consistent and impressive pipeline so your organisation is familiar with a moving and progressive recruitment process. Review your recruitment strategy and identify any areas you think might be problematic – it doesn’t have to be complex, it just has to be effective. Make sure your strategy works with your source.

4. Effective interviews

You need to be making sure you are making the most of your interview opportunities – the process should be slick, and you should be asking the right questions which really tap into a professional’s experience and uniqueness and give you an insight into how they will fit into your team. It’s also important to ensure you are also providing a positive and enlightening process for them too – having a good experience during the interview stages is hugely important for a professional to consider whether moving to your organisation is the right decision for them, so you should be going the extra mile to do a good sell on your organisation.

5. Think about your offer

How can you stand out from the crowd with what you are offering prospective employees? Is your benefits package really, actually competitive, or just standard? Are there attractive elements you could include to add in a little originality? Importantly – are your salary bandings competitive? Salary is a top 3 factor for PRs to move jobs, and could give you the edge in attracting your ideal talent.

If you need help in perfecting your interview process or hiring strategy, we can offer you bespoke ideas and training. Contact Sarah to discover more about this and for a no obligation chat.

The Works Search specialise in placing board to mid level PR and communications talent in leading PR agencies and in-house organisations across London, on both an executive search and contingency basis. For our latest roles visit our jobs page, or to discuss your career in confidence contact us on 0207 559 6690 – we would love to hear from you.


What makes a star performer in financial PR?

04 Oct 2016 by Sarah Leembruggen.

From a career perspective, financial PR professionals stand in a unique position at an interesting time in the current market. Despite fewer M&A transactions and IPO deals taking place this year than last year, financial PR professionals remain in greater demand now more than ever.

Here are my five key elements which make a financial PR professional stand out in the market –

1. M&A and IPO transactions experience

A proven track record of working on M&A and IPOs transactions will naturally stand out in terms of relevant deal knowledge and experience. This is in addition to the traditional calendar work and managing clients’ results and announcements. Financial PRs must able to effectively highlight their respective role working on specific projects and deal activity. Financial PRs with knowledge of M&A/ IPO deals, coupled with international cross-border experience, are placed at a premium.

2. Prized international expertise

In today’s market, many leading financial communications firms are consolidating their service offering as they respond to ever-changing demands with global, political and digital implications. Firms are tasked with managing a corporate narrative as well as financial results and announcements, which often straddle international markets and time zones. As financial PR activity becomes more complex and demanding, clients are becoming increasingly attracted to firms who are able to offer sophisticated, integrated services with a global footprint, but local expertise. The demand for cross-border services has been magnified by large scale, global deal making over the past twelve months.

3. C-Suite influence

Operating at C-suite level not only boosts credibility, it also increases influence which in turn increases value. Whether directly engaging with senior stakeholders on M&A activity, providing senior level strategic advice to retain clients, or securing new business following a successful pitch, these elements all add to your ‘stock’. Operating as a trusted communications advisor to senior stakeholders/counsel with listed clients will inevitably boost your own profile and also supports with bringing in new business.

4. Wider corporate communications know-how

There is an emerging trend for an integrated financial and corporate PR service – offering the two disciplines increasing working directly alongside one another. Firms with a combined financial and corporate offering include Brunswick, Finsbury, Bell Pottinger, CNC, Newgate and Teneo Blue Rubicon. Bucking this trend are traditional financial PR houses who, in the main, have kept the bulk of their financial vs corporate departments as separate entities. These firms include the likes of FTI Consulting and Citigate. Many financial PR firms are interested in bringing in talent with a skill-set combining both M&A and IPOs activity with crisis, issues and reputation management expertise in line with the industry changing, the most sought after professionals require both corporate and financial expertise.

5. Knowing your market worth in the industry

The talent pool of professionals with traditional financial PR experience is much smaller than in most other PR sectors – in comparison to corporate and consumer disciplines for example. In addition, the level of technical knowledge and expertise required ultimately results in attracting talent at a premium.  Financial PRs are among the best paid professionals in the industry and lead the way in terms of salaries and bonuses in comparison to their corporate peers. According to our 2015/16 salary survey across over 800 PR industry professionals, the average salary for an Account Director in financial PR stands at £58,000 – over £6,000 more than an equivalent level role in corporate PR. Its imperative financial PR professionals know their market value to remain competitively remunerated for the work they do.

The Works Search specialise in placing board to mid level PR and communications talent in leading PR agencies and in-house organisations across London, on both a contingency and executive search basis. For our latest roles visit our jobs page, or to discuss your career in confidence contact James on 0207 559 6521 or by email.


Women in PR’s Closing the Gender Pay Gap event

28 Sep 2016 by Sarah Leembruggen.

I wanted to say thank you to everyone who came along to Women in PR’s fantastic Closing The Gender Pay Gap event on Thursday, I was proud to be a part of such a brilliant panel and it was wonderful to see a great turnout, as well as getting the opportunity to speak to everyone about their experiences on salary and negotiation. The panel was hosted by Mary Whenman of Women in PR and included Communications Director Annette Spencer for an in-house view, Managing Director of Speed Communications Kate Bosomworth for an agency perspective, performance coach Hils Carmichael, and myself. The gender pay gap is still prevalent in the industry, with our Salary Survey results this year showing on average a £10k pay gap difference, and many other survey findings supporting this. A recent article in The Guardian also shared some interesting insights from Deloitte who believe the gap won’t be reduced until 2069.

With the news of the PRCA introducing a policy for organisations of 250 employees and above to be transparent on their salary bandings, the PR industry seem to be making some positive step forwards on this issue. Women in PR’s event was a hugely interesting discussion and I hope there will be many more events like this to address the pay gap issue in the future!

We thought it might be useful to share just a few select tips from the event to help you in your salary and bonus negotiations.

Know your worth

If you know your market value in the industry, you can negotiate your salary much more effectively. Whether by talking to peers, reading industry surveys, or seeking expert advice, make sure you have a clear understanding of what your market value is, and what tangible results you are contributing to the business before you undergo discussions – the key is to demonstrate your value by showing that you’re an independent professional attractive to other companies, but also that you are passionate about your career with this company.

The negotiation

Go to the meeting with a figure in mind, and know what your bottom line is – even if you don’t get an answer then and there. Build your value with evidence, remind your boss of your USPs – this is not a time for modesty, this is business, so sell yourself well. Have you got a plan for how you would like your role to develop? Is there training you want to ask for, or could you ask for mentorship outside of work to help develop your growth and get perspective? Believe in your worth and allow your confidence to show. If it’s appropriate, choose a more informal setting for your meeting to make it more relaxed and open. Be clear on your expectations, in both remuneration and timelines. Never negotiate over email – face to face is best. Be aware of rapport and doing the best you can to communicate effectively, and your viewpoint should demonstrate benefit to the business. If you get a no or a not right now – find out specifically what targets you need to achieve, and what a realistic timeline is, in order to get a yes!

Your focus

If there is an existing awareness of salary differences, this can obviously create some issues or tension. There may be reasons as to why there is a salary difference across colleagues – for example whether someone has brought in the biggest client, or are they the biggest revenue generator – particularly apparent at senior level. Your focus should be maximising the amount you are paid for your service and understand than no-one pays anyone more than they have to. Ensure you are maintaining a good working relationship with the decision maker, and that you are a visible team member, taking the time every month to communicate what you have done well with your boss.

My team and I would also be very happy to answer any questions you have on your salary and bonus, or if you would simply like some further tips on how to negotiate your salary or market worth. You can contact us in complete confidence on 0207 559 6690 or email  I look forward to hearing your stories of how you are getting on in your salary negotiations!

I also wanted to share lovely panellist and performance coach Hils Carmichael’s contact details with you, should you need a calming confidence boost before asking for a pay rise, or some ideas for useful techniques to get you into a better head space –

I would also like to thank Mary Whenman of Women in PR for the opportunity to be involved in such a brilliant event and to my insightful fellow panellists, and to Laura O’Connell, Managing Partner at Instinctif Partners for offering us such a wonderful venue.

Find out more about Women in PR at


Got your corporate culture sorted? Great. Now here’s the next thing

26 Sep 2016 by Brian Mairs.

Global Head of Communications - Financial and Risk at Thomson Reuters, Brian Mairs, shares his views on the role of PR in employee engagement in the workforce in his guest Thought Leaders Connected article this week.

Employee engagement has been the subject of a surprising debate lately – from Harvard Business Review, no less.

This dominant approach to organisational behaviour stems from the basic principle that an engaged workforce is more healthy, imaginative, fulfilled, loyal and productive – and surely creating this corporate culture is self-evidently, innately a good thing.

But Harvard Business Review recently reported a very different view. The recent blog post The Dark Side of High Employee Engagement has challenged conventional thinking by pointing out an uncritical approach can result in some missed opportunities for the business - and may still leave some staff unfulfilled and unhappy.

For one thing, complacency and arrogance can set in if an organisation fails to be sufficiently reflective and self-critical; for another, employees who immerse themselves in their corporate culture might overlook other important aspects of their lives, leading to burnout.

The researchers also claim an office full of upbeat people does not have the necessary corrective of insightful pessimists who can question the prevailing view; and such an office has no access to the benefits of negative thinking – principally persistence, focus and attention.

A skillfully designed employee engagement programme can surely overcome these challenges. It needs to. In my experience the people prepared to provide critical thinking – and to speak up about it – are absolutely essential to building effective business strategies. People who think different, as Apple would put it.

And this leads to a further point, beyond the scope of the HBR post but I think particularly pertinent to PRs. 

If our work colleagues are truly engaged with the organization and each other, they treat each other as friends, and can engage as friends on social media. That means the PR team need to be alert to what they are saying.

If the 21st century equivalent of the ciggie break or water cooler conversation is a discussion with friends on Facebook or Twitter, then the risk of that discussion breaking out beyond the organisation is clearly greater. Suddenly a minor issue within the organisation becomes a reputational issue which requires a steady PR hand.

Every organisation will have social media guidelines to cover this sort of episode. And they will almost always fail. The way we socialise stories about our lives nowadays is almost a reflex. Seen something interesting? Take a photo; post it; share it. No guidelines, no code of conduct, can change what is rapidly becoming second nature to a large part of the working population.

The line between our working lives and our real lives has been fading for many years, largely because the way we work has adapted with the technology available. If we work for multinational operations, we will have been required to hold conference calls at inconvenient hours for decades, so we know all about logging in late in the day, or talking to our Aussie counterparts in the early hours.

And of course handheld devices have been contributing greatly to the blurring of that line. Our smartphones offer us access to emails, Webex, messenger services and of course every social media platform. When work time and leisure time merge together, and our devices enable us to do both pretty much simultaneously, internal communications might not stay internal for very long.

The price we pay for our colleagues' flexibility, and for an open and collaborative corporate culture, is occasional challenges such as these. For most companies – and for people who like myself have seen the benefits of highly engaged colleagues – this might be considered a price worth paying.

As long as you have a skilled, experienced and adequately resourced PR team to tackle the problems when they happen, of course.

Thank you Brian for taking part in our Thought Leaders Connected blog this week.


What are the attributes of high performing internal communications talent?

26 Sep 2016 by Nadina Grad.

In my view, passion is the driving force of an outstanding professional in any sector – and this was evident over the last couple of months in my conversations with leading internal communications professionals in my network, discussing what they consider to be the key traits and skills in an outstanding internal communications talent. Internal comms specialists have a long list of skills and competencies which they see as crucial in being a high performer – but ultimately the way they use these skills and competencies will vary according to the role, company and team structure. That being said, I found that there were a number of recurring responses to my question, ‘What makes an outstanding internal communications professional?’, and here they are –

Solid awareness of their business

Having a strong understanding of the business and sector is crucial for an internal comms professional, and knowing what outcomes the business wants to achieve in having an effective internal communications function is especially important. Without having a thorough knowledge of this, they will not be able to engage employees effectively and guide them towards that collective goal.

Knowing their audience

It’s vital to know the target audience and be able to develop a communications strategy which revolves aptly around them, also using the most relevant channels. From my conversations with internal communications specialists, it seems that this is one of the key challenges an internal communications professional will face – getting to know their audience so that they can decide on the content of the message, and also see what channels exist within the organisation that they could utilise.

Relationship building

The ability to develop relationships quickly and effectively at all levels is an important string in an internal comms professional’s bow. This is important because it creates credibility in their role and serves to influence senior stakeholders, as well as engaging employees to make things happen and achieve desired results. By creating these successful relationships, an internal communications specialist will inspire trust and respect within the organisation – able to valuably and credibly coach, consult and represent the business.

Strategic thinker

It’s vital to understand the internal communications process from end to end. An outstanding internal comms expert must be a strong strategic thinker, with a creative streak so they can design the strategies, and also be willing and proactive in keeping up to date with new developments in the industry – with ever-changing elements such as technology and social media. This helps to retain a competitive edge and deliver the internal communications strategy in the most effective way possible – as well as developing their own professional prowess.

Writing skills

The skill in translating the corporate message of the organisation and communicating this clearly and deftly through multiple channels, shaping the same message into different content to several different audiences, is an underpinning skill of an effective internal communications expert.

Emotional intelligence

Many senior internal communications specialists shared their thoughts on the need for a high level of emotional intelligence which they felt was crucial not only in understanding the audience and their needs, but also for working effectively on the strategy purpose, implementing this empathy and understanding within an influential internal communications strategy which delivers the desired outcome.

What do you consider to be an integral trait or skill for an exceptional internal communications professional? I would love to hear – tweet @theworks_nadina.

The Works Search specialise in placing board to mid level PR and corporate communications talent in leading PR agencies and in-house organisations across London, on both a contingency and executive search basis. For our latest roles visit our jobs page, or contact the team on 0207 559 6690 to discuss your career in confidence.


Our interview with Beth Hurran, Communications Leader at Arup

19 Sep 2016 by Miriam Hanna.

Could you give us a brief overview of your comms career so far – how did you get to where you are today?

After completing my degree in English Literature at UCL, I wasn’t sure exactly what I wanted to do.  Television appealed and I went to work in commissioning at the BBC. This was fantastic experience, and my understanding of broadcasting and commissioning comes in useful on a regular basis, but while I was there, I realised I had a passion for communication that I wasn’t able to fully use in the world of commissioning. 

So three years into my career, I took a significant pay cut and started again, at the bottom, in a PR agency.  It was the best move I could have made as the agency gave me excellent training in PR and a great understanding of how to work with a diverse range of clients, allowing me to realise my passion for communications. 

While at the agency, I realised I wanted to feel better informed about the issues faced by my clients, many of whom weren’t PR professionals but had a broader role in marketing. I undertook a CIM qualification which broadened my horizons significantly.

My next step was to move in-house.  I had what I realise now was a slightly stereotypical idea that if I was in-house, I would be closer to the decision making and that aspect appealed to me.  I had an interview with Arup, and took a role as a senior press officer in 2007.  Nine years on, I’m still working at Arup and my role has broadened significantly. I’m now responsible for both the press office and internal communications for the UKMEA region in Arup.  

How would you say the professional services industry has changed in the last five years?

Partly thanks to the economic downturn of 2008, the professional services industry isn’t alone in having changed significantly in a number of ways.  Overall, competition has grown more intense – companies are getting more innovative about engaging with clients and how they work to establish a positive image with external stakeholders. 

But it’s not only about having the best client interactions and PR.  In our sector, people are our main asset so attracting, retaining and developing the best talent is absolutely vital to success and communications has a significant and exciting role to play in that area.  

It perhaps goes without saying that technology and how people want to access information and news has also made a difference.  Ensuring all your communications channels – from social media and your website to client communications and press releases – work seamlessly together is increasingly important in such a fast paced environment. 

What is the biggest challenge you have faced in your PR career so far?

Learning to deal with conflict and not see it as a negative has been a learning curve throughout my career.  Early on in my career, I would shy away from conflict and sometimes take the ‘easy route’.  I’ve learnt to trust my instincts as I’ve gained more experience and realised that usually, if handled in the right way, conflict both in terms of business and the more pastoral side of managing a team can be good as it gets issues out into the open and often makes for a better working relationship or work outcome in the long run. 

What is the most important lesson you have learned as a leader in professional services?

When I first started at Arup, I felt both thrilled and slightly overwhelmed to be surrounded by an entire population of people who are, as a rule, brilliant and innovative geniuses.  It took me a little while to learn that while they may excel in their field, they likely have very little understanding of PR. 

As a member of a small, in-house team I quickly learnt the lesson that my expertise was critical to ensuring PR results and not to be dazzled by feeling that I would never be able to achieve what a geotechnical engineer could do.  We all have our own skills and that’s a very good thing!  While I’m not a ‘fee earner’ my contribution and the impact the communications team can have is absolutely vital.

What are the top three essentials you look for when you’re hiring for your team?

It’s a cliché but number one would have to be a positive attitude.  When you’re working as a team, if you don’t have the right attitude and you can’t gel with the team, particularly in times of stress, it can have disastrous consequences. 

Critical thinking would be my second essential – I expect my team to ask questions and to analyse and interpret the information they have to ensure the best angle for any story – both from an internal and an external communications perspective. 

Finally, I always look for strong writing skills and the ability to communicate effectively.  It’s not just about writing press releases – it’s about being able to communicate on a multitude of platforms, both written and verbal.  You must be able to communicate a strategy or approach to others in the business who may have no understanding of PR or communications whatsoever. 

In one sentence what advice would you give to someone starting out in Communications?

Don’t be afraid to ask questions – I always say to my team ‘there are no stupid questions – ask, ask, ask’ otherwise you’ll never learn.


Don’t let rejection ruin your job search

15 Sep 2016 by Sarah Leembruggen.

You’ve had the chance to shine at interview, and you had got the feeling it went really well. But you just haven’t had the offer. Not only that, it’s happened more than once. Having multiple interviews which haven’t led anywhere can be a very trying experience for many professionals. If you don’t seem to be getting to the offer stage it may be that you are starting to question your own abilities. But remember, although there are a wealth of very exciting in-house and agency opportunities in the PR and communications industry, there is also some pretty tough competition, especially in London. Here we share our key tips for ensuring you don’t let rejection ruin your job search.

Become an interview expert

One of the best things about having to go to lots of interviews is that you can really hone your interview technique, making sure it’s polished, streamlined and highly relevant to the organisation you’re interviewing with. Importantly in the PR and communications industry, you will also have learned to use your very best examples, evidence of successes, achievements and stories, and your examples will also be current. It’s also a great way to remind yourself of your value and achievements in your current role which can boost your confidence. But beware you don’t get too ‘interview-tired’ – if possible give yourself some reasonable space between interviews so you are not rushing from one to the next. If you seem too rehearsed, the interviewer will know it. A great interview confidence booster is Amy Cuddy’s Ted Talk – have a look here.

Get feedback

Getting feedback about your interview is a hugely beneficial thing to do as it can give you a constructive view of your performance, what areas could do with improving, and give you much-needed confidence on what you did well. Thankfully it’s now quite common practice for organisations to give interviewees their feedback – and you need to make sure that you’re asking for it if it hasn’t been freely offered. If it’s not possible to get it from the interviewer, then ask an HR contact directly. Unfortunately there are still a few companies which don’t give feedback which is sadly not a very progressive approach – however you need to make sure you are proactive in trying to get it, and also in acting upon it for the next interview.

Seek expert advice

Speak to specialist search experts in your sector who can really give you insights into your CV, experience and market value. It’s also likely they will have some exciting roles up their sleeve that might well tempt you down a new path. Many consultancies, such as ours, are happy to offer bespoke advice which can help you in your career and professional development as well as valuable tips about what is going on in the job market in your sector. We also give you feedback on your interview technique to help you nail the next one.

Be persistent

Although it’s great to have had just one role which you were really excited about, but ultimately didn’t get, don’t falter at this hurdle and let it distract you from your ultimate objective. Be continuously open to other opportunities, keep up the search and put yourself forward for other roles, because in the fast-paced world of PR you really don’t know what might be coming your way. Keep up a healthy and manageable pipeline of great roles you’re interviewing for. In our experience it can take considerable time to find the right role – particularly for PRs looking for in-house moves, which can take significantly longer, especially at senior level. Make sure you’re keeping your goals in sight, stay positive, use your network and don’t give up!

What advice would you give for dealing with job rejection? We’d love to hear – tweet us @theworksrecruit.

The Works Search specialise in placing board to mid level PR and corporate communications talent in leading PR agencies and in-house organisations across London, on both a contingency and executive search basis. For our latest roles visit our jobs page, or contact the team on 0207 559 6690 to discuss your career in confidence.


Top PR and communications jobs of the week

15 Sep 2016 by Abby Warren.

Communications and PR Manager - Immediate starter required

Ambitious Communications & PR Manager sought for leadership role working with senior partners in global, award-winning law firm based in central London. The successful candidate must be able to start in September or early October 2016. Apply now.

Communications Manager - Alternative Investment- September Start

This highly respected leading financial services association is looking for a communications manager with a passion for alternative investments to start immediately. Click here to apply now.

Press Officer for leading Real Estate Company - September start

An opening within the fast-paced comms team of a major real estate advisor is looking for a bright, hardworking corporate superstar to work as Press Officer within their country estates division. Apply now.

The Works Search specialise in placing senior to mid level PR and communications talent in leading PR agencies and in-house organisations across London, on both a contingency and executive search basis. For our latest roles visit our jobs page, or contact the team on 0207 559 6690 to discuss your career in confidence.


Is change in the air for the gender pay gap? Women in PR and The Works Search announce their event

13 Sep 2016 by Sarah Leembruggen.

With the welcome news that the PRCA is moving towards its members being asked to conduct gender pay gap reporting as part of its kitemark accreditation, there is some very exciting coverage appearing in PR Week today on the gender pay gap. It’s undeniable the PRCA have made a valuable and tangible statement to the communications industry in introducing this change from voluntary to compulsory reporting.

We read these PR Week articles with great interest.  It’s rather timely as on Thursday 22nd September, The Works Search is partnering with Women in PR at an event where we will be offering expert advice on how to negotiate a pay rise, how to get a good uplift when moving jobs and more importantly how to get paid what you are worth. 

