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Can PR agencies offer a career for life?

We read with interest the article from PRmoment about whether PR as an industry offered a career for life. As someone who took a slightly unusual route to entry, who pre-pandemic fought for flexible hours, and who is a smidge older than most of her co-workers, it’s something that left me mulling. 

I started in the sector as a youthful 18-year-old, back in the days of photocopying press packs and posting press releases. Over 20 years later (via both in-house but mostly agency roles), I don’t see myself going anywhere soon. 

Why is this an agency priority?

It’s certainly in a company's best interest to retain experienced staff, this we know. However, it’s going to become even more important. Recent data released from ONS highlight a record low birth rate, tie this with the increasing life expectancy and a significant pension gap all point to a growing older workforce. The importance of keeping skilled and experienced staff in roles and finding ways to make intergenerational workforces successful must become a priority for agencies. But how do we do this?

Flexibility does work but it’s not just for parents

As an industry we are getting so much better at offering flexibility - I for one have battle scars to demonstrate how bad things were before. Offering flexibility in location and hours is important to everyone, not just parents, and is of course now a legal right to request. 

Interestingly it’s also a growing priority for the over-50s workforce - our recent work with 55/Redefined has enlightened us on the importance of flexibility as a route to retaining our older workers. 

Flexibility doesn’t mean we want to stop progressing

A crucial factor is that despite wanting flexibility, employees still want to progress in their careers. Speaking from my own perspective, taking a step back in terms of hours has never meant that I wanted my career to suffer. Agencies need to find ways to offer learning and development at all stages of careers, and not view those who want some flexibility as being one foot out of the door. There is still a feeling that reducing hours puts your careers on the back burner but businesses need to understand that granting flexibility only builds loyalty from staff, who often work much harder. 

Truly intergenerational workforces are the future

I’m going to fess up - I’m not on TikTok. That’s why I’m incredibly grateful to younger team members who are social media-natives for looping me in. If I were a decade older that would be even harder. It will soon become a business imperative to build an intergenerational workforce where all workers work together. Lyndsey at 55/Redefined highlights that employers are currently doing the right thing by hiring workers from different age groups but more effort is needed for a truly inter-generational workforce that works in harmony. The benefits of this are vast, bringing different perspectives and more successful problem solving and creative skills.

I’m a strong advocate that PR as an industry and in particular agency can be for life, but we need to truly commit to flexible working to keep those with young families in the workforce, a time of life where we know we lose great people. But also we must find ways to offer continual progression and learning opportunities to all that want it.

I was recently asked for advice for new starters in the industry. I responded with: “Take every opportunity offered, learn everything and never close a door.” And that applies to all of us, not just new starters. 


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