Recruitment and diversity in the PR industry by Aimee Postle

I recently attended an Employer Engagement event at Birmingham City University. This entailed three hours of ‘speed dating’ with over 40 students from the university studying PR, advertising, business studies and psychology.

As you’ll all no doubt be aware (we do keep mentioning it!), I recently completed the CIPR Diploma with a personal project on the role of PR-specific education when it comes to recruitment. What I found is that, while PR-specific education does not hurt, it is not a requirement to enter the profession.

In fact, PR is a profession which values diversity of experience and background as evidenced by some of the comments made in PR Week back in the Summer. While PR-specific education can be of value in supporting you with the theory behind what you are doing, it is only through doing the job that you will learn your strengths and how to play to them.

That’s why work experience is so important. I lost count of the number of times that I recommended students write for the university paper, support the local radio station, write gig review for the BBC, and even host their own blog. And, what better opportunity if you are lucky enough to be able to go travelling? Get work experience in PR firms around the world, write a blog about how the media and communications practices differ in ever country – and highlight all the things that are the same.

However, much as we may value experience and background, a recent piece in Behind the Spin suggests we still have a way to go when it comes to diversity in the sense of regional accents. Even well-known PR practitioner and academic Anne Gregory found her Huddersfield accent limited her predominately to regional PR.

Shockingly, it is – according to the article – still common practice for agencies to expect employees to adopt a southern, City or received pronunciation accent when dealing with clients and the media. Not something that we’ve ever endorsed or come across.

But, with many clients moving their spend away from London and realising that non-London PR firms can offer excellent PR support and value for money, will this regional barrier be broken down?

We certainly believe so and – having beaten off international, specialist PR consultancies to win a particular piece of business in the pharmaceutical sector – our clients seem to agree!

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