November 19, 2003

Who's Hiring in PR + Negotiation Tips

SUMMARY: If you're seeking a position in PR or corporate communications (or you have a friend who is) check out our exclusive interview with headhunter Smooch Reynolds of The Repovich-Reynolds Group. Includes her contact info (please don't abuse it.)
The hard reality of PR is that in times of recession, corporate communications hires come as an afterthought.

“Companies have been focused on more ‘critical’ hires like senior management teams that drive business strategies and ultimately revenues,” says Smooch Reynolds, CEO of The Repovich-Reynolds Group.

We called Reynolds, who recruits for companies and agencies such as ATT Wireless and Waggener Strom, to talk with her about hiring and negotiation trends in the PR industry.

-> Who's hiring?

Reynolds sees more hiring on the agency side -- particularly independent agencies -- than on the corporate side these days. "That's because corporations are looking to outside counsel for the added arms and legs," she says.

Indeed, Reynolds couldn’t even point to a particular industry that's hot. “It's really flat across the board, unfortunately,” she says.

But take heart: though hiring in the communications industry has been static throughout the recession, Reynolds says companies should be ramping up their communications departments by the second quarter of 2004.

For those companies that are hiring, available positions tend to be at the mid-management to VP level.

-> Offer negotiations

Reynolds says that companies are being pretty reasonable when it comes to offer negotiations. But in order to negotiate from a source of power, you need to know you can reasonably ask for.

She offered these guidelines on what you may be able to expect (or negotiate) for compensation at each level of employment:

o Manager -- -- salary, bonus, 401K, vacation, medical and dental, laptop/cell phone, some training and/or continuing education.

o Director -- all of the above plus possibly signing bonus and stock options.

o VP -- all of the above *plus* life insurance and signing bonus

o Senior VP and Executive VP -- all of the above plus company car, executive tax preparation, executive annual physical, spousal career assistance

As for relocation, managers and directors aren't getting much assistance these days. At the VP level and above, you can expect help with household moving expenses, house-hunting trips, temporary housing, and home selling assistance (realtor fees, etc.).

And perhaps the most welcome bit of news for those with a life beyond the office walls? “Companies are starting to become more flexible between a balance of personal life and work life,” Reynolds says.

-> Acing interviews

PR people tend to enjoy chatting, so be aware of talking too much during interviews, Reynolds warns.

"Some people consider the interview process to be one-sided. The candidate sells themselves and the person across the desk is only the recipient," she explains. "But in reality, the hiring person wants to have a two-way conversation, and the candidate forgets that out of nervousness."

Even if the interviewer seems to take no initiative and dumps the interview in your lap, don't spend the entire time on yourself. Tell the two or three things that give you an advantage over your competition, then ask open-ended questions (remember to come up with these *before* the interview).

When thinking of your next career step, remember that you should be judging the situation as much as the interviewer. Don't go on an interview just for the sake of having an interview.

"We had a candidate who ignored our counsel and interviewed for a job that was not as senior as it should have been for her," Reynolds says. The candidate told the client that, rather than the manager-level position she was interviewing for, she should have the top-level spot.

Needless to say, she did not impress the interviewer.

-> Navigating your way up the corporate ladder

A lot of companies don’t view PR as a critical part of a management team. Still, you can train senior management to view you as a decision-maker and to begin including communications team members in strategy meetings. Try these three tips:

Tip #1. Execute your current duties…

…then exceed expectations.

Tip #2. Sell yourself as senior-rank material

"If you want to be considered part of that inner sanctum of senior management, conduct yourself as though you belong there," Reynolds says. This includes everything from the way you think and speak to the way you dress (say good-bye to business casual).

Tip #3. Be willing to do the grunt work

"It disturbs me when I interview senior PR practitioners who don't want to do the work, just the strategy," says Reynolds. "The reality is, senior management are rolling up their sleeves and getting their fingernails dirty as well as doing the strategy."

FYI: Reynolds' contact info for you (please don't abuse it)

Smooch Reynolds, CEO
The Repovich-Reynolds Group
283 South Lake Avenue
Suite 205
Pasadena, CA 91101
626-585-9455 ext. 210

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