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  • Writer's pictureAnn Willets

There’s a New PR Agency Wishlist

Until the pandemic, as the law of supply and demand goes, there were more PR jobs than talent. Agencies often hired the first candidate they could find and often overpaid. It wasn’t uncommon for an AE with only six months of experience to be hired as an SAE. I think, in the wake of this pandemic, those days are over for the foreseeable future.

When you run an agency, you have to give clients talent, and in a pinch, you take what you can get. People who didn’t have the necessary experience were being hired and quickly promoted. High demand caused salaries to creep up.

Now, with so many agencies struggling and massive layoffs, there is more talent but fewer jobs. This means agencies are able to secure better-qualified candidates at salaries that are more closely aligned with their experience.

Agencies are also taking a renewed look at candidates who can work remotely. That’s good news. For years, I’ve been saying that there are plenty of good candidates who prefer not to commute. Even those willing to commute wanted to work remotely one or two days a week for a better work-life balance.

I used to receive a lot of pushback from agencies over this because they felt remote employees wouldn’t get their “culture” or wouldn’t be accountable (which is just another way of saying they don’t know how to properly manage remote employees). Now, however, agencies have come to the realization that people are often more productive when they work from home!

I think agency leadership has also realized that a remote workforce allows for less overhead in terms of their need for commercial real estate.

In the wake of the pandemic, agencies finally understand the benefits of a remote or hybrid workforce and will likely rebuild or reconstruct based on talent, demand, and financial sense.

As a recruiter, I now take a closer look at people who are capable of working remotely. They should be self-directed and focused. On the flip side, hiring agencies need to have qualified managers who know how to get the best out of a remote workforce. An entirely new employee-employer dynamic is arising from this situation.

How will agencies evaluate candidates and ensure they are the right hire for remote work? I already see agencies hiring people on a contract basis to ensure they can do the job before making a full-time offer. They want to be certain they have media contacts, the capability to write and pitch, and produce results. Candidates will have to adjust to this unconventional process and prove themselves if they want a full-time job with benefits.

We’re entering a very interesting era in our profession. Now, candidates can assess what they like about an agency and evaluate an agency’s accounts. Candidates can decide if the agency they’re entering is an agency they truly want to work with long-term. For agencies, this is beneficial because candidates will have a harder time fudging their qualifications. Agencies will not want to make a bad hire because they simply can’t afford it and won’t take any chances.

We are all waiting to see how our professions will change in light of this pandemic, but I suspect there will be a drastic push toward a remote workforce and a different hiring process. Ultimately, time will tell.

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