October 5, 2022

Helping PR pros make smarter decisions

Chats with Chip: Patrick Rogan on Strategies to Hire and Retain Talent in the PR Industry

Chats with Chip: Patrick Rogan on Strategies to Hire and Retain Talent in the PR Industry

This week’s episode of Chats with Chip featured a conversation with Patrick Rogan, founder of IgnitionHR, about talent acquisition and retention in the PR industry. Their discussion covers strategies to find and keep talent, the changing workplace and hiring trends, and challenges facing PR agencies.

Chip opened the conversation by asking Patrick how to find good talent in the PR industry. Patrick explains that hiring should be an ongoing process, which often should begin with existing relationships within an agency.  “If you tend to recruit just when you have an opening or when someone has submitted a resignation…you basically have a blank slate in front of you. Whereas if it’s something that’s continuing and ongoing…the question then is ‘let’s take a look at our pipeline.’ That’s a much better scenario.”

The hiring process, according to Patrick, compares to sales in various ways. Managers should maintain a hiring pipeline and candidate funnel to facilitate the hiring process, rather than starting with no viable leads when a position opens in an agency. Additionally, HR compares to sales because organizations should understand the value proposition they’re offering to candidates. Professionals often forget that candidates evaluate agencies as much as agencies evaluate potential new hires.

In the last two episodes of Chats with Chip, guests have discussed digital transformation and the way it affects various aspects of the PR industry. Within the HR department, there are the obvious ways digital transformation has changed hiring, such as online job postings, but Patrick also discusses how online personas and digital tools change hiring and workplace relationships.

As stated earlier in the conversation, Patrick reiterates that candidates evaluate agencies as much as agencies evaluate them, which makes online personas important. Since PR agencies now often list their employees on their websites, candidates can look into the digital and social channels to learn more about the people working at a particular organization.

Additionally, digital tools are shaping the workplace environment and how companies retain their talent. Patrick acknowledges the benefits of tools that allow conversation between employees regardless of their location and ease the burden of administrative tasks that once plagued companies, but he believes that these tools should not eliminate the emphasis on interpersonal relationships and connection.

“There’s a temptation to not focus on the relationship piece sometimes, because you’re so focused on the technical solution, [but] you need to find a way to bridge that gap. Because if you don’t have it for a long enough period of time then the work becomes a little bit more of a commodity, and when it’s a commodity, the individual can deliver that commodity to anyone and there’s no affinity to the organization.” 

Chip concluded their conversation by asking about the challenges facing PR agencies. Similar to the potential issues caused by digital tools, Patrick cites working together and maintaining relationships as the main issue PR agencies encounter. Check out the full recording and written transcript to hear more about this challenge and how predictive indexes can help, as well as more discussion on additional strategies for finding and integrating new employees, hiring PR specialists versus generalists, and tactics to retain talent.

Unverified Transcript

Please review the audio before quoting to confirm accuracy of this unverified transcript.

Chip Griffin: Hi this is Chip Griffin and my guest today is Patrick Rogan of Ignition HR. Welcome to the show Patrick.
Patrick Rogan: Thanks Chip. Happy to be here.
Chip Griffin: Patrick is a long time expert in Human Resources and Talent management when it comes to professional services firms in particular in public relations and that’s how I got to know him a number of years ago. He’s been a great resource to me over the years so I though it would be informative to talk a little bit about some of the talent issues that face PR agencies and organizations today so, that’s where we’ll go. I guess the first question that I have is how do you find good talent for PR? There’s lots of people out there who I think take a look PR and say sure I can do that. It sounds like a fun job but how do you make sure that you’ve got the right match?
Patrick Rogan: Well it’s a frequent question that we get in HR, Chip. Usually the question though specifically is please find me this talent sometimes yesterday. We always like to work from a little more of a pipeline perspective when we’re looking at talent. So typically what we like to do is we like to involve the whole organization in identifying talent on kind of a continual basis. So we could certainly host openings. We could call resumes. We could do phone screens. The typical things that you do when looking for talent and those are all fine. We usually do those but usually finding the best talent is done by finding relationships that exist with individuals in the firm already.


By having individuals within the firm kind of use their individual networks and reaching out, we tend to stat the process by talking with individuals that we already know something about. Maybe someone who has a relationship with someone in the firm or the firm in general. That seems to be a much better place to start and tends to yield a much better result.

