Matthew P. Schwartz | Help Wanted for PR Firms
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Help Wanted for PR Firms

What keeps agency owners and C-level executives of creative services firms up at night?

Perhaps it’s the relentless onslaught of social media. How do you monetize it? How do you pick and choose which channels are the most appropriate for your clients? How do you adequately budget for myriad of channels?

Then there’s key executive retention. It’s crucial that agency owners cultivate the second tier of management—and offer adequate incentives, such as stock options or multiple bonuses—because once owners sell out the second tier is on the hook to take the firm to a higher financial level (and make sure the owner’s earn-out doesn’t suffer).

However, as important as those issues are, getting a leg-up on hiring takes precedent. And, on that front, marketing and other creative services firms have their work cut out.

Generating interest from qualified candidates is the biggest obstacle for hiring for 31 percent of advertising and marketing executives, according to a recent survey. Another 28 percent said developing compensation packages and negotiating salaries is their greatest challenge when it comes to bringing people on board.

Fourteen-percent of the respondents said reviewing application materials was the biggest obstacle while 13 percent said creating job descriptions was the toughest hurdle. That percentage is likely to rise at a steady clip, as creative services firms create new types of jobs and disciplines in order to respond to ongoing  changes in the marketing and communications landscape sparked by the Internet.

“With the high turnover rate in the PR industry, as well as additional pressure that all creative firms will face with the new overtime regs soon taking effect [December 1], it will become even more challenging for agency owners to retain quality staff,” said Rick Gould, CPA, J.D., managing partner of Gould+Partners. “Agency owners also have to develop fresh strategies on how to incentivize their existing staffers and recruit new ones.”

The study, which was developed by The Creative Group and conducted by an independent research firm, is based on responses from 400 U.S. advertising and marketing executives.

help-wanted-15518252Hiring trends among creative services firms continue to change dramatically.

The challenges are twofold.

First, agency owners have to step up their efforts to recruit millennials, who are now the largest segment of the U.S. population and are quickly being groomed for middle management and beyond. At the same time, agency owners have to think more imaginatively about the incentives they offer millennials because—unlike, say, previous generations—millennials value time off and continuing education just as much as they do financial incentives.

Second, in order to succeed in a post-digital age PR and other creative services firms need to get out of their comfort zone and bring in new types of talent, such as people specializing in mobile communications, Web design, online analytics and videography.

Starting compensation for creative professionals is expected to increase 3.6 percent in 2017, according to the survey. In-demand positions, such as user experience and mobile designers, are likely to see even bigger gains.

When agency owners offer financial compensation as incentive they may have to start to ante up.

Asked to name the most common reason candidates decide not to join their company, 27 percent of executives surveyed said it’s because their compensation and benefits are lower than expected, the survey said.

Some of the major reasons that candidates turn down job offers include accepting another job offer or counteroffer (35 percent) and limited opportunities for career growth advancement (17 percent).

More information about the hiring process and compensation trends—including salary data for more than 120 positions in the creative field—can be found via The Creative Group 2017 Salary Guide, available at

To read the full study, please click here.

Matthew Schwartz
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