When male counterparts only five years into their careers are getting paid on average £10k more, women in PR need to be recognised. Negotiation is an art and definitely something that can be learned, and it’s time that professional woman in PR got paid their real value.  The pay gap isn’t changing quickly and unless we are prepared to make a perceptible move as the PRCA have done, the issue will not be going away. 

Our event is a great opportunity to pick up some first-hand expertise from five senior female professionals, who know a thing or two about negotiation and getting market worth.

Book your tickets here – we look forward to seeing you there.

To read more about PR Week’s coverage on the key developments with the PRCA –

Game-changer? PRCA to compel members to report their gender pay gap

Time for the PR industry to put its money where its mouth is on equal pay

The Works Search specialise in placing senior to mid level PR and communications talent in leading PR agencies and in-house organisations across London, on both a contingency and executive search basis. For our latest roles visit our jobs page, or contact the team on 0207 559 6690 to discuss your career in confidence.


Important market changes in 2016

07 Sep 2016 by Sarah Leembruggen.

What have we seen at board to mid level hiring so far this year with our in-house and agency clients? The mood has been positive and without any indication of Brexit causing a significant impact in recruitment at senior level either in-house or agency-side, which reflects an ongoing position of business as usual in the PR and communications industry. Our focus is moving away from the consumer sector and focusing purely on corporate and financial communications and internal communications, our most thriving space and one which we have developed a truly impressive network of professionals who we partner with on a long-term basis.

So far this year our statistics show only 15% of our roles are filled through advertising, which means a rather impressive 85% are filled because of our discreet headhunting, and referrals from our extensive network.

This also goes to show the truth in how the majority of the market is passive – over 60% in fact. Passive professionals are not actively looking for a role, but they will be tempted should something exciting and interesting be put their way – an advert is simply not going to do the job, particularly at board level. Effective and quality hires are made through knowing excellent people, and speaking to them regularly which is why our proactive approach is working. Impressive senior professionals need to be impressed, by thorough knowledge of a role, culture and the current mood in the market – and by what a potential move could do for their career.

We changed our business model to align with the market climate in 2014 – the way professionals look for jobs has fundamentally changed and we have changed with it to stay ahead, developing into a streamlined search business with dedicated headhunters to fill roles. We have found where we have had the most success with filling roles this year is where we have partnered exclusively with a company – 80% success, in fact.

Agency roles take us three times as long to fill compared to in-house because of the desire for in-house from professionals and the ‘grass is greener’ effect. The agencies which have recognised this this year have worked in partnership with us (our gold service) and we have filled 80% of these roles. We have been less successful with the PR agencies which give a job brief to multiple search agencies as we are unable to dedicate the resource required to fill them.

Now everyone is returning from their summer holidays, the market will forge forward again as companies decide to get fill gaps in the team and we get more professionals getting in touch wanting to move roles before Christmas.

The Works Search specialise in placing senior to mid level PR and communications talent in leading PR agencies and in-house organisations across London, on both a contingency and executive search basis. For our latest roles visit our jobs page, or contact the team on 0207 559 6690 to discuss your career in confidence.


PR hiring trends 2016 in corporate communications – The Works Search

06 Sep 2016 by Sarah Leembruggen.

Here The Works Search team share their insights on the latest changes in the PR and communications recruitment market in 2016.

In-house or agency?

As with previous market reports we’ve given, there is a personal preference for an in-house move with the majority of our candidates – 9 out of 10 professionals we speak to are specifically interested in an in-house transition, however this year our placements reflect an appreciation for the agency roles with our top tier agency clients. As we strongly value the opportunities and benefits both in-house and agency experience can bring to a PR professional’s career, we are happy to see an interest in agency roles, however the majority of our placements this year are 60% in-house, an increase of 10% from last year.

Placement trends

In Q1 this year 54% of our placements were in fact agency-side, in comparison to a strong in-house trend in Q2 with 80% of our placements being in-house. Q3 so far is at 45% for agency placements. There has been a fairly even trend of seniority of professionals we have placed in-house and with agencies although the most popular in-house are Directors of Communications and PR Managers, and agency-side Managing Directors and Associate Directors.

What roles are in demand?

As board to mid level communications specialists, we have found that a popular level agency-side in Financial PR is Account Director up to Associate Director, and in corporate agencies there has been a high demand for Account Managers. There have also been plenty of in-house PR Manager roles we have successfully managed this year. Also we have seen a surge in 9-12 month contract roles, and our internal communications desk is flourishing. Across all of our specialist sectors there have been replacement and investment hires which is positive news for the industry – no sign of a Brexit slowdown yet! The flow of roles coming through the door has not changed at all.

Our goal

The market is still, as ever, candidate short when it comes to exceptional talent, which for us means that sourcing the top 5% of PR talent remains our biggest challenge. In 2016 we have found that only 15% of our roles are filled through advertising, with 85% of our placements achieved through our discreet headhunting and referrals from our impressive network, which we believe is a testament to our quality and strong position in the sector. It also goes to show that the best candidates are passive rather than active, and the days of filling jobs with exceptional professionals through adverts really are over. We changed our service model in line with the market a couple of years ago and have found where we have had the most success with filling roles this year is where we have partnered exclusively with a company.

The way people look for jobs has changed fundamentally and we have changed with it to stay ahead. We have developed into a search business with dedicated headhunters to fill roles. Agency roles take us three times as long to fill compared to in-house because of the desire for in-house from professionals and the ‘grass is greener’ effect. The agencies which have recognised this this year have worked in partnership with us (our gold service) and we have filled 80% of these roles. We have been less successful with the PR agencies which give a job brief to multiple search agencies as we unable to dedicate the resource required to fill them.

It will be interesting to see how the work with our clients evolves over the coming years as the fight for great talent is high and the way we work with companies is changing.

The Works Search specialise in placing mid to senior level PR and communications talent in leading PR agencies and in-house organisations across London, on both a contingency and executive search basis. For our latest roles visit our jobs page, or contact the team on 0207 559 6690 to discuss your career in confidence.


PR and communications jobs of the week

30 Aug 2016 by Abby Warren.

PR Manager - Personal Finance

Rare and exciting chance to join the UK’s fastest growing and most exciting consumer websites within the personal finance space. Click here to apply.

PR Senior Account Manager role - Working with top tier FTSE 100 financial services clients

If you are an extremely ambitious, talented financial services expert looking to thrive in one of the world’s best PR agencies this could be for you. Apply now.

Director - Employee engagement campaigns (San Francisco)

Be part of an exciting expansion of one of the world’s leading PR and communications agencies driving forward their campaigns and engagement offering as a Director in their San Francisco office. Discover more here.

The Works Search specialise in placing mid to senior level PR and communications talent in leading PR agencies and in-house organisations across London, on both a contingency and executive search basis. For our latest roles visit our jobs page, or contact the team on 0207 559 6690 to discuss your career in confidence.


Are you on course to be top PR talent? How to keep your development on track

22 Aug 2016 by Sarah Leembruggen.

PR is a demanding and competitive industry, and with a constantly evolving job market it’s important to make sure your skillset is growing – not only for you to stay on top of your professional game, but also for your own satisfaction in your career. Here we share our top five tips for maximising your professional development.

1. Set your goals

An obvious but important place to start. Identify what you want to achieve in your career, including a realistic timeframe, and what skills, experience, mentorship and training will help you to get there. Ask advice from your peers as they may have some ideas you hadn’t considered. Research industry options such as the CIPR and PRCA and have a conversation with their teams. Also, discuss your career so far with a specialist search firm in the industry to gain bespoke advice just for you.

2. What formal training is there?

What training options does your employer offer? Is there a structured plan in place? Set up a discussion with the relevant person and find out what options you have – whether it’s now, or six months down the line, it’s important to know what your employer can offer you. Also, are they offering you what you want or something slightly off the mark? If so, can they offer you alternatives? Adopt a lateral approach and make sure you’re maximising the potential to get what you want from the training – don’t be afraid to ask for what you want. If you don’t ask, you don’t get. Your employer will only be impressed with you for wanting to develop and grow your skillset.

3. Be consistent

Keeping up a continuous flow of training and skills development is a vital part of your employability – even if you’re not considering moving right now, your situation might change in six months or a year. If professional development is important to you and your employer isn’t adding a string to your professional bow, it might be time to consider another avenue – whether finding an organisation that supports your needs, or seeking out options independently.

4. Get proactive

Always, always make sure you’re improving your knowledge and skills by taking a proactive role in your own knowledge and skillset from an informal perspective. The further your career is progressing in the PR sector the more you will learn about the relevant industry publications and which of these will give you the most relevant insights in your specialist area. Ask your peers or seniors for further ideas and recommendations. Not only should you be keeping up to date with current news, trends and industry knowledge, but you should be considering wider ideas too – and also don’t forget your specialist skills interests, whether that’s mentorship, management training or something else. And don’t forget to show off your knowledge whenever you can! This reminds employers of your value.

5. Make time

One of the biggest challenges in the world of PR and communications professionals is to really have the time to review development and achievements, evaluating your training and how you’ve developed in a given timeframe, and furthermore to set the goals for your future. But it’s important that you make the time for this on a regular basis in order to achieve the outcome you ultimately want in your career path and really stand out in the PR crowd.

How do you manage your professional development? We’d love to hear – tweet @theworksrecruit.

The Works Search specialise in placing mid to senior level PR and communications talent in leading PR agencies and in-house organisations across London, on both a contingency and executive search basis. For our latest roles visit our jobs page, or contact the team on 0207 559 6690 to discuss your career in confidence.


The surprising truth about when to prepare for an interview

16 Aug 2016 by Lynne Wilkins.

There are lots of reasons why we leave preparing for things to the last minute.  Our natural instinct is to avoid stress and interviews are definitely up there towards the top of the list of scary things.  Sometimes for good reason – perhaps a really dreadful interview we had in the past is stuck in our mind, or we might recall what a friend told us about the shocking time they had met someone from the company we’re about to interview with.

The key is to prepare for your interview – at all times, collecting valuable examples of your achievements, attitude and skills along the way.

You’re not going to find an easy answer to behavioural questions unless you have invested time beforehand gathering lots of examples which demonstrate you at your best.  And what interviewers love more than anything else is evidence of when and how you’ve demonstrated your high performer attitude.  And the more examples you have of this the better.

To do this, you will need to collect examples of the way you’ve done great things. This means stuff that YOU have influenced, not just team results.  The more evidence you can bring to the table the better and what you should really be keeping track of is anything that is quantifiable. 

Think of it this way.  Who would an organisation be more likely to hire?  The candidate who says what they ‘would’ do something or the one who says exactly what they have done, with how much extra revenue or other quantifiable return they made for their employer?

The trouble is, pulling together examples of ‘return on investment’ (ROI) you produce is time consuming to collate.  Nearly all PR professionals do this for their clients or employer on a regular basis but how many do this for themselves too?  Even in this day and age of fantastic knowledge management technology, it can still be time-consuming.

What is even more difficult is to demonstrate how what you did relates to ROI.  When I recruited PR professionals for clients, I was always more impressed by candidates who said ‘we got x likes on Facebook which meant x for the client’ rather than just telling me they got loads of likes.  The very best people would give me names of journalists they’d spoken to and how that led to results, what angle they had used and what that did for their client’s or employer’s business.

If you’re primed to collect this kind of evidence regularly, you will find it much easier to prepare for interviews and the bonus is that you will enjoy a great sense of achievement as you do it.  We tend to get more of what we focus on, so this is also a great way to prime yourself for success.

I have met so many people over the years who struggle to come with examples of their achievements – don’t be one of them.  You never know when the next career opportunity is going to come your way, so always be preparing and don’t just leave it to the night or week before. Make a point of collecting evidence as you go along, think through how this connects to value and you could even set a regular date with yourself in your diary to focus on this. 

The best employers are always on the look out for great talent and will fish in the pool (about 60%) of potential employees who aren’t actively looking in the job market.  So make sure you’re ready for them.  Do yourself a favour and start collecting the evidence of your greatness on a regular basis.

About the Author

Lynne Wilkins, former partner at The Works, now channels her passion for helping people change as a Career Coach ( and Cognitive Hypnotherapist (  She’s an accredited member (HPD) of the National Council for Hypnotherapy (NCH), Complementary and Natural Healthcare Council (CNHC) and is also a qualified NLP Practitioner.  If you would like to talk to Lynne about her bespoke Career Coaching support or Cognitive Hypnotherapy email


The volatile commodities industry – What challenges face PR and IR professionals?

02 Aug 2016 by Miriam Hanna.

What challenges and opportunities are presented to PR and communications professionals working in investor relations? We take an in-depth look at the issues and speak to senior professionals in the industry.

The yoyo effect of the market price of minerals has provided communications leads and those who head up investor relations with a very unique challenge.

Having spoken to Heads of Investor Relations in a variety of mining firms over the last three months, what has become clear is the huge scope for international opportunity in the sector.

Navigating the ups and downs

With the ups and downs the industry, mining and commodities can be a tumultuous place to work. From a communications and investor relations perspective this can mean dealing with huge redundancies one year, to sharing news of greater than expected profits another. The end result is that you do need to have agility as a team and find the balance between over promoting material but also dealing with a crisis.

A global perspective

For most firms, their primary operational function may be based in Europe or North America with the goods coming out of Africa. The commercial centres for investor relations can be global so there is an opportunity to travel, share best practice but see a wider impact the firm has on local communities rather than just focus on the share price. As Giles Blackham, Investor Relations Manager at Acacia Mining says “We are a UK based corporate with operations in remote parts of Tanzania. Working in an emerging market creates its own challenges because you are removed from the operations as well as being in a different time zone. Even just working with information flows are challenging because of technology constraints that our mines’ locations create.”

Senior level access for crises

Irrespective of sector, most communications professionals will tell you that they want a high level of Senior Executive access in order to make internal processes easier. In most mining firms, there is a lean corporate structure which means that you really do get first-hand experience of how the business is run. The flipside is you do need to plan ahead and have an idea about potential risks. For example, something can happen locally in a remote village in Tanzania which can escalate to a point where your investors and analysts are asking questions.  You need to move quickly and have the structures to have approvals to get press releases out even in a leaner structure.

Representing to the market

Generally you are the person closest to the external market representing the firm which is of course a very delicate position. Your role as an investor relations professional is to give the markets, via relationships with analysts and investors, confidence that you are managing whatever has appeared without creating more uncertainty. As Giles says “ You have a role as a gatekeeper between the external stakeholders and the internal counterparts to make sure you aren’t requesting information you could get from elsewhere or just isn’t relevant. You have to stick to your messages and judge the right tone within any response.”

Are you currently working in communications or investor relations in the commodities industry? We would love to hear your thoughts.

Thanks to Giles Blackham of Acacia Mining for participating in our article.

The Works Search specialise in placing mid to senior level PR and communications talent in leading PR agencies and in-house organisations across London, on both a contingency and executive search basis. For our latest roles visit our jobs page, or contact the team on 0207 559 6690 to discuss your career in confidence.


PR and communications jobs of the week

01 Aug 2016 by Abby Warren.

Associate Director - Employee engagement campaigns in international agency

Fantastic opportunity for an Associate Director to work on employee engagement campaigns for consumer facing businesses. Click here to find out more.

Corporate Communications Manager - Big name UK food retailer

Your time to shine as a part of one of the UK’s leading food retailers – take your career to the next level in this fast-paced and creative team. Apply now.

Content-focused Account Manager - Entrepreneurial PR agency with exciting growth plans

If you are a financial services specialist and an excellent writer looking for a content-focused role within an entrepreneurial, fast moving and growing agency, this could be the role for you. Apply here.

The Works Search specialise in placing mid to senior level PR and communications talent in leading PR agencies and in-house organisations across London, on both a contingency and executive search basis. For our latest roles visit our jobs page, or contact the team on 0207 559 6690 to discuss your career in confidence.


Our interview with Zaman Toleafoa, Senior Managing Director at FTI Consulting

27 Jul 2016 by Sarah Leembruggen.

What would you say are your three key attributes that contributed to your career success?

Not taking the ‘money’ early in my career, when it would’ve been easy early on to accept a higher paid job that was less stimulating professionally, rather than do those jobs that stretched and challenged me.  It’s given me a much richer CV and career as a result.  

I’ve also been fortunate to work with people who have been prepared to put time and effort into my professional development; nothing beats working in a supportive environment.  Lastly, there’s no cutting corners in this game – those who try to tend to be found out, some sooner, some later.   There is simply no substitute for hard work.

What is the most important lesson you have learned in life so far?

That things always change, and that the change usually comes in the most unexpected way and at the most unexpected time.   

What is the key to having great relationships with your clients?

To be available, honest and prepared to give 100 per cent effort in supporting them. 

You started your career in-house and then went into agency with FTI. What made you make the opposite move from most PR professionals and go into agency?

Agency was an itch I wanted to scratch.  And I’m still scratching it!

What’s the best thing about working agency side?

Being part of the actual business, rather than supporting a business is something that I enjoy. And having the wide variety of contacts and relationships that you build over time in an agency life.  I also love that everyone, from our CEO down, knows how you feel when you have a bad day.  Inhouse can be a lonely experience in that regards. 

What’s the best piece of professional advice you’ve been given along the way and by whom?

I’ve been given so much advice, by so many people that it’s too hard to point to any one thing.  Always, always, be prepared to laugh at the ridiculousness of it all is one of the most lasting pieces though.

Thank you Zaman for taking the time to answer our questions. 


PR and communications jobs of the week

25 Jul 2016

Head of Corporate Communications 12 month FTC - Issues rich challenger brand

This is a fast growing challenger brand which has taken the intermediary consumer market by storm. Are you ready for the challenge? Apply here.

PR Manager - Elite London law firm

This forward-thinking global law firm with offices in central London are currently looking for an experienced PR Manager to join a vibrant PR team. Click here to read the full advert.

PR Manager - Commercial property with top tier real estate consultancy (12 Month FTC)

If you are a PR Manager within commercial property this is a chance to lead the in-house communications strategy for the commercial offering of a leading real estate consultancy. Click to apply.

The Works Search specialise in placing mid to senior level PR and communications talent in leading PR agencies and in-house organisations across London, on both a contingency and executive search basis. For our latest roles visit our jobs page, or contact the team on 0207 559 6690 to discuss your career in confidence.


What motivates PR employers to give a pay rise – are you ticking the right boxes?

20 Jul 2016 by Sarah Leembruggen.

When we asked employers who took part in our recent annual Salary Survey what were the three primary motivations to give a pay rise, 45% said it was when an employee exceeded their expectations, 40% focused on the contribution the employee had made to the company – the value of the work they had done, and 15% wanted to see the employee willing to take on more responsibility in order to earn an uplift.

1. Hit your targets

In a competitive market, your employer wants a lean mean productivity machine. Our survey showed that employees are motivated to stay in their current jobs by, among other things, opportunities for career progression, a good work culture and having ownership of their roles.  However this is only when money is ‘off the table’ so if employees are feeling the pinch, their productivity falls which is bad news for employers.

If giving a pay rise will ensure increased productivity for the business, an employer is likely to show willing so make sure you’re hitting your targets, meeting goals and if you’re not – talk about how you can turn it around so that you are.  Showing that you have the drive to better yourself will earn you brownie points!

2. Keep track of your achievements

Employees should keep careful records of how their actions helped the bottom line of their company, or helped other team members improve the bottom line of the company. No one is going to hold your hand and remind you of the great things you did all year so keep track and share them with your manager at the appropriate time.

Reminders of your worth need to be rooted in evidence so identify which targets you have exceeded and which problems you have solved – you need evidence that is quantitative to make your case.  You may go home every day exhausted but comforted that you’ve put in another sterling performance at the office, but your boss won’t be monitoring your every move.  If you're working all hours, increasing profits and averting disasters, prove it.

3. Create your own value

When employees take on responsibilities that weren’t originally in the scope of their work, an employer is going to sit up and take notice.  It’s possible to create a position for yourself by making a suggestion, implementing it and taking ownership of it.  In doing so, you add value to the business and it’s only fair that you are compensated for that.  Remember that simply doing what is asked of you in your role isn’t going to make an overwhelmingly convincing case for a pay rise. Instead you want to demonstrate that you have delivered more than you’ve been asked for.

4. Remember that you are expensive to replace

Your organisation has invested time and money in you. Savvy bosses understand that unhappy and underpaid employees are under-performing employees, which helps no one. It’s a drain on their time to have to re-hire and train a replacement that fits the corporate culture. So if you have a legitimate request and have performed well, you do have a certain amount of leverage. Just remember, you can’t expect your employer to give you a pay rise in response to a threat to quit.  The cost of replacing you is a significant out-of-pocket expense, not to mention a major hassle, but it isn’t the one and only reason you’re worth hanging on to.

5. Play fair

We are hard-wired for fairness so mere mention of disproportionate salary differentials is probably enough to kick in an employer’s desire to operate a fair system of reward.  If you have supportive evidence your salary is at sub-market levels, you should speak up.  But do your homework. Look at salary surveys, cost-of-living comparisons, and rates of compensation within your organisation, if possible.  If you are aware that colleagues are earning more than you, tread carefully.  You don’t want to put others in a negative light or violate a corporate written or unwritten rule about knowing what others earn. Simply present what the field generally pays, and why you believe your performance is at the top of your game.

To read the full survey and download your own copy just click here.

The Works Search specialise in placing mid to senior level PR and communications talent in leading PR agencies and in-house organisations across London, on both a contingency and executive search basis. For our latest roles visit our jobs page, or contact the team on 0207 559 6690 to discuss your career in confidence.


Are PRs still moving jobs post Brexit?

13 Jul 2016 by Sarah Leembruggen.

Well this has been an eventful few weeks for our clients.  Busy is an understatement.

Recruitment is a great barometer for how people are feeling in the industry so naturally I have been listening carefully to what our PR network are saying.

In the corporate and financial sector, the best way to summarise the mood is as one of our financial agency clients puts it, ‘uncertainty’.  Businesses were preparing contingency plans in advance of the vote, and many financial transactions have been put on hold since the start of the year, in our view frequently to do with waiting for the outcome of the vote. IPOs have been put on ice. I believe this has created a greater awareness of recruitment, but also we have still seen consistency with our clients and no roles have been put on hold as a result of the referendum, which is a hugely positive sign in the sector.