Chip Griffin: So what you’re really saying I think is that acquiring talent is an ongoing process. So even if you’re not necessarily on the prowl something specific it’s worthwhile to be constantly to be having those conversations whether you’re a partner in a PR agency. Whether you’re actually working in the Human Resources shop, wherever, it’s important to always have your eye out for talent.
Patrick Rogan: Yeah absolutely. It’s best done as a team activity. The other thing that kind of comes to mind with finding talent and the whole talent selection cycle is that there’s a tremendous amount of inertia. Inertia objects that are in motion tend to stay in motion. Objects that are still tend to stay still. If you tend to recruit just when you have an opening or when someone has submitted a resignation if that’s the point when you start you got the wrong side of inertia working for you because you have basically like a blank slate in front of you and you need to kind of start up and get it going. Obviously that takes a bit of time. Whereas what you just mentioned if it’s something that’s continuing and ongoing and you never really stop then it’s just a question of at the moment where we decide that we need to bring some talent on we need a particular role to be filled, the question then is well let’s take a look at our pipeline. Who have we been talking to recently? Who comes to mind that we should reach out to first? That’s a much better scenario.

That’s one that I strive in all organizations. I’m a big advocate of never stopping recruiting.

Chip Griffin: Right.
Patrick Rogan: It’s just so painful when you have to start back up again.
Chip Griffin: If you think about it, I mean it’s sort of like sales. One of the things that I always tell folks particularly if they’re just starting out in a consulting business of some sort is the time that they need to be looking for new business is actually when their the busiest. In other words you always have to be trying to sell. If you think about talent acquisition as essentially a sales process, which maybe that’s something we talk about too. I think that it’s often overlooked. I think so many people who are hiring not just in the PR space but elsewhere view it solely as a process of evaluating the candidates to figure out whose the best fit for them but I think it’s important to remember that on the other end the talent it trying to figure out if you’re a good fit for them. So it is a sales process and I think if we think of it that way I think that may be a better way to structure talent acquisition.
Patrick Rogan: I totally agree. Occasionally I’ll slip because in some PR firms they don’t like to use the word sales with recruiting. I’m not sure why but sometimes it just seems to strike a bad note. Sometimes I’ll flip and I’ll say so tell me what your pipeline is of available talent and I get this quiz look like you mean sales. I’m like exactly.
Chip Griffin: Right.
Patrick Rogan: It is sales. I’m sorry. So let’s look it at like that and just like you have x number of clients that you’re trying to do business with we need x number of candidates that are in play if we expect to hire the best one. So that kind of like the visual sales funnel if you call that a visual candidate funnel it kind of has the same effect and it’s really important. Then to go beyond that to your second point is having a very clear and concise value proposition and again sometimes in the heat all the deliverables that has to be done for al the clients and all the projects that are being done, sometimes it’s just so hard because you just want someone in the spot. We got work that needs to be done. We’re not getting it done. Why can’t we find somebody? Sometimes the answer to that is we can’t find somebody because we’re not taking the time to present our value proposition which is really selling candidates on why our firm is the best choice for them. Sometimes at the beginning of the process in HR we’ll ask that question.

So why should someone come to work here? Why should someone work for your team specifically? Sell me and they’re like why. Because if you can’t sell me you’re not going to sell a candidate.

