3 Ways for PR Applicants to Stand Out in a Crowded Field

Insights from Harrison Wise of Wise PR

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The communications industry has a turnover problem; it’s an established fact. But many small and mid-sized firms run into another challenge when trying to attracting the kind of talent needed to compete in an increasingly crowded marketplace.

Today we spoke to Harrison Wise, founder and CEO of New York’s Wise PR, about the problems his firm faces on the recruiting front — and what smart candidates can do to stand out.

As Wise tells it, “finding people isn’t hard,” but a troubling pattern emerges: “Most [applicants] are glorified interns, especially at the AE and SAE levels.”

Wise notes that “there ARE people out there who have the hustle, take initiative, and get things done,” but such “G-S-D’ers” or “get shit done-ers” are not as readily available now as in past years.

Why?

“It’s just a mechanism of the big agency model: titles are given out annually for employee satisfaction, not based on performance. Does a new title make us smarter or better at our jobs? Hardly ever.”

Wise follows that “we all started somewhere [as we were] handed a press list and told to call everyone on it,” but “that’s not how PR works in the real world; it’s about relationship-building and fostering good will with reporters.”

On the root of the problem:

“Big agencies have multiple layers of titles and management on each account, and an employees’ flaws can easily blend in to the background…lots of agencies delegate the work and do very little to reward taking a (calculated) risk, which is why there are so many complaints [from journalists].”

At smaller agencies, however, “flaws are surfaced almost immediately when those buffers aren’t in place.”

When it comes to screening applicants, Wise defers to an old maxim:

“There are three types of people: those who MAKE things happen, those who WATCH things happen, and those who WONDER what happened. I’m looking for the first.”

Here, then, are the three ways candidates can make themselves stand out:

1. Demonstrate independent thinkingharrison wise

“[Applicants should] distinguish themselves in a very articulate way rather than going through the ordinary ‘here’s my resume and my cut-and-paste cover letter’ application process. Rise to the occasion and push yourself out of your comfort zone.”

2. Showcase your past work

“Prove that you’ve taken initiative; show me something you did, not something you were TOLD to do. This should be something that you’re proud of managing and executing yourself, not taking credit for things you didn’t take part in…it’s easy to tell whether someone’s being generous to him or herself.

The ability to articulate all the aspects of a given program that you’re proud of is key.”

3. Respond to challenges

“We give applicants examples: ‘here’s a challenge — now how would you solve it?’ I want them to walk me through the approach and the process, but not many people can do that.”

One last thought from Wise:

“You can make $150K and be called ‘account manager.’ Titles are irrelevant…you need drive, passion, and a desire to succeed rather than fit in as a cog in the machine.”

On that note, “PR Hustlers aka G-S-D’ers aka PR Specialists” can apply here.