Personnel Issues: Who do Russian PR agencies like?

Despite the fact that the PR market is one of the youngest markets in Russia, the profession that manages communications immediately became prestigious. PR manager vacancies receive responses from former journalists, graduates, experienced people and even people without experience, but with the “eye of the tiger”. In the PR industry managers told us* who directors of PR agencies, PR departments and press services give preference to at interviews.

The fact that human resources are a number one problem, and not only in PR, may be discussed at length: everybody knows this. There are fewer and fewer competent people attending interviews and more and more requirements from PR managers for new employees. Despite this, many managers have recently noted that “professionalism is getting younger”. “It used to be so that respected and authoritative “pros” could not be younger than 40 years old, but we now see outstanding, successful specialists who are 30 and sometimes even younger,” says Ilya Shabshin, Training Boutique.

Some PR agencies take a sceptical view of young people, whereas others intentionally hire young and ambitious specialists onto 50% and sometimes even 60% of their workforce. This is particularly because those born in the 1980s understand new media better and are able to think up and put together a viral video that the older generation could hardly imagine. “When I was involved in new media channels at Vimpelcom, I really learnt something from two of our students. In some issues regarding the Internet, they understand things better,” admits Mikhail Umarov godbluff_35 LJ User.

It is evident that PR is not just Web 2.0 and major companies are not about to spend valuable time on training yesterday’s students. A little over half the managers interviewed have become used to not choosing between a “professional” and a “like-minded individual”, but finding both qualities in one employee. It is usually after the first meeting that a director’s intuition gives a hint as to whether the right person has been found.

Almost all directors rely more on personal intuition than facts in a CV. “I don’t believe in CVs. It’s because you very often see ‘developed’, ‘implemented’ ‘participated in’, but this later turns out to be simply ‘was present’ or ‘went for a beer’,” says Igor Bogatyrev of KB PR skeptically. In some companies, an applicant for the role of a PR manager has to pass two rounds, the first is a discussion with the management and the second with their potential team. “I believe that before hiring a person onto a team, the team should get to know the person and give their opinion on whether they will be comfortable with the new employee,” says Svetlana Vitkovskaya, X5 Retail Group.

Specialists note that professional requirements for new employees are set depending on each specific position. For example, for the vacancy of a project manager, only a professional will be hired, but a good secretary or assistant may be made out of a person who has no experience, but does have desire and enthusiasm.

A lot also depends on the specific features of a firm. “Companies are different. Some are “family” companies organised according to the principle of a pride of lions, where all employees have to think alike. For other market high-tech companies, professionals are what is most important,” explains Vartan Sarkisov, IMA Consulting.

Joining a successful PR team is not an easy thing, because there a number of personal qualities, without which it is difficult to survive in the PR sector. Of all the interviews we held with the heads of Russian PR agencies, we made the following list: desire for self development, creative capabilities, intellect, responsibility, ability to organise time in accordance with tasks, an active mind, loyalty, literacy, ability to hold yourself and demonstrate self-control, client-focus, wild energy, absence of tiredness and enthusiasm.

If a person has enough experience, fits in with the company in terms of personal qualities and spirit, then other criteria such as age, for example, move to the background. “I like it when there are people of different ages working in the department. I currently have employees from 23 to 45 years old and my age is something in between,” says Lyudmila Tanavskaya, General Satellite.

Wages amongst experienced professionals are usually stable and some agencies offer incredible rates for special services: “If somebody has not done anything, then they won’t receive anything. But if they have been working hard day and night and achieved results, they will receive a wage beyond industry limits. There have been cases when support staff have earned up to one million rubles a month,” says Anton Vuyma, Dukhovnoe Nasledie.

The technique for making decisions on hiring a new employee onto a PR team depends on many factors. If a candidate has higher education, a number of years of successful work experience in PR and also has a sparkle in their eye and a set of personal qualities, then the chance of a positive outcome is much higher. However, if the intuition of a potential director is against you, then there is nothing you can do. Judging by the interview, heads of PR agencies not only choose like-minded individuals with the eye of the tiger, but those who are able to take the whole business to a new level and believe that the right corporate culture will create the right atmosphere in the company.


Text prepared by Maria Kosobokova and Roman Maslennikov

More than 100 interviews with heads of leading PR agencies in Russia are always available at the following website address in Russian - http://pr-maslennikov.livejournal.com/111516.html

* A joint project by Exprimo translation agency (www.ex-primo.com) and PROSTOR: PR & Consulting PR agency (www.msk-pr.ru).