We have found that the legal industry has been affected by the EU referendum results in a very interesting way. Many firms had produced content for both potential results, which they can now put into good use. We also hear that this has also been a great opportunity for law firms to engage with their clients, as there have been many queries about what Brexit will mean, with potential transactional and regulatory changes in Europe.

The consumer sector appears to be business as usual, without any adjustments in hiring decisions and no roles have been put on hold as a result of Brexit. This signals confidence in the economy and a positive approach to an uncertain period.

It’s crucial to realise that this will without doubt be a challenging period for many industries, as outlined in the REC’s press release regarding Brexit, however until the negotiations for leaving the EU are done and dusted which as we know may take up to two years, it will be hard to predict the true outcome of the decision – as many in our network have said, it’s just too early to tell. Whatever the sector, businesses will need to be open to potential new hiring processes and evolving their existing hiring models. Growth is still vital for economic productivity – and I believe the government will need to be proactive in supporting and empowering businesses to do this.

What do you think businesses can be doing to remain profitable and growing? Tweet us @theworksrecruit.

The Works Search specialise in placing mid to senior level PR and communications talent in leading PR agencies and in-house organisations across London, on both a contingency and executive search basis. For our latest roles visit our jobs page, or contact the team on 0207 559 6690 to discuss your career in confidence.


Why a positive outlook is crucial for post Brexit UK recruitment

12 Jul 2016 by Sarah Leembruggen.

In my view the recruitment industry undeniably face challenges over the next decade as a result of the Brexit vote, and we will need to maintain a positive and confident focus – as we have done before in similar times of major change and unsettled markets. Businesses will need to shrewdly review and evolve their hiring processes, and quickly, to maximise their opportunity for successful growth.

There is no doubt that the EU referendum vote results has had far-reaching consequences already, and that these consequences will have long-lasting effects which may have both positive and negative impacts depending on the sector. There is also the issue of the yet-to-be-known government measures to protect business growth and development, which I believe is a crucial factor in the recruitment industry’s success after Brexit.

I remember when Lehman Brothers went down in September 2008, and every conversation was about ‘recruitment freezes’. The good news is the current turmoil hasn’t seemed to have had the same impact. So far no roles have been put on hold in this sector and companies are still hiring. For now at least, and we hope this will hold.

Now we have a new country leader and perhaps another election, I am confident that the dust will settle.  In my view, we have a communications industry which is far more recession proof and robust than ever before.  We are able to cope much better with this change as businesses are leaner, better run and the talent is high. With having more wisdom from pushing through tough markets, we are all in a stronger position and able to adapt our business accordingly. 

As the eternal optimist, I believe we are the masters of our own destinies and in control of our outcomes.  There are opportunities everywhere for us even in times of upheaval.  It may be a changeable time for us all but let’s ride through it in style, as it will be ok.  It always is.  The corporate and financial agencies may not be as profitable this year, however they will survive another day.  Their clients need them more than ever and we will all come through this challenging time just a little wiser, hopefully not much greyer, but let’s learn from the ride.

What’s your experience so far of post-Brexit business? Tweet @Sleembruggen


The top 3 motivators for PRs to move jobs – Is it time for you to make a change?

05 Jul 2016 by Sarah Leembruggen.

In our recent annual Salary Survey, the top three most important factors when considering a job move were:

  • Career progression
  • Salary increase
  • Team culture

The world of work is a confusing, chaotic place.  Your career path will probably not be linear and straightforward; your career success will not be measured by how long you stay with an employer; as an employee, you have to take charge of directing your own career choices on a regular basis.

So how do you know when you’ve reached a point on that career path that signals time for a change in job?

Ask yourself two questions

To measure levels of satisfaction, it can be helpful to ask yourself a couple of questions:

  1. How clear are you about your career vision? (In other words, why do you do what you do?)
  2. How passionate and excited are you about your work overall?

Be completely honest with yourself as you consider these questions.  If you can specifically and enthusiastically communicate your work vision, you are in the right job.  Don’t stop there though!  Dig deeper and ask yourself – Are you in the right environment? Is it time to shift responsibilities or departments?  It may be time to tweak your situation to better match your work vision.

Time off or clean break?

If you have a clear and passionate career vision, but not a lot of energy, you may simply need a holiday.   PRs are extremely busy people, and stress can take its toll in unsuspecting ways, so keep an eye on your health or other things that could be draining your energy and limiting you.  However, if you’re unclear about how you got into your current job in the first place, it’s probably time to take a big step and reevaluate your passions, purpose and direction.

Take charge

In order to succeed and be happy as you follow your career path, you need to continually shape that path to ensure it is moving in the direction you want it to.  This takes planning and will include writing down your vision every few months.  Plot each step of your vision and what you need to do in order to fulfill your aims.  This will include routine assessments of your skills, potential, strengths and weaknesses.

Pay attention to who you are

There are cycles in your career – the exciting times when you are actively engaged in building and launching your vision as well as calmer times to step back and reconsider who you are and where you’re going in a more mindful way.  If you realise something needs to change, carry out a self-assessment: explore what you want and what you have to give in terms of your interests, values, style and strengths.  With increased self-knowledge, you will be able to begin a process of researching the careers, markets and industries that offer the best fit for you.

Take proactive steps

When regular reflection reveals that your job no longer aligns with your long-term goals, it’s time to face the task of actively making a change.  Set goals for yourself detailing what you are looking for in terms of responsibilities, company culture and benefits.  Create timelines for yourself to find another opportunity.  Before you jump ship, write down the pros and cons of moving on so you can gain broader perspective.  Consider all the steps that could improve your current job and take a long hard look at the risks involved with leaving.

Remove emotion

Don’t let your feelings get in the way of your critical decision.  Look at it from a business perspective.  If you find a role that interests you, you should try to find out about the senior management of the company, the team you might be working for and most importantly about the person you could be reporting in to.  Ask around as you cannot simply form an opinion on the smiles and nice words that you get at interview.

You are going to spend a great deal of time in the new office, so do put the work in to ensure it’s the right choice. If you try and cut corners when you prepare to change jobs, you could end up having to deal with issues further down the line.

The Works Search specialise in placing mid to senior level PR and communications talent in leading PR agencies and in-house organisations across London, on both a contingency and executive search basis. For our latest roles visit our jobs page, or contact the team on 0207 559 6690 to discuss your career in confidence.


PR and communications jobs of the week

04 Jul 2016 by Abby Warren.

Media Relations & PR Manager - Drive PR strategy at this listed UK estate agent

Create and drive a UK-wide PR strategy and work alongside the Head of External Communications and Investor Relations at this renowned estate agent. Apply here.

Account Director - Corporate communications for luxury property clients at leading luxury PR agency

Have you a passion for all things luxury? Take the lead with global luxury property clients at THE leading luxury communications consultancy. Find out more here.

In-house Communications Executive - Bring proactive PR to this global infrastructure consultancy

One of the world’s most high profile project management, design and construction firms are in the market for a superstar Communications Executive. Find out more and apply here.

The Works Search specialise in placing mid to senior level PR and communications talent in leading PR agencies and in-house organisations across London, on both a contingency and executive search basis. For our latest roles visit our jobs page, or contact the team on 0207 559 6690 to discuss your career in confidence.


Don’t lose your PR superstars over the simple stuff

28 Jun 2016 by Sarah Leembruggen.

As specialists in PR and Communications search, we know a thing or two about what motivates an exceptional PR candidate to want to move jobs. And so we can give you an insight on what your business can do to ensure you’re doing everything you can to improve retention.

1. Pay market rate

It’s obvious but important. Salary is a huge factor in retention and gives a strong advantage over your competitors. You need to make sure your employees are not only feeling valued, but that this is being represented in their payslips. As a hugely competitive and fast-moving industry, it’s important you are regularly reviewing your team’s salaries, bonuses and benefits package, to reassure your team that their financial welfare is firmly and consistently on your radar. Be open to negotiation and take on board feedback about salaries, and look at what your competitors are paying and doing – are there any creative remuneration tips you could take on? Read our industry-leading PR and communications Salary Survey for an in-depth look at what you should be paying your employees – this is a very handy tool for benchmarking your PR team.

2. Say well done!

Whatever your leadership style, it’s important that appreciation is shown in one way or another. When was the last time you said ‘well done’? Openly valuing your employees in whatever way possible – by recognising their work, their attitude or their team playing skills – shows proof that you are consistently evaluating and appreciating their results and skill set. Involving your talented employees in key decisions, and listening to their views, reinforces a sense of value and appreciation.

3. A bright and shiny future

By showing an interest in their individual future and having a bright and shiny career path you can demonstrate that you are thinking about their long-term prospects, and employees can make a clear assessment on how the business can benefit them in their PR career. Having a clear career path is a strong incentive for PR and communications professionals retention – our 2016 Salary Survey results found this was a top 3 factor to stay with their employer at over 50%. Ask yourself, do your superstars know exactly what their path is with your business?

4. Offer a stretch

Of course it’s important that your employees are performing well, but in a competitive industry it’s also crucial that they’re developing experiences and skills by being thrown challenges. PR is a demanding industry and if your talent are feeling that they are being intellectually stretched, they will view this as a huge plus in being a part of the business.

5. Give mentorship

Whether you can directly offer membership, or recommend people in your senior network who can guide your team, mentorship is becoming a hugely used and valued tool in the communications industry. Being actively involved in mentorship shows a progressive and forward-thinking attitude and allows your employees to recognise your commitment to their professional development – and they can develop exciting ideas from their mentor to help build their career.

Need more bespoke advice on how to improve retention? Call us on 0207 559 6690.

The Works Search specialise in placing mid to senior level PR and communications talent in leading PR agencies and in-house organisations across London, on both a contingency and executive search basis. For our latest roles visit our jobs page, or contact the team on 0207 559 6690 to discuss your career in confidence.


Why are there so few women on the board in the female-dominant PR industry?

21 Jun 2016 by Sarah Leembruggen.

Why is there such a discrepancy in the gender ratio at board level?

There are a number of unique challenges women face when climbing corporate ladders compared to their male counterparts.

Studies show that they enter the workforce with the wind in their sails, feeling highly qualified after success at the university level.  However, among those employees with more than two years experience, 34% of men are still aiming for the top, while only 16% of women are. So why aren’t more women aiming high? And why are they falling out of the industry?

One reason is that women who have children find adhering to standard office hours incompatible with child care provision: for most working mothers, arriving at 9 and leaving at 6 is impossible if you have any kind of a commute.  Flexible working simply isn’t being flexible enough in our client service industry.

But the huge disparity in the gender ratio at board level can’t simply be attributed to a tricky return from maternity leave.  Women do tend to hide their achievements, or shrink from promoting their skills.  They don’t want to seem big-headed, pushy or arrogant so they assume people will notice their achievements without them being pointed out.  While this approach may work fine as you pursue the path to Associate Director, when you suddenly have to articulate and prove your worth to a male-dominated board, these female tendencies will backfire. 

So how can women break through the proverbial ‘glass ceiling’ and reach those top jobs in PR?

First of all, eliminate stereotypes

Studies show that when a man speaks up, he is considered powerful but women are more likely to face criticism for speaking more than others.

Women tend to be nose-to-the-grindstone and men tend to do a better job of promoting themselves.  Women are also more likely to self-select out of top management roles.  There needs to be more encouragement for them to succeed, and have that self-confidence that will take them to the top. 

So, to the ladies in PR – speak up, promote yourself and be proud!  You are your best advocate so don’t be afraid to share your successes with your supervisors.

Understand the value of a diverse leadership

PR specialists need to listen and empathise with their clients, work well in teams and be fierce advocates – skills that are a natural fit for many women.  They are skills that also make great managers and strong leaders.  Having women in leadership roles is good for business.  Companies with a higher representation of women in senior management teams are shown to be more successful.  In short, having more women in the boardroom makes for a better bottom line.

Play to the strengths of each gender

Women’s leadership style is different.  Women have a tendency to focus on building effective relationships as leaders. Meanwhile, men tend put their energy into demonstrating results of their work. Women are good at winning people over, getting consensus, and meeting deadlines.  These are all fantastic attributes to bring to a board.

Nurture qualities fit for the boardroom

Seeking greater diversity on the board is a savvy move.  Boards composed of both men and women with a good mix of age, experience and backgrounds tend to foster better debate and decision making.  For women with their eyes on a place on the board, there are certain qualities that they can cultivate to bring them closer to that coveted seat.

- Reflect – women are quick thinkers who can come up with fast solutions but there is always time for reflection (it doesn’t have to be long-winded!)
- Be steadfast – stand by your opinions, and be confident in expressing them
- Be yourself – you are where you are today because of your skills, experience and the unique qualities that define who you are, so don’t lose sight of them
- Be patient  – women tend to be action-orientated; there are times when doing nothing is the best solution
- Be analytical – get good at looking at numbers and stats; use solid evidence and remove emotion when you make important decisions
- Be a great negotiator- have confidence in your abilities and poush yourself forward and promote your wins

So, women of the PR world, start practising now.  Stop thinking that you might come across as a show off or an impostor and start shouting about your achievements. 

If someone calls you bossy – then it’s working. 

For full results of our Salary Survey, click here


What are the salaries for Junior PR talent? – Our survey results

09 Jun 2016 by Sarah Leembruggen.

What’s the story with junior level salaries in PR?

In the in-house financial firms, PR Officers have benefitted from notable salary increases. This role commands an impressive average of £45,000, showing a remarkable 22% increase from the previous year’s findings. In Consumer PR, the average salary for a PR Executive increased a staggering 28%, going from an average of £25,000 to £33,000.   Plenty to smile about for the lucky individuals in these roles!

It’s a similar story in the in-house corporate PR firms, with PR Officers now earning an average salary of £36,000, up 12.5% from the previous year, and PR Executives bringing in an average of £35,000 – that’s an impressive 16% more than the figure from our last survey.

In both the corporate and financial agencies, the average salary for an Account Executive now stands at £27,000 – up £2,000.

How about bonuses?

The junior roles have fared better than ever with bonuses too.  In the corporate agencies, the average bonus awarded to an Account Executive now stands at £1,500, showing a staggering 150% increase. In the financial agencies, someone in the same role can now expect an average bonus of £3,000 – another notable increase.

It’s good news for PR Executives in the in-house corporate firms.  They now bring in an average bonus of £1,000, which is an impressive 33% more than the previous year.  Similarly, a PR Officer in a financial in-house firm can expect an average bonus of £2,500 – this is a remarkable 66% increase.

Just what is driving this kudos?

There are a number of possible reasons that companies are starting to up the rewards for junior members of their team.  Employees at this level have many options, and employers understand the importance of going the extra mile to retain their best talent – at every level.  Avoiding ongoing employee turnover is key – and the cost of replacing juniors is expensive.

The Millennial factor

Junior level roles are filled for the most part by Millennials, who are more confident about expressing what they want in the workplace.  They are extremely focused on developing themselves and are keen to advance rapidly.

Armed with an abundance of self-confidence, they believe in their value to any organisation – from day one.   They also offer truly unique skills and fresh innovative ideas, which are invaluable to an employer so it’s a savvy move to keep increasing their salaries and bonuses to balance the expectations of this ‘can do’ generation.

Bridging the gap

Employers are recognising that there are gaps between what Millennials want and what they are offering.  Increasing salaries and bonuses is a step towards narrowing this gap.

Junior members of the team crave advancement, new challenges and constant feedback. You can bet they will have their ear to the ground for opportunities with the competition, so they will be up-to-date on their market worth.  Employers don’t want to lose these talented individuals to a rival, so offering a generous salary increase is becoming something of a ‘must’; they should also offer things the juniors will really desire – flexible working, professional development and ownership of their role to name a few.

It’s in every business’s best interest

By offering a lucrative salary and bonus, as well as an impressive range of company benefits, employers are showing that they have committed to embracing and implementing real actions that will promote retention. They are also ensuring that they will attract the best junior talent to their team as they grow and create new roles.  By understanding what is important to junior level employees, and fostering an environment that is appealing, employers can continue to focus on making sure their junior talent feel valued and rewarded. It’s one of the best competitive advantages a business can have.

Thinking ahead

These junior level employees could be the next generation of superstars.  With this in mind, it’s important to pay generously at this level.  Yes, it’s important to keep millennial employees challenged, with exposure to different parts of the business, but employers know that if they don’t pay their talent, they’ll be paying the price in lost productivity and replacement costs. 

The old saying rings true in the workplace: love’em – or lose ‘em.

For more interesting findings from our Salary Survey, click here.


5 Steps you must take before you accept that job

09 Jun 2016 by Sarah Leembruggen.

The pressure of securing the next stage in your career can be additionally intense for PR and Communications professionals, as your decision may be detrimental to your career and reputation if it’s not the right move for you. So make your decision is a good one – here’s a few tips from us.

1. Make an informed decision

If you’re missing facts about the role, the structure of the organisation, if you don’t have a good sense of what the role will look like on a day to day basis, agreed job title or what the weightings of your responsibilities will be – then you’re not making an informed decision, and it’s important you and your potential employer are on the same page from day one. You should be finding out as much as possible throughout the hiring process – if you’re working with a search specialist to help you or applying directly, you need to squeeze as much information as you can about the role and the organisation as a whole. You should be able to envision your place clearly in the team and wider business. If you can’t, don’t be afraid to ask for one final meeting, even if it’s an informal coffee, to make sure you’re happy.

2. Are you getting what’s important to you

Whether it’s benefits, salary, training opportunities, skills development, working for a big name organisation or small entrepreneurial set up – all PR and communications professionals have their own priorities and career dreams. You need to decide whether this offer is really fitting in with what you want out of your next move. Make a list of what’s important to you in your career and then sit down and see if this job matches it.

3. The team fit

Whether you’re entering your new role as a leader or as a team member, you need to have clear expectations of what the working culture will be like, and what you will gain professionally and personally from working in this environment as this is a crucial component to your success and job satisfaction. Before you decide, is there anyone else need to meet in the team? Again, don’t be afraid to request one last meeting.

4. The future

For PR and communications professionals interested in a permanent or temporary move, it’s important if you know that the offer will help you move along your desired career path – whether you will still be with that organisation in a few years’ time, or if you think it will lead you inevitably to where you want to go. If you don’t think the organisation is offering you anything towards your future then the move may potentially not be beneficial or valuable to your career. In the fast-paced and competitive world of PR it’s important to consider roles which will only add to your individual skill set and keep you ahead of the game. Don’t just think what this next role will do for you, but how it will help you afterwards too.

5. Trust your instincts

If you’re not delighted with the offer, or even if there is no glimmer of slow-burning excitement, then this may mean your instincts are telling you that the offer doesn’t suit you. If this happens, it’s a good idea to make a list of pros and cons to see if you can root out where your concerns lie – and then weigh them up. How important is the concern – or perhaps there’s more than one? Is it something which could be rectified or changed six months down the line? Remember to think flexibly. This way you’re balancing your instinctual ‘gut’ reaction with the logical side of your brain – the perfect job should be a mixture of both. At the end of the day – if you’re not feeling excited about your move, you shouldn’t be making it. Remember you have choice and control in your career!

The Works Search specialise in placing mid to senior level PR and communications talent in leading PR agencies and in-house organisations across London, on both a contingency and executive search basis. For our latest roles visit our jobs page, or contact the team on 0207 559 6690 to discuss your career in confidence.


An interview with John Moorwood, Group Communications Director at Wonga

08 Jun 2016 by Sarah Leembruggen.

1. Looking back over your career to date, what would you say are your key qualities that have led to your success?

I’ve always got on with most people I’ve worked with, whether it’s understanding the working style of the CEO, meeting journalists informally or getting to know someone serving coffee in an office canteen. I don’t mean some kind of power-networking strategy, just taking an interest and making an effort to be friendly.

People at all levels make companies tick, define the culture and can provide support when you need it. In larger organisations it can also be a challenge just to get things done and make meaningful decisions, so if you’ve got strong internal relationships you’re already halfway there. Having that network and a collaborative approach can be just as useful as making external connections with influential stakeholders. Plus you usually spend more of your time with your colleagues than anyone else in your life so, in my book at least, you’ve got to develop friendships and have a laugh along the way. It’s a bit like that office poster says: ‘Work hard and be nice to people.’

I’m also passionate about what I do and I’m a straight-talker. It obviously helps to empathise with whoever you’re working with, but you shouldn’t be afraid to express your opinions and be yourself either. A quick chat or a phone call can also get you much further than firing off emails all day.  

2. What’s the best piece of professional advice you’ve been given along the way and by whom?

If I had to pick one example, it would be the words of a former colleague and remaining friend who said I needed to learn to switch-off from work more often. As a bit of a perfectionist I’ve always tried to be responsive around the clock, but not taking proper breaks can take its toll over the years. Everyone knows the curse of constantly checking your phone, or multiple phones when you’re out of the office. I certainly do but, as you get older and the pressures and responsibilities of life outside of work get bigger too, you learn it’s not sustainable to be switched-on 24/7.

If you make things happen day-to-day and can be relied upon in a crisis, then quality people won’t rate you on how quickly, or late at night you respond to emails.

3. Where do you see the future for PR in FinTech?

There’s naturally a lot of emphasis on PR activity helping to raise awareness and understanding of new brands, technology or products, especially for cash-constrained young companies in a noisy media world. But finance is a serious business and heavily regulated, so the most value a PR professional can add in FinTech is at the core of a growing venture and its brand. Communications should have a seat at the top table and help define everything from the company’s vision and values to mapping the most important stakeholders and the relevant key messages.

Customers, execution and scalability are at the heart of most FinTech companies – and for good reason - but sustainability should have equal billing. You need the right blend of entrepreneurial people who see the world differently, plus the experience and knowledge of people who’ve done it before, which applies to communications and brand people too.

4.  You went from working for Virgin, a well-established brand, to a start-up - what has been the biggest challenge for you?

If I’m honest it was probably the change in work-life balance, or should I say the lack of it. My role with Virgin Media was often hectic too of course, particularly around the launch, and any communications role can be full-on since the advent of online news and social media. But most start-ups need all hands on deck during the first few years, when you’re trying to get traction and prove the business model.

