Hiring PR people for the digital age

A PR person needs all this, plus focus!

What requirements should we look for in today's PR person?

We’re a picky bunch. Responses to our recruitment advertisements tend to go into the thousands and by the end of the process we’ve usually narrowed entry-level applications down to a short list of two or three candidates. Our list of criteria has always been a long one. We believe in a holistic approach to communications and so even our specialists also need to be all-rounders. Spot On deals with some very large brands and so accuracy, attention to detail and ability to manage high value relationships are critical to our business. Needless to say, we aim to create best-practice campaigns and use new creative ideas, so education, working knowledge and smart thinking are also important to us. And then we’re operating in a multi-cultural, multi-lingual market with plenty of differences in local requirements across the Middle East region, which demand different communications and language skills.

Now add the Internet! More and more of our work is moving online and with the enormous momentum of social media, the Internet is an extremely fast moving environment for communications. We need, not only to be able to provide the right content and the right message to the right audience via the right platforms, but we need to be able to do this consistently, reliably and in-keeping with the strategies we’ve agreed with clients. Then there’s managing adherence to communications, digital and legal guidelines at Internet-speed. That’s usually under an hour, sometimes just a few minutes and on rare occasions less than that! And you can’t take for granted online communications stays online, since online news, comment and even a simple tweet can often jump into print and broadcast media. And, of course, anything seen, heard, experienced or published offline is only one step away from being posted on Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, blogs or other online platforms. Even those with an encyclopedic knowledge of Internet platforms, online demographics and digital practices can get wrong-footed sometimes as an online mention of seemingly little merit can become today’s trending topic.

What does this all mean for recruitment? Are we looking for a new type of PR person with a different skill set or has our long list of hiring criteria just got longer again? The answer, as it often is in the consulting world, is yes and no. As organisations re-shape their communications and marketing to ensure things work effectively both online and offline, so PR people must also be able to do both. To ignore one and focus on the other is going to result in a very blinkered approach to a communications requirement. Whilst it would be foolish for any PR person to ignore digital communications, 24/7 digital natives that ignore offline media, events, word-of-mouth and offline audiences aren’t often going to make very good PR people either.

This is a most difficult time – one of transition and change. The ability to comprehend that change, move with it and balance one’s responses to the changing environment have never been so important.

Asking for all the traditional hiring criteria for PR people, plus extensive digital skills and knowledge does seem like a tall order for both prospective candidates and employers. However, the truth is that much of this digital knowledge is becoming ‘a given’ and one day, sooner than you think, all of this will simply be called ‘communications’, digital or not.

If you are Arabic/English speaking and looking for an entry-level position in communications and marketing you’re welcome to introduce yourself and send your CV to careers(at)spotonpr(dot)com

Want to read more?

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Snarky – A PR person sometimes needs to be cynical (July 2009)

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Carrington Malin

About the Author ()

Carrington Malin is co-founder of Spot On PR and has been managing sales, marketing, media and communications campaigns across the Middle East for more than 20 years. He likes technology, surfing and chicken liver salad. You can contact Carrington via Twitter at @carringtonmalin or via email at carringtonm(at)spotonpr(dot)com

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