But Are There Any Jobs? And What Do Firms Want?

Hiring growth reduces number of applications for entry-level PR positions vs 30-foot list of names from three years ago.

Good News: Lists of applicants at agencies aren’t as long as three years ago and most agencies predict continued revenue growth.

For the past three years, I’ve gotten the attention of job seekers by rolling out a 32-foot-long list of names of individuals who applied for an entry-level position at my agency alma mater, Ketchum. At my most recent show-and-tell session two weeks ago at University of Florida PRSSA, I compared the old list with a new one illustrating a sizable decrease in the number of resumes received this year for a similar position. The new list is 70% shorter.

Most agencies are reporting fewer applications, although the numbers still can be daunting. Fortunately, more good news came this week from the Council of Public Relations Firms’ survey of members. Optimism continues to build for further growth. On a scale of 1-10, 10 being the highest, agency heads gave a 7.56 average score when asked if their firms would see top-line growth in 2014. And 64% of firms reported an increase in the first quarter of this year over the same period last year, while 55% of participating firms claimed that new business inquiries increased over this period last year.

When asked to name the three most frequent types of work requested by new business prospects. Here were the top six answers:

  1. Media relations (70% of firms)
  2. Social media (57%)
  3. High level strategic consulting (49%)
  4. Integrated work (34%)
  5. Crisis/issues management (34%)
  6. Digital work (32%)

The only surprise in the above list is that digital ranked sixth even though it continues to be the fastest growing area within most agencies. Still, that’s up from being barely negligible just a few years ago.

When asked to identify the functional areas where most of their clients reside, agencies cited the following (top five):

  1. Marketing (51%)
  2. Corporate Communications (35%)
  3. C-Suite (17%)
  4. Sales (8%)
  5. Legal (6%)

We then asked participants to rank client contacts in order of importance to their business. The top 5:

  1. CMO
  2. CCO
  3. CEO
  4. Sales and Marketing
  5. Chief Digital Officer

Digital Highlights

According to the survey participants, the top source of digital talent is boutique digital/social shops (37%). Surprisingly, “other PR firms” ranked last with only 4% of firms making this claim.

The most frequent types of (digital/social) work clients are asking for are: Social media strategy (85%), Content marketing/native advertising (55.6%) and Community management (37%). When it comes to the earned vs. paid spectrum of digital work, earned accounts for roughly 80% vs. 20% paid.

These survey results provide insights into job-search areas where you might find the greatest interest in your skills. They underscore my contention that you must understand and engage in social media, but traditional media relations and general communication skills continue to be in high demand.

Don’t Overlook the ‘Little Guys’

Major agencies continue to receive the bulk of resumes, so I encourage job seekers to focus on broader agency lists–not just the bigger, well-known firms. While my updated rollout of job seekers lists “only” 237 applicants for a single entry-level opening, several small- to mid-size agencies told me this week that their job postings bring in significantly fewer applications–sometimes just five or six. So, don’t limit your search to the obvious suspects.  The Council of PR Firms provides job seekers with an amazing one-place site to search career opportunities at all member firms.

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