I went from having a well-defined PR and media leadership role in a big organisation – which came with a team, serious budget and plenty of agency support - to a lone, budget-less position in a single office where everyone was expected to get involved in all aspects of the business. I missed having the sounding board and support of a team-mate or agency, but you make almost family-like friendships with everyone else in such an intense environment, while learning and developing at 100mph. I often refer to the early years as feeling a bit like sprinting a marathon, not that I know what actually running a marathon feels like.

5.  You are incredibly busy in your professional life, what do you do outside of work to de-stress?

Life outside of work isn’t always stress-free of course and I’ve recently been through a lengthy and dusty building project at home for example, but it’s your family and friends who keep you sane. You also can’t beat fresh air and the great outdoors for a bit of perspective when the work pressure piles up. I still like to socialise with colleagues and friends too, letting off steam that way, although I’m getting too old to party like I used to during the week, while weekends are usually about children and DIY at the moment.

6. What is your top tip for influencing C-Suite?

I think communications should be on or close to the top team but, for anyone in a positon where that’s not the case, I’d say be proactive and build meaningful relationships where possible. Don’t rely purely on emails and presentations, but back up any proposals or arguments with as much data and logic as possible. Always have a plan B up your sleeve too, or at least a menu of options ranging from ‘daring’ to ‘safe’ or from ‘expensive’ to ‘free’!

Stick to your guns when you know you’re right and front-up and apologise if you get something wrong. Even the most experienced of chair people and CEOs are human and have their own stresses, whether they show it or not, so it also helps them, and you, to measure and recognise progress. Modern communications should be about adding value at the heart of a business, not tinkering around the edges or supporting other functions.

Thank you John for taking the time to answer these questions. 


The gender pay gap in Corporate and Financial PR now – Our survey results

07 Jun 2016 by Sarah Leembruggen.

When we delved into the results of the Salary Survey we carried out this year, polling more than 800 professionals in the industry, we were hopeful that they might reveal a narrowing of the pay gap.  After all, it’s been a hot topic in the news with the government unveiling plans for a league table ranking large firms by gender pay gap, along with the requirement for companies with more than 250 employees to disclose how much they are paying in salaries to their male and female staff.  Surely this must signal hope on the horizon for a long overdue end to the pay disparity across the genders in PR.

So… what did our survey reveal?

That, sadly, there has been no change.  There is a still gap – the exact same gap in fact.  The statistics make for a disheartening read.

The discouraging breakdown

The average pay gap in the Corporate and Financial agencies across all levels is £11,000.  Men in senior roles – Board Director/Partner and Director/Partner – earn on average a staggering £15,000 more than women in the same roles.   Male Associate Directors earn on average £5,000 more than their female counterparts, and among Account Directors, the difference is a shocking average of £12,000 in favour of the men.

The pay gap in the in-house Corporate and Financial firms stands at £7,000, and while this is slightly less, it is by no means insignificant.  The difference among senior level in-house employees is a real eye-opener, with male Global Heads of Communications, Heads of Communications and Communications/PR Directors earning on average an incredible £22,000 more than women in the exact same senior-level roles.   At Senior PR Manager level, the difference is a lot narrower but still favours the men, who earn an average of £3,000 more than their female counterparts.  The gap widens again among PR Managers.  Men in this role tend to earn £9,000 more on average than women.

Why oh why is this still an issue?

These are staggering differences, and in 2016, it’s hard to comprehend that such inequality is still an issue.  But an issue it most certainly is, and one that requires less talk and more action in order to redress the balance.

Our survey also revealed that in both the Corporate and Financial PR agencies, male Account Directors now earn an average salary of £55,000 pa, whereas their female counterparts receive £43,000 pa for the same role.  Considering PR professionals typically move into the role of Account Director at, give or take a year or two, the six-year point in their professional career, it’s astonishing that such a wide gap exists at this relatively early stage.

What can be done to bridge the gap?

Such a deep-seated issue is obviously not going to disappear overnight, or for that matter in the space of a couple of years.  But in order for things to start changing, and for the pay gap to start narrowing, there are a number of actions that can be taken, and we believe the following rank high on the list.

1. Start at the top

It is down to the most senior women and men in PR to act as advocates for fairness in compensation and make changes within their own teams.  Leaders need to foster a work culture where performance is rewarded equitably and transparently, and where talented professionals, whether male or female, feel valued for their contributions, and are rewarded accordingly.

Female hires should be put on the same starting salaries as men in the same roles.  Every year, leaders should take proactive steps to ensure that salary adjustments are equivalent across the genders.

2. Nurture the female pipeline

Increasing the number of women on boards will go a long way to helping close the gender pay gap.  A number of mentoring programmes are operating across the industry to prevent the drain of mid-career women; as more companies actively encourage their female talent to enrol on these kind of programmes, more women will be better placed to become directors, which will in turn position them positively to affect change and close the gap.

3. Follow the lead of successful companies – and publish pay data now

Organisations such as Deloitte and PwC are already publishing their gender pay gap data and using the facts to drive better business, close the gap and gain competitive advantage.  Some employers may feel nervous about the consequences of sharing their data but the example set by Deloitte et al shows that transparency is not something to be feared.  It is important to be open about the challenges that a gender pay gap presents and the action required tackling the gap.

4. Actively engage with the pay gap

While women need to know their worth and negotiate effectively, it’s not just their actions alone that will address the pay gap.  Employers also need to work on evolving their workplace culture to create environments that thrive on equality and diversity.  This involves breaking down barriers that stall the career and pay trajectory of women and combatting gender stereotypes, particularly when it comes to sectors and roles that women are encouraged into.

A final thought – do Millennials hold the key to affect true change?

Transparency is a huge motivating factor for Millennials in choosing a workplace. They will use gender pay gap information to assess potential employers.  Many are now reaching the age where they are moving into senior positions; before long, they will be running organisations.  With their attitudes towards transparency, they will be instrumental in closing the gap.

With Deloitte voluntarily publishing gender pay gaps, or other organisations such as HSBC pledging to appoint women to half of its senior roles, it is clear that some employers are taking a proactive stance, but there is undoubtedly a long way to travel until the gap is bridged once and for all.

To read the full survey click here.


PR and communications jobs of the week

06 Jun 2016 by Abby Warren.

PR Director - Award-winning asset management agency

An ambitious, award-winning, international asset management agency are looking for a Director to assist with the growth of the business. Apply here.

Associate Director - Ambitious consumer PR agency - Top tier food and drink and retail clients

Join the senior management team for this ambitious Shoreditch-based PR agency and lead creative strategies for well-known lifestyle and luxury alcohol brands. Find out more here and apply,

Corporate PR Account Director - Renowned financial and professional services clients

This global agency with formidable expertise is looking for an excellent Account Director looking for a challenge to have a high impact in the corporate communications team. Apply here.

The Works Search specialise in placing mid to senior level PR and communications talent in leading PR agencies and in-house organisations across London, on both a contingency and executive search basis. For our latest roles visit our jobs page, or contact the team on 0207 559 6690 to discuss your career in confidence.


Our interview with Emmanuel Ofosu-Appiah, Consultant at global business advisory FTI Consulting

25 May 2016 by Sarah Leembruggen.

Could you give us a brief overview of your corporate communications career so far?

My PR career started in 2012 on the Taylor Bennett Foundation internship programme which was hosted in partnership with Brunswick Group. It was an intensive 10 week course designed to help participants with little or no background in PR to understand the fundamentals of the career and how to deal with the day to day demands. I then secured a role at Cow PR a small consumer PR agency in London Bridge and was given my first shot of working as a full time PR Account Executive. It was an interesting experience and I worked for brands such as Coral bookmakers and even represented Cancer Research UK for their annual ‘Stand Up to Cancer’ campaign.

Following this, I quickly realised that I was much more intrigued by Corporate PR which led me on to two years at Havas PR. During my time at the agency I was given the chance to provide support for many clients across Europe and the USA such as United Technologies Corporation and Atos Healthcare. In February 2015, I joined FTI Consulting to work as a Consultant in the Corporate Property team which is a part of the real estate practice.

What do you enjoy most about your role at FTI?

There are many things I enjoy about my role but what I enjoy most is that every day has a different challenge. My team at FTI support and advise major commercial property companies, developers, landowners and housing providers on projects throughout England so most of the work we do is either in top tier trade media or in the national media in some way. This means that my work has a direct impact on my client’s reputation and personally there is no better feeling than securing great coverage or making sure my client is included in a feature or interview on an interesting topic. I also enjoy the networking element of my role as I am given the opportunity to attend many industry events.

What is the biggest challenge you have faced in your career to date?

One of my biggest challenges was drafting a presentation on the purpose and importance of public relations, which had to be presented to over 25 marketing and centre managers for one of our major property clients. It was a real challenge as I had never presented to such a large audience and the presentation required me and my Director to talk for one whole hour without a break. I worked very hard on this task and to my surprise I did a really good job as I rehearsed the slides several times and made sure I really understood what was required of me on the day.

Tell us about your mentor Lord Michael Hastings – how your mentorship came about, and how he has helped you in your career

I met Lord Michael Hastings at a drinks reception in the city and was very inspired by one of his opening speeches. I didn’t actually mean to bump into him but we got talking over some canapes and then I bravely asked for his card. I followed up with an email to say thank you a few days later and being the great man that he is, he invited me to the House of Lords for breakfast for a longer conversation to find out more about me. It was great to hear that Michael had previous PR experience and he told me about his time at BBC. He has been a great role model to me and we meet regularly to catch up on a professional and personal level. I have also found it very useful to have him as someone to bounce ideas off and also take guidance from.

What previous experiences and educational background would you recommend for someone who wants to begin their career in the corporate communications world?

I don’t think there is a specific set background but I would say a background in English, Business or Journalism would be beneficial. PR roles do require a lot of writing so these subjects may give you an edge when applying for entry level roles.

In one sentence, what would you say is vital to making professionals stand out in the corporate communications sector at your level?

I would say it is key that you can show and prove that you can take initiative; show something you did, not something you were asked to do and then showcase the result. However, ALWAYS be eager to listen and learn from your senior colleagues and be nice.

And lastly, how do you define great PR?

Good PR is about managing expectations and connecting the client’s product, service, idea or cause, and key messages to the audiences they seek to reach in a positive way.

The Works Search specialise in placing mid to senior level PR and communications talent in leading PR agencies and in-house organisations across London, on both a contingency and executive search basis. For our latest roles visit our jobs page, or contact the team on 0207 559 6690 to discuss your career in confidence.


Heads of Comms, Agency Heads – Are you doing everything you can to retain your star players?

24 May 2016 by Sarah Leembruggen.

Findings from our salary survey showed that the highly sought after roles in PR and Communications are being handsomely rewarded: Account Directors, Senior Account Managers and Account Managers have all benefited from significant salary uplifts across the agencies; the most movement and demand in the in-house firms is at PR Manager level and there were impressive gains to be had here, too.

Candidates for these prized roles are hard to come by, and they know it.  The most in-demand talent are well aware that they have options; it’s now standard that their search will generate multiple offers and counteroffers. 

Another survey statistic worth mentioning is the 47% of participants who believe they are underpaid, showing just how candidates’ expectations exceed local market rates, particularly if they are in a strong negotiating position, which is certainly the case when faced with a shrinking talent pool.  The message here is clear – when you hire a top performer with sought after skills onto your team, it’s a must to offer meaningful pay rises and other stay incentives if you don’t want to risk losing them and restarting the hiring process.

Remember – however handsomely you reward them, your best players will know that they have the key skills that could take them anywhere they fancy, giving them increased confidence in their employment prospects elsewhere.

So what are the secrets to making sure the top talent isn’t tempted to explore pastures new?  What exactly should Heads of Comms and Agency Heads be doing to encourage retention?

Create a clear career path

When asked what motivates them to stay with their current employer, 46% of our survey participants said career progression.  By giving employees a clearly defined career path with realistic timelines for reaching professional goals, they can visualise themselves attaining the role they are working towards, and you can offer the appropriate support and guidance.  Enhance their chances of success and you will build loyalty in the process – and it should stop them from heading for the hills.

Play to their strengths

While increasing salaries is a positive way to boost employee retention, it’s worth noting that in another of our survey questions, more than half (51%) of respondents said that career progression is the most important factor in their decision to stay or go.  The career path is without doubt king.  Take the time to identify a person’s natural strengths and ask them to lead/champion on this – whether it’s bringing in new business, handling the company’s social media platforms or organising team socials.  Giving responsibility, ownership and freedom leads to happy, engaged employees.

Listen – and understand

Not recognising what’s important to the members of your team can translate into job dissatisfaction, lower productivity, and higher voluntary turnover.  It’s critical to regularly ‘take the temperature’ of the workplace and survey employees to identify where the company excels in providing a positive employee experience as well as opportunities to improve.

Don’t neglect the team culture

With almost one third (32%) of respondents saying that the work culture is an important factor when considering a job move, this is clearly a statistic not to be shunned.  While many leaders may think that this is ‘the fluffy stuff’, it is anything but. Your team culture is built on the values that inspire and motivate your employees, creating a productive, exciting and fun working environment.  There is tremendous value in creating a strong workplace culture – it gives employees a sense of unity, promotes healthy competition, brings the best out of each team member, and gives everyone that all-important sense of direction, promoting long-term loyalty and retention.

The long and short of it?

Employees want to feel valued. They want to be compensated well; they want to be challenged and have the opportunity to progress; they want to contribute to something meaningful; they want to be part of a positive work culture; and they want to have a good work-life balance.  Yes, salary increases and bonuses have a role to play in retaining the quality talent, but money by no means does all the talking…

To read the full survey results click here

The Works Search specialise in placing mid to senior level PR and communications talent in leading PR agencies and in-house organisations across London, on both a contingency and executive search basis. For our latest roles visit our jobs page, or contact the team on 0207 559 6690 to discuss your career in confidence.


An interview with Federico Fregni, Global Communications Director at The Boston Consulting Group

18 May 2016 by Sarah Leembruggen.

Could you give us a brief overview of your communications career so far – how did you get to where you are today?

I have covered a variety of areas within or closely related to communications over my career. I have been on the editorial side, as well as doing events, multimedia production, marketing analysis, media and external relations. This multidisciplinary background helps me in my current role and is very useful at times when many of these disciplines are converging. This is a pattern that is becoming prevalent in both in-house communications teams and PR agencies. 

How would you say the professional services industry has changed in the last five years?

In my specific field, I have seen the appetite to communicate externally grow over the last few years. I have heard of a similar trajectory from peers in the professional services industry, which traditionally had been reticent to external communications. The approach remains conservative, but there has been increasing desire to do more.

What is the biggest challenge you have faced in your PR career so far?

Working with diverse content and "voices" to build a compelling, cohesive narrative. When you work in a content rich firm which depends on personality as much as skill-set, you have to work hard to keep bringing things back to the core mission of the communications function, while maintaining the richness that comes from diverse ideas and styles, and respecting the views of the different internal stakeholders.

What is the most important lesson you have learned as a leader in professional services?

Clients come first, whether internal stakeholders or external revenue generating clients, the relationship is crucial. If what you are doing doesn't cover this well enough, then you need to re-asses your priorities and those of your team. 

What are the top three essentials you look for when you’re hiring for your team?

Intellectual curiosity, can-do attitude and professionalism. Our team works with really intelligent people, many of whom are at the top of their respective careers and credibility with them is crucial. 

In one sentence what advice would you give to someone starting out in communications?

Buckle-up - Communications as a discipline is growing and evolving both in terms of scope and importance. It will continue to do so.

The Works Search specialise in placing mid to senior level PR and communications talent in leading PR agencies and in-house organisations across London, on both a contingency and executive search basis. For our latest roles visit our jobs page, or contact the team on 0207 559 6690 to discuss your career in confidence.


The Works Annual Salary Survey – what’s the scoop for HoC’s and agency leaders?

11 May 2016 by Sarah Leembruggen.

Now in its eighth year, our Annual Salary Survey polled 800 PR and Communications professionals in both agencies and in-house. In addition to examining salaries and bonuses, we also looked at job satisfaction and give you an idea of what you need to do to retain our star players. Keep an eye out for more in-depth discussions in the coming weeks including news on the gender pay gap.

Have salaries in the PR industry gone up or down?

The quick answer to this is ‘both’.  The survey showed both increases and decreases in average base salaries across the industry.  For the most part, the mood is optimistic and some very impressive uplifts highlight the ongoing confidence that remains in the market.  Our clients are continuing to create new roles as they expand their teams and look to bring in professionals who will add value to the business over the long term.

Our survey revealed that 62% of participants received an increase in 2015, and 56% are on a base salary of more than £50,000 pa.  More and more employers understand the value of offering meaningful salary increases to encourage employee retention.

So what’s the news for Heads of Comms and Agency leaders?

The survey showed a similar pattern in in-house firms.  Corporate PR isn’t far behind the financial sector – Global Heads of Communications now bring in an average of £170,000 in Corporate PR, which is just £5,000 short of the average for the same role in Financial PR.  Companies clearly see the value in investment at these top levels as they continue to focus on reputation management.

Agency side it is also the financial PR teams that come out on top, with the average salary for a Managing Director reaching £140,000 and Partners receiving £115,000 in base salary. This is closely followed by corporate PR agencies.

In in-house firms, the senior roles fared best when it comes to bonuses: Global Heads of Corporate Communications received an average bonus of £60,000. In the financial sector, this role was rewarded with an average bonus of £70,000.

In the agencies, CEOs and Board Directors/Partners received the most in Corporate Communications, with average bonuses of £30,000.  MDs and Board Directors/Partners in Financial PR agencies came away with an average bonus of £50,000.

For full results of the survey, download it here.


Our annual Salary Survey results are in – are PRs happy with what they’re being paid?

11 May 2016 by Sarah Leembruggen.

Our survey looked at a salary timeframe of January 2015-December 2015, examining both the status of salaries and bonuses as well as looking into levels of job satisfaction in the workplace for both agency and in-house professionals. 

Have salaries gone up or down?

The quick answer to this is ‘both’.  The survey showed both increases and decreases in average base salaries across the industry.  For the most part, the mood is optimistic and some very impressive uplifts highlight the ongoing confidence that remains in the market.  Our clients are continuing to create new roles as they expand their teams and look to bring in professionals who will add value to the business over the long term.

Our survey revealed that 62% of participants received an increase in 2015, and 56% are on a base salary of more than £50,000 pa.  More and more employers understand the value of offering meaningful salary increases to encourage employee retention.

So who’s getting paid what?

Financial and Corporate PR are the dominant sectors when it comes to the big increases.  Senior Account Directors in corporate agencies now command salaries averaging £55,000.  The same role in a financial agency brings in an average of £70,000.  Senior Account Managers have fared well too – in the corporate agencies, this role now brings in an average of £41,000 pa and in the financial sector, £47,000.  This is a clear reflection of the value placed on these ‘pivotal’ roles in PR, as they work hard to manage clients and keep them happy.  Furthermore, this is one of the most highly sought after roles so, more often than not, it comes with a generous compensation package to support retention.  There were notable increases in the Consumer PR agencies too, with Senior Account Directors now earning a very credible average salary of £55,000.

The survey showed a similar pattern in in-house firms.  Corporate PR isn’t far behind the financial sector – Global Heads of Communications now bring in an average of £170,000 in Corporate PR, which is just £5,000 short of the average for the same role in Financial PR.  Companies clearly see the value in investment at these top levels as they continue to focus on reputation management.

What really stood out in this survey, more so than in previous years, were the significant increases earned by junior levels.  Across the industry, there were impressive gains to be had by PR Officers and Executives in-house.  PR Executives in Corporate PR can expect to bring in an average salary of £35,000; in Financial PR, the same role is similarly rewarded with an average salary of £36,000.  Junior levels in the agencies are also being recognised, the ranges for an Account Executive have gone up to £23,000-£28,000 in Corporate PR and £25,000-£30,000 in Financial PR. Millennials are clearly making their presence felt, and are expecting more from their employers in return for their hard work.

Are PRs getting bonuses?

Our survey found that 57% of employees polled received a bonus – that’s a 3% increase on the previous year’s findings, and a further indication that employers are keen to recognise the hard work of their teams and keep morale high.

In in-house firms, the senior roles fared best: Global Heads of Corporate Communications received an average bonus of £60,000. In the financial sector, this role was rewarded with an average bonus of £70,000.

In the agencies, CEOs and Board Directors/Partners fared the best in Corporate Communications, with average bonuses of £30,000.  MDs and Board Directors/Partners in Financial PR agencies came away with an average bonus of £50,000.

Is everyone happy with their salaries?

Of the participants who received a salary increase, 62% were happy with their raise – this figure has gone up 3% since our last survey – positive news for employers keen to keep members of their teams happy and retain their best players.

That leaves the 37% who are not happy.  Last year, our survey revealed that 38% were not happy with their increase, so there is still a fair amount of dissatisfaction in the air.  Clearly employers have a way to go when it comes to meeting the pay expectations of their employees.

Do PRs think they’re getting paid enough?

Our survey showed that 47% of participants feel as though they are underpaid and 51% believe they are adequately paid.  It would appear that there is room for improvement here!  The market has been stable for a good few years now, and employees most likely feel as though their pay cheques still do not reflect the stronger economic conditions in which they are working.

The upshot is working in PR and Communications is no walk in the park, with long hours and high stress levels; employees have a strong desire for this to be sufficiently recognised.

High performing employees are in demand, and with 90% of the people we speak to on a daily basis looking for an in-house role, agencies in particular need to go the extra mile, being agile in their hiring and thoughtful in the way they attract and retain staff.

For full results of the survey, download it here.


PR and communications jobs of the week

09 May 2016 by Abby Warren.

In-house PR Manager - Global FTSE 100 company within the retail banking arm

Looking for a juicy in-house role with a prestigious FTSE 100? Make your mark as you build a brand and gain exposure for a new division. Apply now.

Senior Press Officer - Big brand global healthcare company

This is an exciting time to join this leading global healthcare company searching for a high-performing and energised Senior Press Officer. Click here to apply.

Lifestyle PR Executive at leading UK food and drink retailer

If you have a passion for homeware and fashion and are looking to progress your PR career at a well-known FTSE 100 retailer then this is the role for you! Apply now.

The Works Search specialise in placing mid to senior level PR and communications talent in leading PR agencies and in-house organisations across London, on both a contingency and executive search basis. For our latest roles visit our jobs page, or contact the team on 0207 559 6690 to discuss your career in confidence.


