Where has all the talent gone?

It’s a lovely sunny day today. And I am writing this blog before heading off to Bradford for some big Bollywood thing.
What’s prompted my musing are some recent posts at TWL, Stephen Davies, David Brain and others about the dearth of PR talent in London, the costs of living in the capitol and general problems about recruiting.
It’s no different in the north of England. Since we lost Simon to Edelman we have struggled to find good people. At the moment we are seeking two AMs, an AE, and a graduate trainee. We’ve been advertising, blogging and using other electronic methods now for the past two months looking for the above and it has been a struggle.
For the record we have appointed one new account manager – more on her when she joins us in a week’s time. We are close to appointing a graduate but we are still searching for others to bring us back up to capacity at a time when a lot of new clients are coming on stream.
So where has all the talent gone? Given the number of graduates coming out of universities with degrees in PR – why do so many of them struggle to write a decent press release, pass a spelling test or a maths test? Yes – we do ask them to do these tests as part of the selection process.
And why are their expectations so high? One graduate told us they would only work on certain client accounts, another told us that she couldn’t do the occasional weekend event with a client.
My career began in journalism (starting salary in 1986 was £8,000 – based in London) and for that I was expected to work very long and unsociable hours. I loved it.
I’m sure the PR sector is no different from any other and, while the London-centric debate of TWL is influenced by other factors like the cost of housing, the north suffers from similar problems. Finding recruits is easy – finding quality recruits is harder.
I noted on the comment board at TWL someone suggested that Edelman opened a satellite office in the regions (the regions! How parochial!). David, if you’re interested we have plenty of room in the Wakefield Media Centre if you’re looking for somewhere to park your out-sourced northern executives and the rent is very reasonable.


David Brain said...

Thanks for the offer of coming up there and I may well take you up on it myself mate. I agree on the talent thing generally. I do think that we are a victim of our own success in that the industry has grown very fast in agency and in-house all over the country and the competition for people is huge. I agree on your observation also about the writing skills and media understanding and news savvy, but that does come with some experience. I have to say though, that the grad's we get I am really impressed with. Many have studied hard to get into the industry and their enthusiasm as well as their basic technical understanding of what it is we do, and how we organise to do it is so much better than mine when I started (in the North East by the way and £4,200 pa!!). My biggest concern right now is keeping them. Stephen's post highlighted a real issue for those if us in London and Dublin (part of my Edelman responsibility). I sent an email to my New York colleague over the weekend to see if that other notoriously high priced city has something from which we can learn. London property prices are more out of proportion with salaries than the North East and are still rising faster . . . the basic equation (or graphic equaliser as Stephen put it) is being looked at hard by lots of young professionals here.

Ian Green said...

As always, you are bang on the button. I suspect the London firms are having a harder time of it than us in the "provinces" given the cost of housing, commuting etc but it is a national problem.
Even in Leeds the cost of housing is above the national average - we met an excellent candidate today who can't even afford to buy a car, never mind a house!
For grads too there is the huge problem of student debt - big worry for me as I have two maturing adolescents in the house at the moment.
And it is not just PR - we have clients in engineering, law, food, telecoms etc and they are all experiencing similar problems in finding good people.
And you are right "keeping them" is a big problem. A friend runs a software house and all his developers get 48 days holiday a year! Just to keep them happy.
Eeh - when I were a lad.

Stephen said...

It's a massive concern to those who aren't on the property ladder... And there are many of us. One bedroom flats in London start at the 200 grand mark and go ridiculously upwards.

In the North East you could buy a three bedroom house with garage and garden for that. Well, maybe not that cheap but it won't be far off.

My intentions are to go back home, (try and) buy a property which I can rent out then move back down as I see only two ways a young person can buy a property in London:

* They are very smart/entrepreneurial and make a shed load of money.

* They are from a well-off background and get financial help from family.

Sadly, I am none of the above...

On the flipside, good to hear there's a talent shortage. Can start asking for more money now. :-)