Chip Griffin: Right. Right. Exactly. If we all think back to our own career decisions, I think probably everyone would tell you that they were evaluating the employer just as much but somehow we often seem to forget that when we’re on the hiring side.
Patrick Rogan: Yeah. The other thing too is when it is a broader pipeline the chances are that the individual that you’re going to hire more often than not is going to be a second touch hire. When I say a second touch hire, usually the way the process works is when you have a pretty good pipeline, let’s say you post a position and you ask employees to recommend people and that kind of thing. Normally if the sales funnel is working as it should, normally by the time those individuals come to the table you already have someone in play and you might be close to extending an offer. You still want to talk to them but by establishing that relationship on that fist touch and letting them know a little bit about that organization and a little bit about the value proposition and the cool things that are done in this particular agency when that second position comes on, and hey remember we spoke with these three people that were a really good fit for the last role but they just got into the process a little bit late. Let’s call them first. They’re second touch. By having more second touch hires I find that the candidate now knows much more about the organization so there’s a little bit less selling that has to be done and you get more into is this a fit for the organization. Is this a fit for the candidate? Does that make sense?
Chip Griffin: It does. Yeah and one of the things I’ve done over the years, frankly, is if I know that I need to add resources to a particular team I’m often a little bit unsure of exactly what it is that I need so sometimes I’ll advertise two positions even though I know I’m only going to hire one. Simply so I have some different ideas so that then sets up that second touch opportunity because often times I still need that second position it just may be three or four months down the road.
Patrick Rogan: That’s a great strategy. One of the things that we’ve done on the HR teams that I’ve worked for as we find these candidates that we really like but just don’t have a position for right now, lots of times we’ll reach out to a manager and say hey listen I want to have another touch point for this individual. Remember this candidate that didn’t quite work out for the last addition but we think there might be something down the road. Do you have time to meet this person for coffee in a week or two? I’d like to set that up for you and the manager’s like yeah sure. That sounds great. It’s just one of those little tiny touch points that kind of make it more of a relationship and really helps that next time around when we’re all like okay let’s go. We’re ready.
Chip Griffin: Right. One of my other theories of hiring and I’m curious of what your take on it is, is that if I know that I need a number of new resources I try to still only hire one at a time if I can. So that, … because my theory is that as soon as I add someone to my team it changes the team dynamic. It changes what you believe you need next and so my theory has generally been if I try to hire two or three people at once I’m probably going to guess wrong as to what I really need my final team to look like. Whereas if I bring one on and sort of see strengths. See how it adjusts, how other team members are working it, it helps better inform my hiring decisions. What has been your experience in that regard? I mean obviously sometimes you can’t help it right. Sometimes you bring on a new client that is just so big they need a lot of bodies but overall how do you perceive handling those situations where you have to do a bunch of hiring?
Patrick Rogan: So I try and stage it as best as the business can handle. You’re right the trick with hiring multiple individuals at the same time onto a team is that it takes in general about six months for someone to really understand the culture of an organization. That’s been my experience. Some individuals can pick it up in four months. Some individuals maybe it takes six or eight months but generally it takes about, even if you have the right skills and everything’s check, check, check, check, every organizations wired a little bit differently. It takes a while to figure that out. So, if you have an individual whose on a team who’s new it’s a little bit easier to come up to speed in terms of what are all the unwritten rules, other things I need to do, what are our differentiators, how do I adapt to that. If I’m the one person who’s adapting on that team it’s a lot less stressful for the team bringing me up to speed than if half the team is brand new and that same knowledge transfer has to happen. It’s just really hard. It’s really hard to get that done from a transition perspective.


Having said that sometimes the business need is that we have to have three more people on this team. It’s a big project and … But lots of time what I’ll try to do is say well is there another internal resource we can switch over temporarily to kind of stretch it out a little bit. Are there some other things we can do to kind of buy a little bit of time because I do find that orientation, that kind of getting a feel for the culture of the organization is just so critical for success down the road. That if you kind of dilute by too many new hires it just becomes a little tricky. Not impossible but it’s something you definitely got to keep an eye on.

Chip Griffin: Sure. You mentioned adaption and one of the common themes in some of my podcast conversations lately has been the digital transformation that the PR space has undergone over the past couple of decades in particular. I wonder how you’ve seen the, how you have seen the Human Resources and talent function evolve over the last couple of decades as it comes to professional services, PR, et cetera. What … I mean obviously people find jobs differently today then they did 20 years ago. I mean I don’t think anybody’s picking up the newspaper to look at job ads if they’re looking for a job in PR for example. They’re going on LinkedIn or that sort of thing. Reading things on twitter where someone’s linked to job openings. How other than that have you seen the evolution take place?
Patrick Rogan: So, let me ask Chip are you … Cause I could go two different ways with this. One is how the digital changes impacted finding the right talent. The other is how has the digital focus of the PR world changed finding talent into an organization and how roles have changed and become more specialized. Which of those would you-
Chip Griffin: The good news is I want to explore both of those.
Patrick Rogan: Okay.
Chip Griffin: So why don’t we focus on the acquisition side first since that’s sort of where we’ve been talking and we’ll talk about sort of how it changes once their one the team.
Patrick Rogan: Sure yeah. So it’s, as a baby boomer, one of the things that’s been very clear to me with it, the digital aspect of recruiting right now is there is a lot of communication that’s normal and expected that’s not verbal, like we’re doing right now. It plays a big part in the recruiting and the selling of candidate process. So if you have an organization where your team for instance, their heavily into LinkedIn. They’ve got a very good LinkedIn profile. They’ve got a good solid network, that works really well. If you got an outlier or two that just aren’t really into the social media thing, that’s important because candidates now, if they know they’re going to interviewing with and they can get the information most PR firms will list a lot of their employees. Candidates are checking into these individuals and from an organizational perspective your employees need to be aware that it’s not just you anymore. It’s you representing your organization and there’s the individual … This is my digital persona versus my firm persona. It kind of likes blends together and it’s important that organizations and individuals in organizations take that seriously because believe or not as much as we check out candidates, they’re checking us out too.