How to find career success with a mentor

03 May 2016 by Sarah Leembruggen.

Have you got a mentor in your professional sphere – or are you considering getting one? The positive impact and enlightenment a mentor brings can be limitless. They are also likely to be in your network right now and can come from all walks of life.  Here we highlight our top inspirations for getting a mentor.


Having a second perspective on your career can work wonders for your motivation levels. A mentor is a dedicated individual who holds an objective view on your career and has the proactive time to review, suggest improvements and widen your professional thought processes. This can be a hugely refreshing experience and give you a different viewpoint, which positively impacts your sense of motivation.

Hindsight becomes foresight

This is of course a hugely well-known saying in the world of mentorship – and very true, as a mentor’s professional experiences in the past can be a solid playing ground for your professional future. As mentors share their knowledge, stories and experiences, this can give you the opportunity to review scenarios in your own professional world and give you a renewed foresight. However, a mentor could also be more junior to you too and show you the way with a different, specialised expertise.

Makes you uncomfortable

A mentor will challenge you to step outside your comfort zone and try new things – they will hold you accountable too so there is no getting away with it! You will be stretched, challenged and consequently grow. You learn the most when you are feeling out of your comfort zone.

Positive energy

A mentor’s role is to provide constructive insight into your professional world, which provides a positive influence and outlook – and can also change yours too! This can be endlessly helpful in facing issues and challenges in your career and of course in overcoming them, a useful attribute to develop. This positivity will also of course make your career a much more enjoyable one!

For more career development advice such as this – view more of our blogs on professional development and career tips.

The Works Search specialise in placing mid to senior level PR and communications talent in leading PR agencies and in-house organisations across London, on both a contingency and executive search basis. For our latest roles visit our jobs page, or contact the team on 0207 559 6690 to discuss your career in confidence.


PR and communications jobs of the week

03 May 2016 by Abby Warren.

In-house PR Manager - Global FTSE 100 company within the retail banking arm

Looking for a juicy in-house role with a prestigious FTSE 100? Make your mark as you build a brand and gain exposure for a new division. Click here to apply.

Consumer PR Senior Account Manager - Big FMCG brands

This well-known consumer PR agency is looking for a stand-out Account Manager or Senior Account Manager to work on big name FMCG brands. Apply here.

PR Executive - Magic circle law firm

A brand new PR Executive role in a magic circle law firm. This London centric communications team win awards for the work they do and this is a rare chance to join them. Apply here.

The Works Search specialise in placing mid to senior level PR and communications talent in leading PR agencies and in-house organisations across London, on both a contingency and executive search basis. For our latest roles visit our jobs page, or contact the team on 0207 559 6690 to discuss your career in confidence.


Our 5 secrets to securing a second interview – every time

26 Apr 2016 by Sarah Leembruggen.

Here we share our favourite secrets to success in your interview – and how you can land your perfect job in PR and communications.

1. What’s your specific evidence?

Successful PR and communications professionals have a wealth of stories and quantifiable evidence for their professional experience. Decide which three or four key messages are the most important to convey for the position you are being interviewed for and how you want to demonstrate evidence of your successes in these areas. Practice discussing them in mini case study style, so you know them really well. These should be part of your professional repertoire – and you should know specific results off by heart.

2. Strive to go the extra mile

Doing your research and knowing as much as you possibly can about the role and company is of course a standard stamp of interview preparation. However going the extra mile to impress your interviewers is the mark of an exceptional PR and communications professional. Make sure you’ve reviewed their latest annual report, recent press releases, media coverage (including on the day of interview) and company vision. Who’s interviewing you – do you know their role and background? Could you bring a portfolio of relevant ideas to share with your interviewers about your plan for the role? If your aim is to impress in your interview – you will do.

3. Don’t tell, sell

Now is not the time to be understated. It’s your time to sell your expertise with specific evidence. Third party referral is a great way of saying you’re great too. ‘My boss said this about that campaign’, ‘my client was delighted’.

4. Show you’re interested – even if you’re not

The PR industry is built on reputation and has a long memory and it’s also very incestuous, so it’s important to ensure you’re demonstrating your personality at its very best. It’s useful to view yourself as part of a bigger picture, taking steps forward in your career which can help you view your interview more objectively – and also take some of the nerves out of the situation. If during the interview you think the role is mismatched to what you are looking for, it’s important to still present yourself at your best with energy and enthusiasm – for your professional reputation’s sake.

5. Have creative questions

Asking thoughtful questions at the end of the interview is a good way to demonstrate your individual value. If you’re getting your interviewers to think more about their answers, and you’re demonstrating understanding and relevancy around the role, this will make you stand out against your competitors. So spend time thinking about your questions beforehand and have several up your sleeve in case they are covered in conversation – as long as they are professional, relevant and intelligent questions they will help you on your way to interview success!

Find out more useful interview tips on the advice pages of our website.

The Works Search specialise in placing mid to senior level PR and communications talent in leading PR agencies and in-house organisations across London, on both a contingency and executive search basis. For our latest roles visit our jobs page, or contact the team on 0207 559 6690 to discuss your career in confidence.


PR and communications jobs of the week

25 Apr 2016 by Abby Warren.

In-House PR Manager - Global engineering and design consultancy

International briefs, high profile work and an outstanding reputation. The perfect in-house PR challenge. Find out more and apply here.

PR & Internal Communications Manager - Big name cinema chain - 6-12 month contract

This leading international cinema chain is looking for a stand out PR & Internal Communications Manager to lead on the brand’s UK PR strategy. Apply now.

PR Executive - Magic circle law firm

A brand new PR Executive role in a magic circle law firm. This London centric communications team win awards for the work they do and this is a rare chance to join them. Click to apply.

The Works Search specialise in placing mid to senior level PR and communications talent in leading PR agencies and in-house organisations across London, on both a contingency and executive search basis. For our latest roles visit our jobs page, or contact the team on 0207 559 6690 to discuss your career in confidence.


An Interview with Sarah Leembruggen, MD of The Works Search

21 Apr 2016 by Sarah Leembruggen.

What does your day-to-day job involve?

I’m a great believer in planning to ensure long-term goals are met, so I regularly review my calendar and follow a ‘90 day plan’ which is broken down into a day by day basis.

Typically my day to day job involves checking in with my team and providing any advice to ensure everyone is happy and supported with any issues. I also frequently run training workshops, monthly business reviews and one to ones as I’m passionate about personal and professional development and want to ensure this is continually ticking over with my team.

I also spend much of my time speaking with and meeting my senior network – both clients and candidates. I work with my clients to secure senior PR and communications rainmakers to add value to their business, and my candidate network is over 20 years old and so the majority of my candidates I have partnered with throughout their careers, and I am still regularly in touch with them.

I’m also involved in quite a lot of marketing and PR in my role – I’ve provided thought leadership articles for books such as FuturePRoof, and trade websites and magazines such as PR Week and Gorkana, and write regular blogs for the business’s website.

How do you find PR talent?

The majority of the PR talent we find is from our proactive approach – 60% of the job market are not looking for a new job, therefore the days of finding exceptional talent from advertising are over. Excellent people know other excellent people so we keep in touch with our network and ask for referrals – having been established for 20 years, both candidates and clients are continually coming to us in this way.  

How much has changed in how PR practitioners are recruited in the last five years?

Over the last five years we have seen more in-house recruitment teams (teams based in big corporate companies) try to fill roles through advertising on LinkedIn or their website.  However, we know that this isn’t the best avenue to secure the gems and they often pick up the phone after a direct search has failed. 

Which sector or discipline is the most difficult to recruit for?

In our sector areas financial services in agencies are especially difficult – particularly at Account Director level. The preference from most PR professionals is to work in-house, although the professional development which you can achieve working agency-side is not to be underestimated.

Who is the most interesting or inspiring PR practitioner you’ve ever met and why?

Paul Downes who recently moved on from Instinctif Partners is inspiring, horribly well connected and great fun.  He built and sold a success corporate and financial agency, Merlin Financial Communications to a major league international business.  An admirable achievement.

Which PR blogs, news sites and websites do you read?

The team and I keep up to date with PR Week and Gorkana newsletters – they’re an invaluable source of industry news and it’s crucial to keep up to date with the latest moves and news – most of the recruitment news we have previously heard about anyway of course!  Naturally I read the news every day and cheat at the weekend by reading The Week to make sure I haven’t missed anything.

What are your tips for seasoned PRs looking to move jobs?

It’s difficult at senior level in PR as many professionals may feel that they have reached the height of their career and they would potentially need to look at a ‘lateral’ move, and there is much discussion in the industry about the scarcity of opportunities at senior level which I have written some commentary on – senior professionals tend to stay in their roles for much longer, and especially if they work in-house, which means senior in-house positions are rarer to come by. This can make moving jobs at this level quite tricky – or at least can mean it can potentially take quite a long time (one or two years). Again, having clear priorities about what the objectives of the job move are, and also being open to the opportunities which do exist are important. And of course – persistence is key and using your network!

Read more on this article which appeared on PRCareers this week and can be found here


Our Market View - What are the agency and in-house hiring trends in PR and communications?

12 Apr 2016 by Sarah Leembruggen.

We remain in a candidate-short market.  What we mean by this is that sourcing truly talented professionals (the top 20%) remains labour intensive and our biggest challenge.  The days of filling roles through on-line advertising are over.  Over the past 12 months, we have had the most success from our proactive headhunting and referrals from our network.  In fact, this comprised 63% of the professionals we placed last year.

In-house moves are in hot demand

Agency roles are in our opinion by far the hardest to fill compared to our in-house corporate communications teams.  The ‘grass is greener’ syndrome is evident at nearly every level now, with MDs down to Senior Account Executives showing interest in an in-house move.  In fact, 9 out of 10 people we speak to will only consider an in-house move, which has impacted agency salaries and bonuses as employers and are keen to look after their talent.

What’s the appeal of an in-house role?

We hear that the increasing desire to move in-house rather than considering a consultancy role stems from more respect for in-house teams, and the presence of so many ‘superstars’  – truly great people to learn from; the hours are perceived to be shorter and more manageable, and being at the heart of strategy development is attractive.  There’s also the allure of being paid more (although this isn’t necessarily always true), having more diary control as well as the strong appeal of working for one brand with a more focused set of media, the possibility of broadening a communication skill set and getting to really understand a business well.  What is often overlooked is the argument to consider staying or returning to a consultancy – the more an organisation values PR, the more effective you can be.  The key is in how much value your role holds, and this is often reflected in the budget and attitude of your stakeholders.  Working out internal politics and how to manage your internal stakeholders effectively can be a challenge as well as limiting promotion prospects.

How do agency roles stack up?

While we have undoubtedly been inundated with requests to move in-house, we have still seen a few in-house to agency moves; those looking for agency roles are in search of a faster pace, and have a desire to freshen up their skill set and be a ‘profit centre’ rather than viewed as a ‘cost centre’. 

Feedback from agencies is that they struggle to find great talent quickly especially at certain levels - Senior Account Manager, Account Directors, Associate Directors and Directors (particularly ‘rainmakers’).  We have also seen consultancies that have been over-paying and over-promoting again.  There is a shortage of seriously good talent and PR agencies frequently try to fill the role themselves, or panic and give the role to several recruitment agencies who all think one of the others will fill it so don’t push the boat out to fill the role themselves. 

How are we able to deliver in current market conditions?

This shift in the hiring process has impacted the way we service our clients; we have moved to a partnership model, working with most on an exclusive basis to ensure we have time to go the extra mile to find the best talent the market has got to offer.  We put all our energy, resources and focus into delivering on these roles, and we are filling 80% of the exclusive briefs.  It’s twice as hard to fill agency roles now compared to just a few years ago, which is why we have changed with the market to ensure we still deliver.

We service a market where 60% of professionals are not actively looking so it’s been a year of keeping in touch with our network to support us with servicing our clients.

Who’s hiring – and what are the sought-after roles?

To give you further insight, we have placed a large number of mid and senior level comms professionals in-house, mainly with leading property firms, asset management companies, private equity firms and management consultancies, law firms, retailers and online businesses.  All names you would recognise.  No one industry sector dominated in terms of quantity, although PR Managers were the most in demand in-house, and Senior Account Directors and Associates in the agencies.  No doubt this is a reflection of the flow in-house.

We saw more investment hires (newly formed roles) at super senior level, both in-house (Heads of Media/Heads of Thought Leadership/Global Heads of Comms) and agency (Directors/Partners), which demonstrates the confidence in the market. Counter offers are becoming standard, particularly with the move from agency to in-house. 

In a nutshell

PR and corporate communications is changing fast, and we have seen in-house and agency teams adapt around us, offering broader communications services and more integrated services to support more demanding in-house teams that want exceptional value.  We have seen the usual replacement roles, newly formed roles and teams (especially in-house in Corporate Communications and Internal Communications).  There have been lots of counter offers; clients have to move quickly on those they like to secure them.  We have moved our recruitment model (working on roles exclusively and to an agreed time frame) to adapt to market conditions which is taking some clients by surprise although delivering on 80% of exclusive roles at no extra cost is going down well.  We are looking forward to another strong and steady year.

Our findings have also been published in Gorkana recently – read more here.

The Works Search specialise in placing mid to senior level PR and communications talent in leading PR agencies and in-house organisations across London, on both a contingency and executive search basis. For our latest roles visit our jobs page, or contact the team on 0207 559 6690 to discuss your career in confidence.


My worst ever Executive Search- 7 embarrassing mistakes

29 Mar 2016 by Sarah Leembruggen.

It must be 10 years ago when one of my favourite agency CEO’s suggested a certain bank that they should contact me. Apparently after I found several members of their team they had given us a glowing recommendation- Fabulous. What could go wrong? Everything.

I share this story after 13 years of in-house and agency senior level (mostly retained) search and I would hope I have learned a thing or two. The role was for an international bank looking for their first Head of PR in London.

Mistake 1 - We didn’t enquire about what they wanted out of the meeting which meant we were wholly unprepared- it was embarrassing.

Mistake 2 - We chose the wrong venue- A rather cool exclusive club with soft seating. The meeting required a table and a formal presentation.

Mistake 3 - The client wanted to retain us for executive search as our renowned competition had failed to fill the role. We advised against it as it was December, a terrible time to start a search. This was not the mistake. It was that we were not prepared to sell ourselves. We didn’t have a presentation for a search, hadn’t done a search like this before where you get paid upfront to research the market.

Mistake 4 - Funnily enough we didn’t win the search and another of our closest competitors was given the role. They, too, failed. The mistake was that we then took it on. I knew a December search would fail but the fact that two of my competitors that were unable to fill this role- you have to ask the question why?
Fortunately, I could see the issues and advised the client on the best course of action.

Mistake 5 - Now when you headhunt people they are usually flattered but this role was already so well known on the market that it started to get embarrassing when my approaches knew which bank it was, as it was old news. All confidentiality and prestige seemingly was out the window, along with all my pride.

Mistake 6 - I have never since worked so hard or spoken to as many people as I did on that campaign. I was determined to fill it and in fact one offer went out and then got turned down- argh. The client was so tired at interview they put the candidate off. I should have noted this and advised the client, my mistake.

Mistake 7 - I really could go on as there are more. I did find another candidate who gratefully accepted the role but I think I went grey over it. Salary was a big sticking point and something I had advised on early on but the client thought they knew better. I forgot I was the expert for a while, yet another mistake.

So 13 years of executive search and a fair few mistakes later I can hand on heart say: I have never failed to fill a retained assignment. Everything has been easy since! Despite the pain, the Head of PR at the Bank stayed there for 5 years. My biggest learn is not that I’m not half bad at my job, it is that I love it. The bigger the job, the tougher the challenge, the more I am interested. Bring it on!

The Works Search specialise in placing mid to senior level PR and communications talent in leading PR agencies and in-house organisations across London, on both a contingency and executive search basis. For our latest roles visit our jobs page, or contact the team on 0207 559 6690 to discuss your career in confidence.


Agency Directors and Partners – What are the P words that can turn your new business prowess around?

16 Mar 2016 by Sarah Leembruggen.

Think about the hunters on your team.  They are the ones who thrive on the ‘chase’ for a new opportunity (even when there doesn’t appear to be one), they love to network, they generate the buzz and excitement. While good at maintaining a client base, they prefer to keep exploring new areas. They love to multi-task and have several projects on the go.  Even though they may not always follow through and have a tendency to lose focus easily, when all is said and done, the hunter type and the PR industry are pretty much a match made in heaven – right?

Maybe not…

Take a look at the farmers. While not as focused on the ‘hunt’, they are the ones who build and cultivate relationships and opportunities, typically within existing accounts.  They take a long-term view and will work for a long time to close a deal.  Farmers can turn a client from good to great by the nature of their relationship and the loyalty they gain from their efforts. They nurture. They collaborate. They are team players.  Fantastic qualities to have on your team.

So, what you need is a good mix of both hunters and farmers – but more than that, you need to encourage and motivate them to learn from one another because your dream team is made up of hunters who know how to farm and farmers who know how to hunt.

With an overwhelming majority of farmers in the PR and Comms industry, maybe it’s time to try and redress the balance a little – and elicit a few more of the ‘hunter’ qualities in your team.

At a recent leadership presentation given by motivational business speaker, Jeff Grout, this very topic came up – he shared some fantastic ways that PR professionals can have more sophisticated conversations that bring more value than simply asking outright for new business.  By using his ‘6 Ps’ method, you can stop asking rookie, old-school questions simply asking for business and inspire a greater hunter-farmer balance when seeking new leads.

These are the 6 P-questions that you need:

What are your current Business…

1. Priorities

2. Problems – issues you are facing

3. Pressures – challenges the business is facing in the market right now

4. Projects – up and coming campaigns

5. Plans – future plans for your team

6. Performance Issues?

Using this questioning technique will make you stand out from the rest of the crowd and sound like a consultant and partner. It will also help you gauge a better level of understanding a company’s needs and challenges.   You’ll not only be more successful in your ‘hunt’ but you’ll also be on the right track to nurturing fantastic relationships.

Are you ready to take your business acumen to new heady heights?

The Works Search specialise in placing mid to senior level PR and communications talent in leading PR agencies and in-house organisations across London, on both a contingency and executive search basis. For our latest roles visit our jobs page, or contact the team on 0207 559 6690 to discuss your career in confidence.


What it’s like to be a Resourcer at The Works Search

14 Mar 2016 by Lizzie Potts.

Lizzie Potts shares her experiences of working as a PR and communications recruitment Resourcer in The Works Search team.

1. What does a Resourcer do at The Works Search?

A Resourcer’s role is to source the best candidates for our clients. We follow the process from start to finish; firstly meeting clients with Consultants in order to take detailed job briefs, then calling through the industry experts on our database and headhunting the most suitable professionals and finally arranging registration meetings with Consultants before securing candidate interviews with a range of prestigious companies.

2. Do you have calling times like many agencies and are at your desk all day?

Twice a week we have whole team proactive calling sessions for 3 hours but the length of our calls or time spent on the phone are never recorded. We are by no means tied to our desks, often accompanying Consultants to client meetings and sitting in during candidate registrations.

3. Recruitment has lots of targets, how do you keep on track?

Keeping on track is down to a combination of effective time management and being shown clear objectives in advance, both of which the whole team at The Works Search supports and trains Resourcers to accomplish.

4. You specialise in recruiting PR and comms people – what are they like to speak to/meet?

No two conversations are ever the same, each person I speak to has a fascinating story to tell be it about their own career or interesting clients that they are working with. The majority of PR and comms people are so friendly and easy to talk to – it is their job after all to communicate well!

5. What’s the purpose of starting as a Resourcer? 

Starting as a Resourcer gives you the opportunity to learn about the PR industry and build a strong network of high-class talent. You learn what it takes to be a Consultant first-hand as we work alongside them every day.

6. What have you found most challenging?

The biggest challenge has been mastering the art of persistence. You need to learn to not get disheartened when a job falls through or a candidate drops out, and move on to the next job. You also need to be able to persistently pick up the phone and hit the sometimes intimidating call targets.

7. What do you like most about your job?

Recruitment for me is all about the people (and the money!). I love the team I work alongside and the candidates I spend all day talking to. I’ve learnt so much more about PR and the wider world of business across different sectors than I ever thought I would.

8. How much do you earn from each person you place when you first start?

Anywhere between £200 and £600 – it all depends on their starting salary!

9. Does your basic and commission improve when you move up to be a Trainee Consultant?

Yes, the basic is likely to go up to £25 – 26k and the commission is brilliant – you can easily earn £35 – 40k overall in just your first year here.  After that you can more than double it each year as you get better and your network grows.

10. How quickly can you move up to be a trainee consultant?

3 – 6 months is the norm.

11. What is the team really like?

Fantastic! Everyone is so supportive and committed to helping Resourcers progress as quickly as possible, even if you ask them endless questions and advice like me! They’re also pretty fun to hang around with outside of the office too.

12. In your mind, what are the 3 traits a Resourcer needs to have in spades to be successful?

  • Persistence
  • Confidence
  • Tenacity 

The Works are a growing and successful team based in London Bridge. To find out about our latest search and recruitment vacancies see our internal recruitment pages or email your CV to our Recruitment Manager Isabelle Greaves.


How to be a truly exceptional Account Director in corporate communications

09 Mar 2016 by Sarah Leembruggen.

So what are the attributes that senior PRs in the Corporate sector look for in an exemplary Account Director?  Do you possess the qualities that will set you apart and land you this role? 

Run through our checklist to make sure you are ticking all the professional boxes.

1) First-rate media relations

Obvious yet important - having strong experience in media handling is an absolute must for any aspiring professional in the field of PR and communications.  Dealing effectively with the press in proactive work – for content creation, as well as reactive work – for responding to issues and crises, is an integral skill for an Account Director. While the landscape may be changing with online media revolutionising PR, the core skills remain the same.  A top-notch Account Director will be able to understand the news agenda and what will work for different media, as well as maintaining strong media links in both the national and trade publications. In short, the ability to further develop networks with relevant media contacts will do nothing but serve you well throughout your career.

