PR and Corporate Communications hiring–our annual review of what was hot (and what was not) in 2014

18 Dec 2014 by Sarah Leembruggen.

We work with in-house communications teams across a variety of sectors from private equity, asset management, banking, retail, transport, professional services and property to iconic brands. We handle financial, corporate, consumer and internal comms roles mainly at mid to senior level. 60% of the professionals we placed were in-house and 40% in agency.

We welcomed four new members to The Works this year and are proud to say that all of them are established and flourishing in their roles.

Head of Communications moving

My primary focus this year has been placing Heads of Comms and Heads of Media roles in-house. I have been working on a retained basis in the main. At this level, it becomes interesting as the client either knows exactly what they want and give me an incredibly specific brief – ‘I would like someone who has worked on the Olympic Campaign’– or they are really open to ideas and hire for key performance attributes. This makes for a very stimulating remit as an understanding of all parties and what is really important is key to making some great hires.

PR & Communications Managers in high demand

In-house roles have been the easier roles for us to fill this year compared to agencies. Like last year, it is PR and Communications Manager and Senior Manager that have been the most sought after in-house positions with asset/fund management, private equity and property being the most desirable sectors and the big brands, unsurprisingly, the most popular.

Account Managers are most in demand

In agencies, the demand for Senior Account Managers and Account Directors has not waned since the year began. It would appear that everyone wants a piece of the action in Corporate PR - from Senior Account Executives to Senior Account Manager, specialising in financial or professional services.

The demand for agency Account Manager roles has been higher than ever but it has proven to be the hardest brief to fill, as there are simply not enough Account Managers on the market. Companies were not hiring at the pace that they are now three or four years ago, which means there is a shortfall.

Account Directors are keen to make a break from agency life

We have also found that Account Director roles are equally sought after and just as hard to fill for the agencies. Nine times out of ten, the Account Director you speak to will want to move in-house. They have worked through a tough market and they are looking for more control with their hours, aspiring to work for just one company, perhaps in just one sector and having a broader role with more influence at a strategic level.

Most sought after skill – business development

Business development skills are in hot demand. Companies are after revenue generators but this can be a tricky brief. The truly talented ‘rainmakers’ are hard to find and rarely move to another agency as they tend to set up for themselves. Every agency has requested a ‘rainmaking director’ this year but finding a ‘hunter’ rather than a ‘gatherer’ who wants to move again is not easy. The star players are being well looked after by their current employer. We have seen that new business skills are being asked for at all levels (to varying degrees) but that is a reflection on the market as everyone needs to pay for themselves as businesses run slicker with more effective teams in place; everyone wants a return on investment. Alongside digital expertise and social media proficiency, this is the skill that we have been asked for time and again over the course of the year.

Internal communications update

Our Internal Communications division has gone from strength to strength. There is a growing demand for Internal Comms professionals, in particular Senior Managers. We have seen an increase in the number of professional service firms, particularly law firms, looking to hire into their teams.

It’s all about change

In both in-house and agencies, change communications experience has been in highly sought after. In a stronger economy, businesses are looking to invest more in changes that will have a positive long-term effect such as upgrading their operational systems or larger-scale financial changes such as mergers and acquisitions.

Guaranteeing results

A big focal point for us this year has been guaranteeing results – if we have the exclusivity on a role, our clients will interview no more than five of our candidates and we guarantee that they will offer one. The same applies to our agency clients and it has worked very well from both sides as the client saves an extraordinary amount of time and we enjoy being trusted to find the best in the market and being granted the time to do so.

Our biggest challenge

If I have to pick the biggest challenge when it comes to filling roles this past year, the answer is clear-cut – a shortage of really impressive talent. We are working in a candidate-short market and, like many industries, the amazing talent is in thin on the ground. The star performers rarely respond to an ad as they are too time-pressed. We advertise our roles for branding but not all of them (especially senior/confidential ones) and we never rely on finding the best people in the market this way. We spend every day keeping in touch with the best people, waiting patiently for when they say they are open to looking.

Widening the net

As agency and in-house clients have struggled to fill roles with the great calibre they hoped for, they have become more open-minded in their hiring. Some have looked outside of their sector – we have seen law firms requesting financial services experience; food and drink agencies will look at consumer generalist; some financial PR clients will consider corporate comms.

2014 has been no different in the way we have handled the harder-to-find roles. As always, we have had to equip ourselves with a number of techniques to achieve positive outcomes – ranging from proactive headhunting, asking our very best candidates for referrals and using our extensive network for sourcing.

I would like to extend a very heartfelt thank you to everyone for their help and support this year. Wishing you all a Merry Christmas and every success for 2015.

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