So I think it’s important certainly for everyone to be aware and not afraid to have a little bit of a digital brand out there themselves because candidates are going to check that out. The other thing too is that, and this is something that I’ve had to adapt to over the years is that there’s just a lot more electronic communication going on and now it’s not at all unusual to be sending text messages to candidates. I would have never heard of that even five years ago and that’s just the way it’s done. It doesn’t mean that verbal conversations don’t happen. They certainly do but a lot of the logistical things, the scheduling things that’s all electronic now. The Thank You notes afterwards are almost all electronic and that took me a while to get used to. I use to really like that handwritten note but that’s just not the way it’s done anymore. So it has changed if anything I would say Chip is just speed it up a little bit. It’s a lot quicker and I think that’s good. I think that’s good for PR firms. I think it’s good for candidates who are ready to make a change as well.

Chip Griffin: This digital transformation has also changing how people work and so therefore how agency for example may organize themselves. There are a lot of agencies now that may have either a very limited or no physical office. There’s a lot more work even if you do have a large agency office you may still have people who are regular basis working remotely because the technology has made it so much easier to do that over the last 10 to 20 years. How does that impact the process of trying to both identify and I think this a good point to start pivoting a little bit looking at the retention of talent, right? It’s always great to have the hiring process. Everyone gets excited and focused on that but a little less of the focus goes on retention but in this day and age I think some of that goes to the work environment and how digital tools have changed how you function.
Patrick Rogan: Yeah. You know I got to tell you while there’s some really positives to the enablers that we have so working remotely is much more feasible. You know you can now look at hiring talent out of state and certainly from an HR perspective that creates some complexities but we can get through that. The fact is you can have access to talent now that really it wasn’t feasible before. You really needed people to be in the same physical space so that’s a good sign. The bad side of that is you lose a lot of the relationship building that you get through face to face contact. In some cases you have teams where you have remote members of the team who have never met the individuals who they’re working with on their teams and they may have been working together for years. That’s probably not a good thing. That’s where it gets a little bit harder to maintain those relationships and the connectivity to the organization and the organizational culture. So that’s one of the things we have to watch out for.


It’s great to have the benefits of having a more flexible distributed work force but at the same time that can create some potential obstacles. If we’re aware of it and focused on it I think we can get through it, I just think we need to be careful though that there’s still people with feelings and needs and personalities and unless we’re addressing them and managers in particular I’m getting to right here then retaining talent is going to be more challenging because you don’t know that you’re employees are getting what they need to grow and develop in their roles. Then it gets a little scary. That makes sense?

Chip Griffin: It does and I mean look we’re talking about two things here Public Relations and Human Resources. There’s the human part of Human Resources and the relationship part of Public Relations and I think if we lose sight of that, it means we’re not going to be producing as well for our clients. We’re not going to be building the kinds of agencies that we might otherwise be able to do.
Patrick Rogan: Totally agree.
Chip Griffin: So as you think about the tools that are there to facilitate collaboration or to make people’s lives easier, I understand that they can cause challenges but certainly they help as well right. I think it’s a lot easier to share information for example today with each other whether it’s in an agency or a corporate environment than it was in the past. I mean we use to have to have shared drives and things that were often cumbersome to set up and give permission to. Now everybody uses Dropbox. It use to be that scheduling use to take a long time but you and I were talking before this recording started about our use of Calendly which is a great tool for facilitating the setting up of appointments that in the past would have reacquired an executive assistant to accomplish. There are tools like Slack that allow sort of ongoing conversation among teammates throughout the day whether you’re in the next office over, the next town over or the next country over. So how does these tools help improve the relationship that you have with your colleagues and make you more productive? Is it a net positive or is it the loss of that human touch more significant?
Patrick Rogan: Well I think that when we use the tools in a structured way so when we … If we’re going to use Slack for conversations and collaboration about the technical aspects of a project or what we’re working on I think that’s appropriate. I think that the advantage to the tools that you described Chip are they really help us to overcome a lot of mileage transfer. A lot of the administrative details like with Calendly. A lot of the in the cloud, Oh my gosh the storage of documents is just amazing. Can you just imagine where we were not that long ago. Dropbox or Box or shared content. You can see who made what changes. Those are all great things. I think that they’re huge adds, each of them but there’s a temptation to not focus on the relationship piece sometimes because you’re so focused on the technical solution and particularly when individuals are remote. The longer that gap goes between the team dynamics that you lost from having individuals that are together you need to find a way to kind of, to bridge that gap. If you don’t have it for a long enough period of time then the work becomes a little bit more of a commodity. When it’s a commodity then the individual can deliver that commodity to anyone and there’s no affinity to the organization.