2) Well-developed strategic thinking

‘Great strategic skills’ is a constant refrain from our clients in search of the superstar Account Directors.  Strategic thinkers have the ability to use the left and right sides of their brain, a skill that takes practice, but one that is incredibly valuable in an Account Director.  If you have sharp and well-honed strategic skills, you will be able to think ‘big picture’ and have a good awareness of the client objectives as part of a wider business structure.  Being able to act in an advisory capacity with your clients will demonstrate your value to them, whilst developing your professional talents at the same time.  Ask yourself – do you think, act and influence others in ways that promote both the short and long-term objectives of the business?  Strategic thinking takes a broad view, involving the right people, asking the right questions and taking decisive action that will bring success.

3) Flawless writing skills

Arguably the skill that tops the priority list, having strong writing skills with an excellent level of attention to detail is vital in the demanding and fast-paced world of corporate agencies.  The creation of compelling content is a fundamental communications skill.  A truly skilled Account Director will have the ability to craft and use language for clarity, authority, persuasion and impact. 

4) Up-to-the minute knowledge

The standout Account Directors in these sectors keep ahead of the curve when it comes to industry knowledge and are skilled at continually developing and improving their understanding of the market.  Are you signed up to relevant industry publications, or discussing market trends with your extensive network?  Do you have a mentor who you can learn from?  By keeping up-to-date with news and trends in your sector, you will spot threats and opportunities early on, giving you that competitive edge. You’ll also develop expertise that will earn you the trust and respect of the people around you.

5) Expert client handling

Managing key retained clients for your agency and also bringing on new business are valuable strings to your career bow, especially if they are impressive big name brands in the sector and they have been solely under your ownership.  Exceptional Account Directors in this space have solid experience in client handling and are also sure to have highlighted how they built and nurtured relationships of open communication and mutual trust on their CV.

6) Superb communication ability

Indisputably one of the top requirements of any PR professional, being not just a good communicator, but a top-notch one will mean that, as an exceptional Account Director, you can build exceptional relationships with your team, your clients and all the media contacts in your little black book, thus expanding your network with ease, winning further new business for your agency.  Gold!

Do you agree with the list?  If you’d like to share your thoughts with us, just tweet us @theworksrecruit using #standoutAD.

The Works Search specialise in placing mid to senior level PR and communications talent in leading PR agencies and in-house organisations across London, on both a contingency and executive search basis. For our latest roles visit our jobs page, or contact the team on 0207 559 6690 to discuss your career in confidence.


An interview with Angela Warburton, Global Head of Communications at Henderson Global Investors

03 Mar 2016 by Sarah Leembruggen.

Looking back over your career path to date, what would you say are your key qualities that have led to your success? 

Commercial acumen – by that I mean understanding the business and what it does, what we’re trying to achieve and getting on with colleagues. You won’t succeed in communications if you can’t build good relationships with the people you’re working with.

Hard work - boring but true.  I worked especially hard early on in my career because a job is not the same as school or university. You still have a lot to learn, you are also there to deliver, so you need to commit time.

Adding value – this is really important. Being good at communication is quite a specific skillset and you should always be thinking about what you bring to the table at meetings or when working on projects.

Writing skills – writing is one of my personal strengths, but I think it is a skill that is generally falling away in PR, particularly in-house. It is hugely useful – even, or perhaps especially, for tweets.

What’s the best piece of professional advice you’ve been given along the way and by whom?

Your salary is the most objective measure of how much a company values you. I haven’t always followed it, and there are plenty of other important measures, but I believe it largely remains true.  It was given to me by an ex-boyfriend many years ago – he was an analyst for the NZ treasury.

Seeing as we are still a long way away from closing the gender gap, what advice would you give to women aspiring to high-profile careers?

Stand your ground. Don’t be afraid to base a career on something you actually enjoy doing, you’ll last longer at it.  And don’t be trapped into stereotypes – I do not get my kicks by organising other people’s lives, nor am I naturally better at it because I’m a woman. 

In one sentence, what is your definition of great PR?

Great coverage and tangible results from a campaign you helped develop and on the flipside, a story that never appeared, because sometimes it’s the absence of column inches that counts.  

What do you think is going to be the biggest challenge facing the PR industry in the financial services industry over the next 3 years? 

The blurring of advertorial and editorial, especially in markets outside the UK where financial services is less dominant.  Marketing and PR teams will need to work even more closely together in the future. Misinformation from “non-expert” sources , mostly online, where there is limited governance but potentially enormous reach.  (I know that’s two! Pick as you like).

You are a highly experienced team manager having led teams over the years. What would you say is the one thing that makes for a successful and happy team?

A team that both respects each other and likes each other.  Every team can say this, but I believe it is particularly important for communications. When you are working on often stressful issues, you have to be able to pull together and to trust each other, while still having fun. 

You are working closely with and managing your corporate and financial agency FTI. What would be your best advice on how to get the most out of your agency team?

One of the joys of having an agency is being able to share views with like-minded individuals. Be open and no matter how small the task, give context. I’ve worked on both sides and you will always get a better outcome if you explain not just what you want, but why you want it. In communications, nuance is important.

You are incredibly busy in your professional life, what do you do outside of work to de-stress?

I like to travel, hang out with my friends and see my family when I can. Given they live on the other side of the world they can put a great perspective on things, without being around so long they get annoying.

Thank you very much Angela for taking the time to answer these questions. 

The Works Search specialise in placing mid to senior level PR and communications talent in leading PR agencies and in-house organisations across London, on both a contingency and executive search basis. For our latest roles visit our jobs page, or contact the team on 0207 559 6690 to discuss your career in confidence.


6 Steps to writing a job description for maximum impact (+FREE template!)

23 Feb 2016 by Sarah Leembruggen.

A list of responsibilities and necessary qualifications doesn’t go a long way. Highlighting what sets your company aside from the rest and showcasing what makes the role exciting will bring you a lot closer to finding a quality person to fill a position. 

A recruiter will want to sell the culture of a company to a candidate. So have a good think and ask yourself these key questions: 

  • What sets your company aside from your competitors?
  • What are your values and vision?
  • What makes the company an exciting one to work for?
  • What kind of attitudes and personal qualities constitute a good match to the culture of your company?

Be honest about the role and make it clear what will be expected of the successful applicant in the first 6 or 12 months. By thinking beyond the standard formula for drawing up a job description, not only will a recruiter be able to find well-matched people but you will also be better prepared for the interview.

With this in mind, follow these 6 simple steps and you’ll have put together a top-notch job brief:

1. De-clutter

Recruiters need descriptions that are clearly and simply written.  They don’t want to wade through a sea of corporate jargon and lose sight of the job requirements.  If the description is overly complicated, it’s a harder task to pinpoint the best candidates.

2. Make it pop

In today’s competitive market, draw out the key selling points about the role.  For senior roles such as a Director, the description needs to be more than a laundry list of tasks and responsibilities. Highlight exciting and interesting professional challenges as well as opportunities to lead and inspire a diverse international team that come with the fast moving role of a Corporate Director; focus on why a prospective employee should take this role or join your company over a similar role with one of your competitors.

3. Keep it fresh

Don’t rely solely on a job’s history as you write a description for today.  The brief should focus on what the job needs to be in light of the company’s current status and long-term goals.  It’s critical that recruiters are supplied with descriptions that are a true reflection of the job being advertised.

4. Be realistic

For senior roles, you obviously want to find an extremely impressive individual with excellent natural leadership skills.  Understandably, the job description needs to communicate clearly the key qualifications you are seeking and include the attributes that underlie superior performance. However this can lead to a long list of criteria, leaving recruiters feeling as though they need to track down not just a superstar high performer, but a superhero. Even when dealing with high-profile roles, try to stick to a concise list of things that are both useful to the recruiter and attainable to the candidate.

5. Be specific

Recruiters see too many job descriptions that are filled with phrases and statements that are too open to interpretation.  What is ‘professional’ to one person means something completely different to someone else.  Aim for a few key behavioural specifics; there’s a big difference between saying, “Must show top-notch leadership skills” and “Directing a global management structure and processes that deliver consistently outstanding client service through a complex network of relationships.” A recruiter will have a much easier time matching a candidate to the second description.

6. Be enticing

If you don’t know what to include in a job brief, think about your best performers in senior roles and what it is they’ve done that that makes them stand out to you in a leadership capacity. As well as attracting the right employee, remember that you want to sell the role to them, so the brief should provide a snapshot of what makes the position so appealing.   If you’re stuck for ideas, there’s a host of information here on what makes people happy at work. 

Download our free job description template.

If you have any other tips on writing a job description for maximum impact, we’d love to hear them.

The Works Search specialise in placing mid to senior level PR and communications talent in leading PR agencies and in-house organisations across London, on both a contingency and executive search basis. For our latest roles visit our jobs page, or contact the team on 0207 559 6690 to discuss your career in confidence.


Have the PR industry’s ‘wise owls’ all fled the nest?

17 Feb 2016 by Sarah Leembruggen.

When I was asked by PR Week to share my thoughts on the Fleishman Hillard Fishburn findings, and whether I believed ageism might be at play, the first thing that struck me was the number of agencies the research was based on – frankly, a tiny pool of the industry, and most likely not a true reflection of the majority.

As a specialist in executive search, I know that there’s a plentiful supply of senior talent across PR and Comms. I meet them all the time!  However there are a number of things to take into consideration before we can truly proclaim that the 50- and 60-somethings are regarded as too expensive and/or set in their ways and not a good fit for the fast-paced demands of the PR field. 

Here’s why I am not really convinced of this so-called ‘dearth’ of senior level talent:

People choose to switch professions

You typically have three careers in your life, so it's natural for PR professionals to move on at a certain point – hitting 40 is often a trigger to re-evaluate the career path; for some women returning to work after taking time off to have children, there’s a desire to shift to more flexible working. When it comes to a flexible working culture, the PR industry, as a professional services profession, falls short.  Agencies struggle to keep up with other professional services businesses such as management consultancies so it is no surprise that the industry will lose some of its best talent. However, this does by no means suggest that there are no brains at a senior level. Far from it. There are plenty of partners or MDs over the age of 50 in the industry.  The corporate and financial agencies are positively brimming with well-respected ‘wise owls’.  

The ‘grass is greener’ syndrome tends to strike

90% of the senior people we speak to want to move in-house in the belief that there’s a bigger and better opportunity for them ‘on the other side’.  With such a strong desire to move in-house, it’s only natural that agencies will lose a certain proportion of their senior talent. 

There are slim pickings at the top

Agency Partners, MDs and CEOs don't tend to move roles frequently.  This can prove to be a challenge in the industry, with many staying in their roles for 10 years or more.  Since the majority of PR businesses are structured so that there are fewer people at the top, there will typically be fewer opportunities for those looking to move up in the ranks.

There’s a place in the industry for both young and old

While PR has always been known as a ‘young’ industry, attracting fresh, bright talent (it’s a top three choice for graduates) with long hours and a heavy social schedule, there are plenty who have weathered the storm and reached the big 5-0 and the heady ranks of an Agency Partner or MD or CEO.  There is no replacement for someone with years of experience (and a few ‘war wounds’ to show for it) running an agency. They are just as passionate and driven as they were when they first started out, and they wouldn't dream of doing anything else – agency life is in their blood and they love it.

When all is said and done, wisdom comes from experience.  There are no shortcuts.  The ‘wise owls’ of PR are staying well and truly in their nests.

The Works Search specialise in placing mid to senior level PR and communications talent in leading PR agencies and in-house organisations across London, on both a contingency and executive search basis. For our latest roles visit our jobs page, or contact the team on 0207 559 6690 to discuss your career in confidence.


What to expect when you choose The Works

28 Jan 2016 by Sarah Leembruggen.

Our consultants are carefully chosen for their integrity, intelligence and professionalism.

Here’s what you can expect when you work with us.


  • We understand the importance of confidentiality, especially in a small industry like PR! Nothing is ever done without your permission.
  • We will provide you with honest advice regarding salaries and the market – if we don’t think it’s the right time for you to move or the right move for you, we’ll tell you and explain why.
  • If we think there’s anything you can do to improve your CV or interview technique after our meeting, we’ll tell you so you can make any adjustments.

Guidance throughout the process:

  • In your initial interview we will gain a detailed understanding of your background, experience and what’s important to you. We will then suggest opportunities which are in line with this and which we think are a good fit for our client’s requirements too.
  • We keep you informed at every stage of the process so you always know what’s going on.
  • We fully brief our clients on your background and provide a detailed report so that they are fully prepared for your interview.
  • Before your interview we will call to help you with your interview preparation to give you the best chance of getting the job.

For you to get the best from our service there are a few things we expect from you.

  • Come prepared to your initial meeting with us – treat it like a first stage interview so that we can gauge your interview skills and give you accurate and honest advice to help you interview well. Send us an updated CV and have a think about your key achievements and skills in advance to get the most out of your meeting.
  • Fill out any forms your consultant asks you to and reply to all calls and emails as soon as possible to aid the smooth running of the process.
  • We know circumstances can change quickly, so keep us up to date with any changes such as other processes you’re involved in, where your CV has been sent in the last 6 months, any planned holidays, salary increases, promotions etc.
  • Securing a new role takes an investment of time and effort from you. You will need to take the time to research and prepare for your interview in advance. You may need to be flexible with interview availability, we only work with top calibre clients and often their diaries are inevitably busy!
  • Only contact the clients we’re introducing you to through us – this avoids any confusion or miscommunications.

Finally, as a company we support SmartWorks, a charity that helps women on low incomes get back to work. Our consultants provide interview training to the women and SmartWorks supports them to look and feel great in a new interview outfit.  You can bring any ‘interview-worthy’ items of clothing or accessories that you would like to donate to your registration meeting and they will be very gratefully received.


How to succeed in your job search in 3 easy steps

26 Jan 2016 by Sarah Leembruggen.

So what’s your job search strategy?

With a streamlined job search strategy you can make your next move in your PR career sooner than you think. If you’ve dived right into your job search without one, the results may be adding more stress and difficulties than you would ideally like. It’s important to take a step back and think big picture for your career. Creating your strategy is simple - all you need to do to get it in place is follow these three easy steps.

1) Get clear on your goals

What is your ideal next step in your career? What do you enjoy most in your role? Do you know what job title you want to get, or what opportunities are fully available to you in relation to your skills and experience? What are you key must-haves in your next role – salary, promotion prospects, the company brand, the clients you work with? Have you got a wish list of dream PR agencies or in-house organisations that you would love to have on your CV? This is a good time to exercise your own knowledge and research the market, and draw up a ‘top 10’ – consider both agency and in-house. What advice can your network give you? Have you contacted a niche recruitment consultancy to get their ideas and advice? With an evolving PR job market this may also open up opportunities, career paths or exciting and interesting teams or organisations you didn’t know of.

2) Commit to your decision

Depending on what your criteria is, job searching can take months - or no time at all! You need to have committed to your decision to invest some time and energy in the search, and be prepared to manage your calendar with a degree of flexibility in order to have time for coffees, catch ups and interviews. Working exclusively with a trusted, high calibre niche recruitment consultancy can be hugely beneficial and relieve the stress of practical day to day organisation, as well as give you the opportunity to receive reassurance and advice at every stage. You also need to be prepared for the longer term – what happens if you receive an offer here, or next month? Will you be counter offered and how would you feel about that? If you’ve outlined your motivations and decisions clearly, this can reduce stress down the line if these questions come up through the process.

3) Be prepared to make changes

Update your CV if you need to – if it’s not been updated for a while, this can be a huge confidence boosting exercise and remind you of your achievements and skills. Is there any training or professional development courses you could undertake to add more strings to your bow? Have you got a mentor? Prepare for interviews by practising – answer interview questions aloud, if you’re partnering with a recruitment consultancy ask them for tips – and change your technique if it needs development. Know what campaigns you’ll talk about and examples you’re going to give in interviews. It’s important to get feedback after interviews so you know what you did well and what areas you can improve on for next time. 

The Works specialise in placing high flyers in PR and corporate communications. We have a strong track record of placing with professional services and offer career-making advice. Do get in touch if you would like our support building your team.


Have you got a clear promotion plan for you and your team? If not, why not? Sarah advises PR Week

19 Jan 2016 by Sarah Leembruggen.

As an employer and executive search consultant there isn’t one easy straight forward solution when it comes to progressing your career.

The industry especially over the last few years has changed enormously. The landscape has changed taking a much more sophisticated and integrated approach to communications. Heads of Comms and agency heads have now become experts in digital communications, employee engagement and content creation. It will clearly be a challenge to offer a crystal clear career path when what you’re doing is changing and skill sets are changing. How do employers keep up or just catch up?

There really isn’t a standard across the industry as to what is expected of each role/level in the industry. A director in one corporate agency could have wildly different skills, experience, intelligence, motives and attitude to another. So how do you offer career progression as an employer?

No two directors are the same and this is where PR falls down, especially the PR agencies. There is a huge assumption across the industry that a director in one agency is the same as a director in another. Wrong.

As an employer enabling your team to progress, giving them ownership, ensuring they know their purpose is worthwhile and encouraging them at every turn are just fundamentals.

A clear career path is also essential for all those involved (employee and employer) for job satisfaction and better retention. Our in-house comms teams excel over agencies when it comes to supplying job specs. It’s quite shocking when employers don’t spend the time to think exactly what each role should achieve and what great looks like. If the employer doesn’t know then how will the employee?

If you don’t know exactly what it will take for you to move up to the next level, then my advice would be to ask. Get tangible specifics. Start managing your own career and get clarity, and I mean real clarity. Sit down with your boss and agree a list of outcomes, behaviours and all the evidence required. The person responsible for your career is you. If you don’t want to move up, but move out, then take action.

You may not know exactly what you want but if you don’t look, you’ll never know. As an employer, it is great to have a values and motives meeting with each of your team every six months as life changes so quickly and people’s needs and aspirations change before you realise. One question to ask is: “What is important to you in your role?”

Understanding them and ensuring you are meeting their needs is key to helping them progress. You may not be able to agree on everything, however meeting them half way goes a long way.

Also, a mentor comes highly recommended, someone horribly successful who has done what you want to achieve.  Get clear on your goals and time frames and keep reading. Read life changing, inspiring books. Looking after the ‘golden goose’ (that’s you) and jumping on to training courses which will stretch you as continual learning is important.

You manage your learning to your skills, your experiences, your attitudes, your decisions and your career. It really is up to you.

If you want your career to be in a different place then it’s just a decision. What’s the one thing you could do today which will make a difference?

Start with the end in mind.

The original article “What’s the main driving force behind losing your key PR players?” was first published on PRWeek on 2nd November 2015. Read it here.  

The Works specialise in placing high flyers in PR and corporate communications. We have a strong track record of placing with professional services and offer career-making advice. Do get in touch if you would like our support building your team.


The headhunters reveal their goals for 2016 - What are yours?

12 Jan 2016 by Sarah Leembruggen.

As it’s rarely plain sailing to achieve your goals, mapping out your goals in attainable stages and tweaking them as you go along is a handy idea. Rather than saying, "I'm going to give up sugar", you could instead set a goal to reduce your sugar intake gradually, finding healthy alternatives and slowly but surely bringing about a lifestyle change - one which will stick.  Here the Works Search team share their personal goals for 2016 – what are your goals for the year, or which key steps would you like to achieve? We’d love to hear them - tweet us @theworksrecruit.

Sarah Leembruggen, Managing Director

"To buy something inspiring and/or seasonal from Borough Market every Friday, find a recipe which uses it and cook it over the weekend.  In this way, I will learn new dishes and make the most of what's on my doorstep. By the end of the year, I will have a new repertoire and be more creative with meals."

James Baybutt, Senior Consultant

“My goal is to improve my tennis and try to move up a league from league 3 to league 2, and I’m giving myself a deadline for the end of April.”

Warren Madlin, Consultant

“To confidently hold conversations in Spanish by the end of the year and use on future travels to Spain and Latin America. I will begin by listening to a series of 4 audio books I have already purchased before signing up to Spanish classes and buying interactive software.”

Miriam Hanna, Consultant

“To go for a run once a week. I feel better after a run but I never really do it because I feel it’s a big commitment. When I say to myself I will simply go once a week, I mentally make it a little easier and who knows, maybe I will do it more regularly when I get into the routine. I want to have better physical fitness as it makes me feel more alert and so much more productive!”

Megan Crayford-Noble, Consultant

“My goal is to learn to speak Spanish, using my commute each day to learn and practising at home until I feel confident enough to hold a conversation.”

Millie Ginnett, Consultant

“My goal was set while my boyfriend and I were travelling in Australia. We both read three books each in the space of a month and realised how reliant on technology we have become for evening entertainment. It was refreshing to realise that reading shouldn’t be and doesn’t have to be a chore. Due to my dyslexia, leisure reading is something I had avoided as I tend to struggle to read when I’m tired, however, during the holiday I was reminded how educational, stimulating and enjoyable it can be. My goal is to replace watching television with reading at least three times a week and a minimum of one book a month.”

Emmy Mayo-Jennings, Resourcer

“My two main personal goals for the year are 1) Taking up mindfulness- both an eight week mindfulness course I am starting, as well as taking up Yoga/Pilates at my gym and incorporating mindfulness into exercise. 2)Booking weekend trips either in the UK or European countries every other month so I have something to look forward to every two months and will hopefully have visited 6 new cities by 2017!”

Lizzie Potts, Resourcer

“My goal is to go to the gym three times a week, gradually increasing the difficulty of my workouts, working up to completing a long distance run later in the year. This way I will improve my fitness, energy levels and sleep patterns.”

Kate Juhler, Executive Search Associate

“To do a full scorpion pose in yoga by the end of the year. To achieve this I need to commit to practising at least three times per week. I also need to watch my nutrition (I’m working towards cutting out dairy and refined sugar for good) and do daily core and back strengthening exercises. This will give me extra strength and a sense of achievement by the end of the year- not just for the scorpion pose but for others too, and because it is such a hard/advanced pose I will know I have achieved something great.”

Abby Warren, Business Support and Marketing Manager

“My goal for the year is to get involved with more charity volunteering. I’ve been accepted as a volunteer with Centrepoint, which is a fantastic homeless charity for 16-25 year olds, and I am looking forward to doing further volunteering with more organisations throughout the year.”


Heads of Comms, are you managing your team according to their ‘type’?  (PLUS free download)

09 Dec 2015 by Sarah Leembruggen.

You will have no doubt noticed that each time you set out to deliver any kind of training to your new recruits or the existing members of your team, the way they internalise and apply the information and skills you are imparting is different – often wildly so – every time.  That’s because most people possess a preferred or dominant learning style.  This learning style is also a reflection of the type of person they are – how they perceive things and the way that they relate to the world.

To understand the learning styles of your team, there is a simple test they can take that will show you what type of learners they are, characterised by the way they link and relate to the world around them.  The test is based on the idea presented by Michael Brooks in his book “Instant Rapport” that every action you take, or sentence you say, is preceded by one or more of four internal Representational Systems – visual, auditory, kinaesthetic, and auditory digital.  By getting your team to take the test, you can identify which type they are, which will pinpoint their strengths, helping you to tailor the way you deliver your training – and generate more effective results.

These are some of the characteristics that define the learning style of each type:


Visual learners prefer to take in information by seeing and often process it in pictorial form.   They like to read handouts, look at graphs and use symbols.  Demonstrations, displays and films are also incredibly effective for visual learners.  If you just talk at them with no visual aids, they will soon switch off.


Auditory learners prefer to listen and take in information by what they hear.  They favour lectures and discussions over reading.  They like to be told how they’re doing and respond to a certain tone of voice or set of words.


Kinaesthetic learners learn by experience and particularly by tactile   exploration of the world.  They prefer to learn by practical hands-on methods and experimentation.  

You’ll find that they make a lot of their decisions based on whether something ‘feels right’. They love a hand-out too.


Auditory digital learners will often work things out by talking to themselves; they want to know that what you are saying ‘makes sense’ and like to understand and size up what they have been told.

As well as paying attention to the way a member of your team learns, you will also build a much better rapport and effective communication channel if you match their style of speaking.  The words someone uses reflects whether they are thinking using their visual, auditory, or kinaesthetic systems, and this gives you an insight into how their brain is sorting information.  Knowing this is a direct link to translating your language to their representational system, which creates a very deep rapport, and influences at an unconscious level.

For instance, a visual person will use words like ‘see’, ‘look’, ‘view’. An auditory person will make use of internal dialogue and use words such as ‘hear’, ‘listen’, ‘speak’.  A kinaesthetic person will use phrases such as ‘get a hold of’, ‘touch upon’, ‘it feels’.

Once you have identified the ‘type’ of employees you are managing, you can tailor the words you use to suit their representational system, and present your message in a way that they understand:

To a visual person – ‘I see what you mean.’

To an auditory person – ‘I hear what you are saying .’

To a kinaesthetic person – ‘I understand how you are feeling.’

To an auditory digital person – ‘That makes sense.’

If there isn’t clear communication between you and your team, everything can and will eventually go wrong. As human beings, we innately want to be understood. Knowing how to communicate with each and every player according to their types will facilitate the building of a relationship that will generate a deep mutual understanding – and outstanding results and achievements.

Take the 1-minute ‘type assessment’ here and read the explanation of styles here.

The Works specialise in placing high flyers in PR and corporate communications. We have a strong track record of placing with professional services and offer career-making advice. Do get in touch if you would like our support building your team.


How do you fast-track your career? Industry high-flyers tell us how it’s done

01 Dec 2015 by Miriam Hanna.

Most people want to grow professionally and get to the top. Gen Y in particular are keen to fast-track their way up the corporate ladder – but what is the best way to navigate a competitive market and give yourself that extra edge?  ‘How to fast-track your career’ was the topic of our most recent event, aimed at mid-level PR professionals.  It was our pleasure to have three senior-level industry experts head up the event – Zaman Toleafoa, Senior Managing Director of FTI; James Igoe, Head of Media Relations at Deloitte, and Kate Bosomworth, MD of Speed Communications.  With their truly impressive combined knowledge and expertise, Zaman, James and Kate had a wealth of great advice to share.  The event sparked several areas of discussion, prompted by the interesting questions put to our ‘panel’ by the attendees.  Here’s our pick of the best:

What attributes do you look for when promoting?

Accountability, being organised, demonstrating good judgement and the ability/potential to nurture a team are all important attributes that are considered when promoting.  “When I hear the same name come up from different sources, such as team members, journalists and clients, I feel more inclined to promote,” mentioned Zaman. “Your name can be mentioned in all manner of ways, but the point is they are coming to you for advice or are quoting you as dependable.” he explained.  Kate pointed out that within Speed as part of the wider mix they also actively look for people with a passion, hobby or strong interest outside of work. “The people who have a hobby they are passionate about will put that same passion into their work, and will be more successful as a result. You want an interesting bunch of people to make up a team and this helps create that.” she remarked.

Is promotion quicker in agencies or in-house?

While the perception is that an agency has more levels to progress through, both Zaman and Kate warned about over-promoting.  “There is something to be said about ‘time behind the wheel’ and just having that experience to advise and consult with a client and reassure them that you know what you’re doing.” said Kate.  Simply put, if you are too hung up on titles, it can detrimentally affect how well you can service your clients.  As Kate pointed out, “You don’t want your confidence to take a hit further down the line when you are unable to deal with something simply because you have progressed too quickly.”

How important are training and mentoring when it comes to fast-tracking your career? 

The prevailing message from all three of our experts was a very clear and simple one – you are responsible for your own career, so take ownership of it.  James commented, “Don’t wait for people to offer training to you on a silver platter.  Ask to be invested in and invest in yourself.”  There was a consensus on identifying someone to act as a mentor. “It’s so valuable having that objective view on your career,” observed Kate. “Mentors can also have a role sponsoring and championing your progression.”

Moving in-house gives you an easy life – true or false?

James was very clear that working in-house does not give you an easy life, but believes it comes with a different set of pressures. “You are living and breathing one brand,” he pointed out.  “This ought to increase the strategic nature of your role and increase your access to senior stakeholders, but also changes the expectations of you and opens up the need to navigate internal politics.” he said.  Kate added that while a commonly cited advantage of working in-house is the access to senior level, this can also be achieved in an agency by asking to work on smaller accounts. This said, all three pros agreed that agencies should be mindful of the need to be more flexible in order to retain their best staff.  Don’t assume your agency isn’t flexible – be the trailblazer if you need to!

The take-home advice from the event was to go ahead and ask for promotion and salary increases, and not to wait for them to be handed to you.  Throughout the year, look at the commercial difference you have made in your role and present that with a very clear idea of what you want.

What has been your experience of career progression?  We’d like to hear from you.

The Works specialise in placing high flyers in PR and corporate communications. We have a strong track record of placing with professional services and offer career-making advice. Do get in touch if you would like our support building your team.


Our interview with Viktoria Tegard, Head of Change Communications at Virgin Atlantic Airways

18 Nov 2015 by Megan Crayford-Noble.

Could you give us a brief overview of your internal communications career so far – how did you get to where you are today?

When I came to the UK in 2002, I secured an in-house, internal communications role with what was then Churchill Insurance.  It was an exciting time as Churchill and Direct Line merged not long thereafter, creating what is now Direct Line Group.

I went on to set up the Internal Communications function for First Choice Holidays PLC’s UK and Ireland business, recruiting and managing the Internal Comms team there. When First Choice merged with TUI Travel in 2007, I had the opportunity to lead the internal communication workstream in the UK and Ireland. Following this, I moved into Group Corporate Communications in the new organisation. This involved leading initiatives to engage over 50,000 employees in more than 200 countries.

Ready for a change, I moved across to Virgin Atlantic Airways in 2013. I was attracted to the strong brand and the extraordinary customer and people focus. Our CEO Craig Kreeger had recently joined with a mission to return the airline to profitability, which made it a very exciting time to come aboard. As head of internal communications I’ve led a team of seven for close to 2.5 years, driving employee engagement and making sure we deliver on our brand promise internally. For the past year I’ve also been leading the communication workstream of the largest business transformation initiative in Virgin Atlantic’s history. This has recently led to my taking on an exciting new role as head of change communications.

How would you say the internal communications industry has changed in the last five years?

Overall there’s a much stronger appreciation in businesses that there’s a close link between employee engagement, customer satisfaction and a company’s profitability.  As a result, excellent internal communication is viewed as absolutely fundamental in any organisation that wants to be high performing. I think this has been very positive for the internal communications industry overall.  There are more exciting roles available and more people are choosing internal communication as their specialism, which is great to see.

In one sentence what advice would you give to someone starting out in internal communications?

It’s incredibly important to be genuinely interested in all aspects of the business that you’re working in, as well as having the ability to quickly build relationships at all levels.

What is the biggest challenge you have faced in your internal communications career so far?

The biggest challenge was probably coming over to the UK from Sweden all those years ago, deciding to establish myself and build a career over here.  I’m so glad I did as I’ve had the opportunity to work for some great companies and I really enjoy living here.

What are the top three essentials you look for when you’re hiring for your team?

1. Commercial awareness – I look for candidates with the ability to clearly articulate how their work can impact the success of an organisation.

2. All-round communicator – It’s essential that candidates have strong written and verbal communication skills, as well as a good understanding of employee engagement.

3. People skills – Working in internal communications, it’s important to have the ability to quickly build rapport with colleagues at all levels.

You are incredibly busy in your professional life, what do you do outside of work to de-stress?

Spending quality time with family and friends is the best form of relaxation for me.  I also try to fit in some time to exercise when I can.  I’ve recently taken up running and there’s nothing better to clear your head than going for a run while listening to some great music.

What is the biggest lesson you have learned as a leader in internal communications?

While it’s incredibly important to be proactive and plan, you also have to be very flexible and prepared for things changing.  In my experience it helps to be both adaptable and resilient when working in internal communications!

The Works specialise in placing high flyers in PR and corporate communications. We have a strong track record of placing with professional services and offer career-making advice. Do get in touch if you would like our support building your team.


Lessons learned from managing crises on a global scale across time zones in this digital age

11 Nov 2015 by Kate Sheikh.

Jonathan Refoy shared some of his issues-rich experience at our recent Thought Leaders Connected breakfast debate at The Club at The Ivy.  With 25 senior communications and PR professionals in attendance, we had the pleasure of hearing Jonathan speak about the valuable lessons he has learned in the industry. 

Having spent several years at BAA, Walmart and Tesco prior to CH2M, he definitely knows a thing or two to consider in times of crisis. 

His presentation was supported by Imogen Allen-Back, Solicitor at Pinsent Masons, who provided practical advice on how to involve a legal team and lawyers in a media crisis.

These are Jonathan’s top five lessons learned from managing a crisis on a global scale:

1. First and foremost – always be prepared 

Do you know the ins and outs of everything that could possibly go wrong in regard to likely operational challenges and have modelled a communications response for these scenarios? 

Make sure the company Risk Committee accurately reflects the communications challenges your organisation may face and these are understood at board level. The best way to do this is ensure that there is representation from the communications function on the Risk Committee so that they have a say in steering the direction and reporting. 

2. Don’t get distracted by ‘Twitter and Co’

It is important to remember that social media has its limitations. LinkedIn and Twitter can be extremely useful tools to profile senior leadership and the companies’ values in peace times. In times of a crisis, however, it is important to not get overly distracted by these channels. Focus on the day-to-day news channels that reach the target audience you want and that will lead and form opinions of regulators, clients etc. 

In some cases, it might even be necessary to shut down certain channels like LinkedIn profiles or Twitter accounts and direct all communications through one channel – for example, the company Webpage – to help avoid inconsistent messaging and to help control dialogue with stakeholders. 

3. Get the legal and operations team on board

Imogen Allen-Back advises that it is vital to ensure your communications team develops a communications-led solution in partnership with Legal/Operations in peace time. This will ensure that there is slick and immediate communication approved by the legal team, providing cover on all bases and an official response line. In times of crises, the legal team can quickly carry out a forensic investigation, which can in turn inform the PR narrative and communications response, with minimum delay in response time. 

Imogen’s top 3 reasons to involve the lawyers are: 

• To investigate and establish the facts – it is incredibly important to establish quickly what the true position is, which will inform the response

• To understand which legal remedies might be available to enable some legal pressure to be applied

• To maintain legal privilege in the event of a dispute

4. Know and overly engage with NGOs as critical friends

NGOs or Not-For-Profit organisations have a high influence on public opinion and their support can help establishing facts. This will not only help in the public eye, but also with your own staff. In a crisis, your own employees can quickly become influenced by outside opinion against a company position, which makes it critical to have a clear strategy for your internal communications – and the support of NGOs here can be a vital tool. 

5. Plan for multi-jurisdiction/-region communications response

Put a plan in place to ensure consistent messaging across regions and countries – make sure the key messages are communicated across the business so everybody knows what they should and should not be saying. 

In situations where there is a communications issue with involves more than one country it is important to define protocols that enable local corporate affairs teams to respond to issues when the group HQ may not be engaged to being in a different time zone. So determine which country or office ‘owns’ what. Another key measure is to carry out through and regular media training for CEOs, COOs and other who will be the public face of a crisis response. This investment will always pay off.

And lastly – have a strategy in place for handover across time zones – for example ensure that Australia will hand over to London and London will hand over to the US to avoid sleepless nights. 

The points raised by Jonathan and Imogen sparked a lively and thought-provoking debate around the table, particularly regarding the use of social media and how it can both support and hinder your communications strategy – a topic many of the attendees mentioned would make an interesting theme for a future event. 

What topics would you like to hear more about?  Who in the industry would you like to hear from

The Works specialise in placing high flyers in PR and corporate communications. We have a strong track record of placing with professional services and offer career-making advice. Do get in touch if you would like our support building your team.


What’s the biggest interview killer for PR pros?

04 Nov 2015 by Sarah Leembruggen.

So how can you go into an interview with a mindset that isn’t going to fall victim to unhelpful thinking and hamper your chances of success?  Try these techniques:

Have a positive vision

The power of thought it a mighty tool that is continually shaping outcomes in your life.  The shaping is usually a subconscious process but it is possible to make it a conscious one.  So picture yourself making a good impression at the interview and getting the job.  Make your vision as detailed as possible.  Explore how you will feel when you get the job and how it will affect the course of your life.  By getting into the habit of visualising only favourable situations, you will start to turn your mind towards the positive and enhance your chances of achieving your goals.

Transform the way your mind thinks

It’s all too easy to put yourself down in your thoughts and allow words such ‘stupid’, ‘useless’, ‘hopeless’ and ‘pointless’ to slip in.  Use positive words when you are talking to others and to yourself.  Obviously this requires work, so when you become aware of a negative thought entering your mind, replace it with a positive one.  If the negative thought comes back, replace it again.  A persistent approach will eventually teach your mind to think positively.

Create your own affirmations

Affirmations are positive statements that describe a desired situation, event, habit, or goal. When you repeat these positive statements often, mentally or aloud, they engrave themselves on the subconscious mind.  This transforms the way you think, your habits and attitude, and helps you create an incredibly positive impression and achieve success.

For an interview, a good affirmation might be, ‘I have secured this amazing job and I’m really excited about starting with the company.’

Eliminate nonchalance

Many times, you can go along to an interview telling yourself that you’re perfectly content in your current role, you don’t hate it so it doesn't matter if you don’t get it. However this kind of laissez faire approach is going to do you no favours in the interview. Your nonchalance will be spotted in your body language or your tone of voice.  The same thing happens when you go in telling yourself that you probably won't get the job.  Studies show that as much as 80% of the outcome of an interview is based around non-verbal communication, so however well you think you are masking what is going on inside your head, you will be showing it in some way, and an interviewer will pick up on that.  The right mindset is absolutely key.  Go in with confidence, enthusiasm and a positive frame of mind, and all of this will exude from you.  So the next time you find yourself saying that it doesn't matter if you don't get the job, stop yourself in your tracks.  Replace the thought immediately; throw yourself into it mentally, be the champion you want to be and see the difference.

If you can’t picture yourself in your own mind being extremely successful, getting to the top of your game, achieving your ambitions and goals, then chances are you never will.  

How do you prepare yourself mentally for an interview?  We’d love to hear.

The Works specialise in placing high flyers in PR and corporate communications. We have a strong track record of placing with professional services and offer career-making advice. Do get in touch if you would like our support building your team.


What’s the main driving force behind losing your key PR players?

02 Nov 2015 by Sarah Leembruggen.

The Works' recent survey shows that salary uplifts are not the main motivation for seeking out a new role, but the lack of progression opportunities.

Sarah Leembruggen writes for PR Week on what the industry can do to improve employee retention.

Read the full article here.

The Works specialise in placing high flyers in PR and corporate communications. We have a strong track record of placing with professional services and offer career-making advice. Do get in touch if you would like our support building your team.


Heads of Comms – Are the members of your team honking like geese?

29 Oct 2015 by Sarah Leembruggen.

Gung Ho!: How to Motivate People in Any Organisation’ is an inspiring read, linking the behavior of animals to show how people should interact effectively in the workplace.  

In the 13 years that I have been running The Works, I have headed up teams of all shapes and sizes – and one thing that they all have in common is the desire to be appreciated for their work.  Recognition motivates team members to do an even better job in the future, since they know you value their efforts.  So don’t hold back on handing out commendations – or you could find there’s no one left to receive your words of praise.

Data from Oracle shows that 30% of UK workers said their peers have the most positive impact on how engaged they feel.  That’s a big statistic and bears thinking about if you want to nurture a ‘recognition-rich’ culture.

As an employer, I dole out praise on a regular basis – and from time to time, I am on the receiving end of it too.  So what have I learnt when it comes to appropriate praise and recognition?

1. Give praise frequently

I was once told to give praise three times as much as I normally would.  It sounded a little extreme at the time but it’s not.  We all enjoy receiving compliments, so I am mindful of making sure I give plenty of   meaningful feedback and recognition for a job well done.  Gen Y in particular is driven by progress and achievement.  They need to know exactly what is expected of them and if their work is on track.  So I give them a crystal clear career path, explain all big goals and milestones and let them know that their efforts are appreciated and valued.

2. Dish out the praise in real time

While the annual review may be the ideal time to assess how employees are doing, talk through any issues and set goals together, it is not the one and only time to give praise for the year’s achievements.  Successes – both big and small – need to be celebrated as they happen.  Nobody wants to wait for a year to hear how they’re performing – the chances are, they’ll be long gone before the review comes around.  I make a point of holding a monthly meeting with each team member so that we can communicate openly and recognise accomplishments as well as staying on top of goals and objectives.

3. The praise should come from everyone – not just the boss

I am extremely mindful of the market – at present, it’s all about competitive hiring and high staff turnover – so having an effective recognition scheme in place goes a long way towards employee engagement and retention.  The scheme is simple and it works because it’s collaborative. I am not the only one who dishes out the rewards.  Members of the team nominate each other for their good work via our online HR system – when someone sees a colleague doing work that is aligned with company values or goes above and beyond, they can give kudos.  It’s a wonderful way to embed recognition into our engagement strategy.

4. Specific praise encourages employees to work with a purpose

I know that our kudos system works because the members of the team are all really active using it, and the kudos has to be given for something specific, which makes it meaningful to the receiver. The system is set up in such a way that everyone can see who has been given kudos so the recognition is widespread and the chosen employee feels genuinely appreciated. It’s been instrumental in nurturing our high performance culture.  I am nonetheless conscious that some employees respond better to one-to-one recognition.  Not everyone wants to be praised in front of the team.

5. Everyone wants to be the best

Even though we may not admit it, we are in competition with each other every day – and I see no point in making a secret of this in our workplace.  We have targets to meet and a world to conquer!  One small but important step towards realising this is to tot up the kudos every month and give out an ‘employee of the month’ award to the team member who has received the most.  It’s become an essential ingredient in our office culture.

Remember: Praising an employee or a colleague for a job well done costs you nothing, and there is no cap on the amount of praise you can give.  Maybe it’s time to bring in the geese?

The Works specialise in placing high flyers in PR and corporate communications. We have a strong track record of placing with professional services and offer career-making advice. Do get in touch if you would like our support building your team.


‘Don’t be afraid to ask for advice or to take a risk’ - Interview with Tania Littlehales of M&S

22 Oct 2015 by Sarah Leembruggen.

Our interview with Tania Littlehales, Head of Product PR at Marks & Spencer.

Please tell us about your career path to date and how you came to be in your current role.

I did a Business Studies degree at Westminster University and took marketing and PR modules in my final year there. I did a year in industry during my third year which I spent working as an editorial assistant for a cosmetics trade publication.  I enjoyed the writing but knew I wasn’t really cut out to be a journalist. What I did find fascinating though was working with PR’s for the first time and seeing the breadth and scope of what they did.

After graduating I applied for the graduate scheme at consultancy Biss Lancaster and after a pretty rigorous interview process was offered a role there as graduate trainee. I spent 7 years there working on mainly consumer accounts and worked up to Account Director.  I then had the opportunity to go on secondment to MTV Europe as Acting Head of Corporate Affairs, covering a maternity leave, which was a fantastic chance to see what working in an in-house role was like.  From there I moved to be Head of PR at the National Magazine Company (now Hearst UK) and spent two years there before getting the role at M&S as Head of Product PR.

What (and/or who) do you attribute your successful career progression to?

A combination of a number of things – hard work; putting myself forward to get involved, especially early in my career; working for and with some great people; being willing to learn and try new things – and to admit mistakes and learn from them!  Being interested in news stories and media generally. And really enjoying what I do and what PR can achieve. In some ways I was lucky that I found a career that I enjoyed and have been pretty good at.

You are heading up an influencer programme that aims to generate more positive media coverage for M&S.  How will the programme go about achieving that?

It’s not only about positive media coverage as the whole PR team works on that every single day. The influencer and opinion former programme is more about connecting with people who have platform or a voice in a variety of ways that ultimately reaches our customer and making sure that they are as informed and educated about what makes M&S and our products unique or special, as the journalists who cover us all the time. 

What are your top 3 tips for building strong relationships with the media?

Understanding their needs – deadlines, context, what they do and don’t cover, their reader, what makes a story for them
Being quick to respond and being flexible and always meeting their deadlines
A genuine, open approach

How do you juggle having a successful career and twin boys?

Prioritising, being organized, a supportive partner and a great nanny! They’re a fantastic reality check and no matter how bad a day you have had they put it all in perspective and are guaranteed to make me laugh!

What advice would you give to women aspiring to high-profile careers?

I always remember a lecturer when I was at uni saying in one of our lectures that if you got offered a job you liked or one that paid loads of money, take the money every time. I would disagree with that and say try to find a job or a role that you really enjoy and work hard to be the best you can be at it. 

Remember that not everyone is going to be the next CEO and you need great team players and do-ers as much as future leaders.  Always hire people who are better than you.  Don’t be afraid to ask for advice or to take a risk.   Be willing to help and do things outside your remit – you will learn more, get exposed to people you might not meet otherwise and people will recognise you as a good person to work with. Give praise where due no matter how small it might be, always say thank you and if something has gone wrong, give criticism quickly, succinctly and move on. 


From Average to Amazing – Turn Your Underperformers into High Achievers

16 Oct 2015 by Sarah Leembruggen.

Here are our six secrets on how to turn the average into amazing.

1. Look at the facts

The key is not to assign blame to personality. If an employee is not meeting targets, it’s very likely that they won’t be in a good place and their self-confidence will have taken a knock. Just as you did when you hired them, remove all subjectivity from your management process. Sit down and have a meeting about how to move forward. Use past facts and figures in order to establish what they need to focus on in order to get better results.  Discuss what has stopped them achieving the results they want. The pivot of their underperformance should not be about them as a person. It’s facts and figures all the way.

2. Build more rapport

Work out if the underperformance is skill or will. If they just haven't nailed a particular skill, then put some training in place; if they have reached a point where they have lost the will to succeed, then sit down with them to help them connect with why they're there and what their purpose is. Ask yourself if you really understand what's important to them in their job and career. If you don’t fully understand what makes them tick, it’s time for a chat. You need to establish a deeper rapport – look for things in common, share stories around those things and build a bond of trust.

3. Stop answering their questions!

Any Head of Comms who has had training on how to coach employees will know that a ‘mother hen’ approach to building a high performing team isn’t ever going to succeed. Most experienced PR consultants will know the answers, so step back and let them discover them. They will make mistakes – and they should, as that’s how they learn best.  Our recent Salary Survey showed that ownership of role and feeling of empowerment feature in the top three factors when PR and Comms professionals look for a new role. So stop giving them all the answers – give ownership, and watch levels of satisfaction and success rise. 

4. Believe in them

If you treat each member of your team, including the underperformers, like a high achiever and challenge them in the same way, the stretch will carry them forward. More importantly, they need to feel that the boss believes that they can do it. When they feel your belief and hear your encouragement, they will automatically feel more motivated and be in a better place to turn their struggles into successes.  

5. Give encouragement

This may sound like another obvious sounding piece of advice – but it’s not just about celebrating the big wins. Remember to mark the smaller successes too. Make sure you are giving recognition to your successful campaigns and the people who made it happen.  Putting a praise and supportive culture in place will help carry people forward.

6. Stick or carrot?

Do you know if your team members are motivated by a carrot or a stick?  Are they a ‘towards’ or ‘away from’ person?  Are they focused on goals or do they move away from the worst that can happen? In recruitment, 60% of consultants are motivated by a stick and the threat of losing their job, rather than being motivated by creating their own pay cheque.  Including employees in the process of outlining individual performance targets and asking them how they would like to improve, what they would like to achieve and the new skills they want to learn will motivate them to work hard and strive for high levels of performance.

At the end of the day, humans at work share fundamental needs that have never changed – we all want to be informed, we want our opinions to matter, we want to be involved in creating changes and improvements, and we want to be acknowledged for our efforts.  Keep this in mind and before long, you’ll be managing a dream team.

The Works specialise in placing high flyers in PR and corporate communications. We have a strong track record of placing with professional services and offer career-making advice. Do get in touch if you would like our support building your team.


Hiring an agency vs. building an in-house team – Consumer PR Heads of Media and PR Managers advise

07 Oct 2015 by Sarah Leembruggen.

A successful campaign will help expand your business in ways you could never on your own, but hiring an agency to carry out that campaign is no longer the first port of call for many businesses.  PR services are not cheap and there is no guarantee that the campaign is going to produce the desired results, so when the right time to hire an agency, and – if you do hire one – how can you ensure that you pick a good match?

Catherine Bayles, Head of Media Relations at Eurostar, believes that if you work with an agency, the relationship needs to be viewed as a true partnership. 

“I firmly believe that you should think of your PR agency as part of your team, not as a third party,” she explains.  “While they will work with more than just your account, you should never feel as though they are working with anyone but you.” 

Catherine recommends looking for an agency with a similar approach to the one you adopt in-house. “You must never lose sight of the fact that you’re going to be spending a lot of time with these people, so look at the relationship as all inclusive, not an average client-agency collaboration.  Working together as partners is the only way to have amazing PR success and reach the goals you have for your business.”

While looking for a good track record in delivering results and an understanding of the brand are critical in the selection process, it’s equally important to seek out evidence that the agency has a genuine passion and belief in the pitch.  The Head of Consumer PR at one leading retailer explained how agencies have come in, all guns blazing, with fabulous ideas and a big budget, but with little or no strategy to support their amazing pitch.  At the end of the day, Heads of Media need to see that the agency will see the campaign through and make their dazzling promises a reality.

If you have clear objectives for your business and the resources to support your investment, hiring a PR agency can be a very smart move.  But it’s not a one-size-fits-all answer.  Not every business will have the budget to seek external PR counsel and will focus instead on growing their in-house function, as is the case with many upcoming challenger brands.

When we spoke to Amy Grimshaw, European PR Manager at online designer furniture retailer, she revealed that they were not using the services of any agencies for their consumer PR in the UK.  Amy is in charge of all their campaigns and heads up the small and very busy in-house team of two.  “The key reason is that our business model is all about cutting out the middle men – this includes agencies where possible but also, in-house teams know more about the brand – the depth of their understanding is hard to match.”  Aiming to differentiate their original products from the leading brands, the focus at is to promote their uniqueness to certain segments of the market. “We don’t see ourselves as a High Street brand,” explains Amy, “and we rely on very different ways to engage with consumers.  I think this drives the desire to hire in-house as we grow our PR function.”

It’s a similar story at online furniture retailer Loaf, where all PR is handled in-house, headed up by their Communications Manager and Head of News, Sally Flower.  With a team to support her, Sally believes that an understanding of the brand grows hand in hand with the company culture.  “We can put 100 per cent of our focus and energy into the brand and produce work of a better calibre,” she says.  “Our goal is to stand out from the crowd, we have a clearly defined view of what success looks like – and we can accomplish these things with our in-house team.”

The Works specialise in placing high flyers in PR and corporate communications. We have a strong track record of placing with professional services and offer career-making advice. Do get in touch if you would like our support building your team.


What can we learn from Richard Branson? Sarah Leembruggen shares what she has learned from an icon

01 Oct 2015

We all have some Richard Branson in us – these 5 of his business mantras really resonate with me.

1. Say yes!

OK, I nabbed this one off Richard. It’s a really good one though. There are plenty of times when it’s easy to say yes, but how about the times when saying yes will take you out of your comfort zone? I for one have definitely ‘bottled out’ on a number of occasions, purely because I felt too uncomfortable saying yes – only to be left wondering what would the outcome have been had I gone for it.  Running a business doesn’t often leave me with a choice – there are many times when I have to bite the bullet, step way out of my comfort zone and paste a smile on my face that says, ‘It’s all fine – really, it is.’  I’ve come to understand that being in business is one long rollercoaster ride, so just scream hysterically (inside of course, smile firmly in place at all times) and enjoy the ride. 

2. Look for a challenge

Even at our lowest point, I have never stopped seeking out the next challenge – whether it’s a training course, talking to mentors who will help me put things in perspective and give me that all-important push or simply giving something new a go. I have pursued more challenges than I can count, and not all of them have been successful, but the real value is simply in the striving.

3. Learn

Never, ever stop learning!  After years of hard work that have culminated in a successful ascent of the career ladder, you may unwittingly fall into ‘cruise control’.  However this is not the behaviour of the best entrepreneurs in the world.  They all understand that they have to continuously learn to be successful.  I know that there are always new skills for me to grasp and techniques to adopt.  I try to regularly ask myself the question: How can I be better?  Try it! You are the best tool you have got.  When was the last time you went along to a seminar or event out of interest rather than being told to go?  Are you reading a little every day from a variety of different books or is your head stuck in the FT, looking at the same columns?  Knowledge isn't power unless you put it into action.  Get active and broaden your learning!

4. Be optimistic

Anyone who knows me will probably say that I am an optimist through and through.  I stand by the belief that success is inevitable.  Even when the market has been appalling and the company has been on its knees, I have always known things will turn out to be ok.  There are no ups without the downs, no highs without the hard knocks.  It may have taken me a while to realise it – 12 years of running a business to be precise – but I need to manage a process and not the people. I love building, shaping, tweaking and getting processes to be the best they can be.  When things get tough, I just remind myself that we have most likely been through worse and carry on – I know it will pass, just as all blips, hiccups, and glitches do. I'm also acutely aware that my thoughts shape my reality and so I'm careful about what I think. Positive energy is one of our company values and to me, this translates as total optimism.

5. Stand out from the crowd

One of the reasons I bought The Works was because I wanted to get things right and be remembered for it. Executive search/recruitment doesn't have the best reputation so I strove from the outset to build the business around our values, which I hope has set us apart from the businesses with the not-so-good reputations.  Our focus has been and always will be on superior knowledge, taking care, quality delivery, positive energy and the utmost integrity.  Now, having recently taken full ownership of the business, I have reassessed where we are at and I can still see there is room for improvement, so watch this space as there are exciting times ahead.  

I’m chasing your tail, Richard!

Thank you as always for your amazing support.

The Works specialise in placing high flyers in PR and corporate communications. We have a strong track record of placing with professional services and offer career-making advice. Do get in touch if you would like our support building your team.


Half Yearly Market Report – Trends in the Search Market

22 Sep 2015 by Sarah Leembruggen.

44% of the candidates we have placed over the past year have been from people we have approached either from referral or headhunted for a role. As a result, we have needed to be more proactive than ever in this market. We have found that our exclusive service has been very popular and we filled 80% of these roles in one month to six week periods.  We placed 37% of candidates from advertising which goes to show that advertising isn’t necessarily going to lead you to the best person for the job.

Counter offers becoming standard practice

As headhunters, we work in the 60% of the market that we refer to as ‘passive’ – people who are not actively looking to move but will do so if we find them a really exciting role.  Naturally, we pick the high performers and they all are getting counter-offered – something that has become standard this year.  Based on the placements we have made over the past 6 months, PR and Comms professionals are looking at an average uplift of a very attractive 14% if they move in-house and an equally healthy 13% in an agency – this is in part a knock-on effect from a flat market and a period of unhealthy pay rises, but it’s most certainly food for thought.  As a consequence, current employers are flying into action and doing their best to retain their high performers with counter offers, but 99% still move.

Which roles are hot this year?

In Corporate and Financial PR, there’s been a real demand for in-house senior level PR Managers (30% of all roles filled), while the demand in agencies is for Account Executives and Account Managers (17% and 18% respectively) with an increased interest in Associate Director roles (18%) this year.

It’s a similar story in Consumer PR with PR Managers being the most sought after roles in-house (23% of placements) and the same high demand in agencies for Account Directors (12%) along with more requests for Associate Directors. Many of the smaller agencies are actively growing their business, which has seen a need to hire at a more senior level to create a balanced structure within their teams, keeping motivation levels high and encouraging retention.

In Internal Comms, it’s the Manager and Senior Manager roles that top the list. Internal Comms has really come to the forefront this year with almost every sector introducing or expanding their internal comms function. We anticipate plenty more new opportunities opening up for professionals in this sector.

Who’s hiring for their PR teams?

We have placed a number of people in-house with law firms such as King & Wood Mallesons, private equity investment groups including Apax Partners, Boston Consulting Group and Deloitte, property firms Savills, Knight Frank, and Grosvenor, retailers such as Sainsbury’s, and asset managers like LaSalle Investment Management.

We have also found some really talented Directors/MDs for Headland, Powerscourt and FTI Consulting.

What are the in-demand skills?

In Corporate and Financial PR, clients are looking for people with new business acumen, senior level gravitas and a drive to grow business.

In Consumer PR, there is a definite demand for professionals who have skills and experience in more than one sector.  An Account Manager who has experience in consumer tech, retail and lifestyle would be more desirable than a food and drink specialist.

For Internal Comms professionals, senior level IT transformation experience is very attractive to potential employers, as are excellent managers with lots of energy and broad-based experience.

How have we adapted to the skill shortage?

The majority of the briefs we handle now are on an exclusive basis – as we are filling 80% of these, we are giving our clients peace of mind.  Working exclusively with our clients is the only way to guarantee getting the best people on your team in a short time frame.

We have hired two more Resourcers on our team and they are lucky enough to headhunt all day long, ensuring that we are in touch with the best in the market.  There will be four further additions to the team as we look to build the business.

The Works specialise in placing high flyers in PR and corporate communications. We have a strong track record of placing with professional services and offer career-making advice. Do get in touch if you would like our support building your team.


The 5 key strategies that will make you a hiring superhero

17 Sep 2015 by Sarah Leembruggen.

We can’t count the number of times we’ve heard about how they’ve fallen short trying to fill roles, interviewing over 20 people and meeting only the wrong people, resulting in either a bad hire or none at all.

Does this sound familiar to you?  Watch our video to get our 5 sure-fire tips that will stop you tearing your hair out, eliminate costly mistakes, and get your hiring process on track.


The Works specialise in placing high flyers in PR and corporate communications. We have a strong track record of placing with professional services and offer career-making advice. Do get in touch if you would like our support building your team.


Compelling strategic reasons to sell - Paul Downes of Instictif Partners shares his view

08 Sep 2015 by Sarah Leembruggen.

Could you tell us a little bit about your background and career path to date?

I started out working for an excellent boutique firm, Lombard Communications, where I learned a lot and which enabled me to progress relatively quickly to a couple of the then largest international firms in our sector, namely Valin Pollen and Georgeson. Subsequently, in 1994, I co-founded Merlin, a consultancy that over the next 18 years became well regarded in the City as a specialist financial PR boutique.

In 2012, we sold Merlin to College Group, since rebranded as Instinctif Partners, which is today one of the largest and fastest growing international business communications consultancies. We have over 850 clients and some 450 people operating from 23 offices  in 13 countries, with particular strengths in Western Europe, Middle East, and Asia. We also have offices in New York and San Francisco and intend to increase our presence in North America significantly in the medium term.

Instinctif Partners is a private equity backed business wherein management and staff own just under half of it, which is a very important motivator. In my role, I am focused on new business development, especially on a cross-practice and international basis, including as Chairman of our European Board. I also advise a portfolio of clients and am very active in our investment bank and intermediary marketing, including in liaison with international colleagues in Asia and the Middle East as well as in Europe.

How did you make Merlin stand out in a crowded market place?

If I were to give a one-word answer, it would be ‘specialisation’.  We wanted to be seen clearly as an effective financial PR boutique. When you are part of a very crowded market place, it’s really important to have one thing that you are noted for – and for us that was financial PR. If you are going to do transaction work, the most competitive end of the market, you’ve got to be well regarded as a media consultant and manager, which means you’ve got to have great contacts and be able to get access at the most senior levels of the media. Ultimately, you’ve got to be able to engender debate which helps shape media perceptions in particular and which will have a major impact and influence on wider audiences. 

Naturally, we covered other fields too, such as sell-side analyst communications, corporate PR and crisis management when our clients needed us to do so. But specialisation in financial PR implicitly demands excellence in media relations, both as regards the associated strategic counsel and on implementation, and that principle remains the same within the Capital Markets operations of Instinctif Partners.

So why did you decide to sell?

We found that in the post-financial crash environment, many clients were re-basing their businesses to focus on faster growing international customer markets and they wanted an agency that could match that sort of reach. They also wanted us to be more directly connected to related disciplines, especially areas such as public policy and government relations as a result of the more highly regulated environment which was fast emerging across many business sectors after 2008, not limited to financial services. And the heightened importance of digital communication management also required broader resources and skills across content generation as well as monitoring, tracking and management. 

So we were acutely aware of these imperatives which led us to decide quite quickly that we needed to find the right strategic partner to be able to facilitate these needs and which could deliver the next level of opportunities and growth. Straightforwardly, we saw the breadth of relevant services and the international reach of Instinctif Partners as being a very compelling combination and platform which would enable us to provide the broader support that our clients needed. And over the past three years since joining the Group, that has proved to be correct.

What other factors underpinned the successful development of the consultancy?

We also had to evidence that we could deliver on our promises to clients. The execution aspects of consultancy are obviously critical to client satisfaction and therefore to any firm’s success and I think it is fair to say that we are well regarded for delivering on the strategies that we agree with our clients. If you can establish that in reputation terms, you will gain a natural momentum of new business interest and opportunities, and the good name effectively continues to build itself.

In underpinning it, we were also reasonably structured in our approach to sustaining awareness of and demonstrating the wider character of the firm and its team of people. We didn’t promote Merlin in an ostentatious way but, during the course of a year, by holding dinners and running other hospitality and discussion based events, culminating at the end of each year with a big Christmas party, we looked after our clients and intermediary contacts by “giving back” relevant networking opportunities and introductions.

Of course, none of this would have been possible without the great team of people that worked with us. Over the years, we generally enjoyed a very low level of turnover which gave us stability and the means to build stronger client relationships. Our solid and highly capable team was integral to the successful development of the business.

What would be your number one tip for making a merger work?

Having a clear strategy and sticking to it. When you have decided upon a sale strategy, be formal about it – have a business plan and set some clear objectives, including a timetable. And write it all down!

Doing this allows you to think about how you want to grow the business, what kind of client base you want to develop and to check that you are doing what you set out to do at the beginning, while ensuring that you’re also doing things that would be attractive to an acquirer or an investor.

When it comes to making the merger work post-acquisition, a big priority has to be managing the culture change. We were blended into a much bigger business with a quite different culture and background and it was important on both sides to understand the differences and sensitivities. Ultimately, there has to be some give and take, especially in terms of ensuring the best aspects of both teams’ approaches are captured but also in determining and aligning the professional practice and management priorities.  Developing the culture and ethos is a constant work in progress for any firm, but it is especially so for a ‘people business’. We aren’t perfect and there have been some lessons learned, but the combined bigger business has moved forward substantially in the three years since the acquisition, so the strategy is working!

The Works specialise in placing high flyers in PR and corporate communications. We have a strong track record of placing with professional services and offer career-making advice. Do get in touch if you would like our support building your team.


Hiring Mistakes still at large – Heads of Comms, Agency Heads, it’s time to listen!

03 Sep 2015 by Sarah Leembruggen.

While we certainly have the means to access a wide pool of talent, we cannot do this without meaningful input and commitment from the Head of Comms or Agency Head.  In short, investing time to make sure your hiring process is the very best it can be is your key to the golden goose – or the golden boy or girl for your team.

Time and again, we come across clients who want a top-notch candidate for their high-profile company.  Now, if I asked all the clients who are not getting their hiring process right to pop a pound into a piggy bank for me, I could have taken early retirement. (Now there’s food for thought…)

So if you want to keep hold of your pound coins, you need to make sure you’re not falling victim to these hiring gaffes.

1. Having no job spec

Every role in every company is different, so what makes someone a high performer in your team will differ to the skills and qualities required of a person in another team. Spending time thinking about your expectations of the person you want on your team is vital – it helps you to generate questions for your interview process. Far too many agencies don’t even bother to put a job spec together let alone spend time upfront defining the behaviours and values they are looking for. A good job spec will go beyond outlining skills and experience; it will also go into qualities such as intelligence, values and behaviours.  Being prepared for an interview process that digs both deep and wide will bring in the best candidates – the high performers, the keepers. The bottom line – it’s worth investing the time on the job spec.

2. Not willing to spend the time meeting us

Imagine one of your stakeholders asks you to deliver on a campaign without bothering to meet with you – it’s all guess work, you’re working blind. It’s the same for headhunters.  You need to spend time upfront with us so that we understand what is important to you with the hire and help us sell the role effectively. We can find the best performer in the industry for you – with your input. If we haven’t met a client, it becomes too hard to pinpoint what’s right and it becomes even harder to fill the role effectively. You should be inviting us in quickly – spending time on the briefing is fundamental to getting the outcome you want, and fast.

3. Thinking you have all the time in the world to compare and contrast

High performers don’t grow on trees. We are not going to bombard you with CVs so that you can pick and choose. The people we do send to you, however, will be high quality high performers and once they start the job search, they will be in high demand. So it’s vital to remember that you do not have time to compare and contrast. By sitting on CVs and not moving through the hiring process quickly, you will miss out on great people. We do a great amount of work to find the best people – long gone are the days when you can find them via ads. We can spend days and weeks sourcing the star players so it’s disheartening for us if they are not snapped up – and a huge loss to the company looking for that great hire.

4. Not selling the job and/or company, and just grilling

Interviewing is a two-way process.  You want to ensure you are getting the right person for the job.  Obviously you want to ascertain that they have the required skills and experience and you will need to ask a lot of questions, but you also need to spend a quarter of your time selling the role, the culture and the career prospects that come with the role.  Yes, this seems obvious, but the high-profile brands often think their great reputation will speak for itself.  But remember – you are competing for sought-after talent.  You still need to work hard to secure the best people. They are like gold dust, so sell the role!  Having a company presentation is a must – however well-known your brand may be.

5. Giving the process to the wrong person

As the saying goes, if you want something doing, give it to busiest person.  Yes – and no. When it comes to recruitment, make sure that person has time to manage the process, as often the very senior people will take ownership but not have time to review CVs.  A Head of Comms or MD should not be spending valuable time checking CVs at the first stage. You need to have someone looking at them who not only knows what they are looking for, but can also come back to us quickly. If you don’t have a dedicated person for recruitment, get one! They don’t have to be on your team full-time and they can work in-house or externally. Having a smooth, agile process in place will give you the edge when it comes to securing the best candidates. And your company will benefit from gaining a great reputation for its well thought-out hiring process.  What’s not to like?

Is your hiring process the best it can be – or is it time for some fine-tuning?

The Works specialise in placing high flyers in PR and corporate communications. We have a strong track record of placing with professional services and offer career-making advice. Do get in touch if you would like our support building your team.

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