I think that’s the one thing I always like to keep in the back of mind. I’m a strong advocate of using tools. I’m a closet techie myself. I love trying something new and different but at the same time I want to make sure that form an organizational perspective we’re doing some other things to develop affinity and keep the affinity growing because that’s typically why people tend to stick around.

Chip Griffin: Right. I mean another trend, and I think this is probably partially encouraged by some of the digital transformation but I think it’s partly driven by shifts in the overall economy. There’s seems to be a trend towards PR agencies using a higher percentage of contractors to complete projects than in the past. Whereas in 20 years ago it may have been mostly in house employees doing work now you tend to at least in my experience have more of a mix in part to bring in specialists. In part to control headcount so that as your firm grows and shrinks which is just one of those natural things that occurs with most professional services firms that you can control that a little bit better. How do you perceive this use of contractors? A-Do you agree that it seems to be increasingly use in professional services versus say 20 years ago? B-Is that a good thing?
Patrick Rogan: Well I think it can be when used appropriately. I think one of the changes that I’m seeing in the PR industry is that particularly with a lot of the digital PR work that’s going on right now, the world is getting more specialized. The days when you had a good PR generalists who could do just about everything, you still need those individuals but you also need someone who can manage a digital campaign and those skills are very different. In some cases they’re very specialized. Maybe you need a strong data analytics person. You’re definitely going to need a strong data analytics person. Do you hire a data analytics person? How much data work do you really have that needs to be done? Does it make more sense to hire a contractor to do that? I think where things are specialized I think using contractors totally makes sense. In particular when you don’t know the volume of your need so you can kind of scale up and scale down but I do think it makes it a little bit harder on the PR world because everyone can’t do just about anything anymore. We do need more specialists. So just finding the right balance, I think, is the key.
Chip Griffin: As we sort of creep up on the, my mandatory 30 minute time limit that I have for all of my podcasts. I’m curious what you, what do you think is the biggest challenge that faces PR agencies from a talent standpoint today? Is it … I mean what is it?
Patrick Rogan: So I would say the biggest challenge is getting teams to work together better. I think so many times that we get so focused on the client. We get so focused on the solution that we forget that we have individuals that need to work together well. I find that we sometimes fail to recognize that we each have different styles. I think when the organizations aware of that and they can adapt to that I think there’s a lot of tools. I’m a predictive index person for behavioral assessment. I’m a strong advocate of that. I think there’s lots of the ways you can get handle on style but I find that style is usually the reason why individuals leave organizations not talent. By being more aware of style and adapting to and using it in terms of how you work with people and how people work together it just alleviates a huge amount of problem.
Chip Griffin: So you mentioned predictive index, explain a little more what that is. My guess is that probably most of my listeners are not as familiar with it as you are.
Patrick Rogan: So it’s a behavioral assessment tool. There are a ton of them. It’s one of the hottest growing industries right now. I think everyone has done Myers Briggs at some point in their past. The tools now are automated. They’re web based. They’re affordable. They take a very short, most of the tools take, between six and 10 minutes to take. It’s not a huge time commitment but it provides … It allows organizations to do two things. One is it can develop a profile for the positions of the hiring for and the teams that hiring onto and they can understand from it behavioral perspective how candidates are wired. So is the candidate … Do they want to control? Where are they from a social interaction perspective? Are they are a stability person or no stability a better thing? Do they tend to conform or do they want to write their own rules? Where they lie on each of those dimensions can have a great impact on a particular role on a particular team and organization they may be working in and going in eyes wide open can be very helpful for organizations.

So that’s my 30 second overviews obviously I can go much deeper.

Chip Griffin: Of course. Yeah. I appreciate you keeping it compact but hopefully enough that folks can understand what it is that you’re talking about. I guess I would close with is I think all of these things whether it’s predictive index or any of these other tests or really any of the other strategies that have been talked about here they’re only useful in you’re actually taking advantage of them right?
Patrick Rogan: Yep. Absolutely.
Chip Griffin: You can have a pile of ideas, a pile of data but unless you’re actually doing something with it, you’re not really improving.
Patrick Rogan: Totally agree. It’s like succession plans. How many succession plans have you seen you’ve put all this time into it and then it sits on a shelf? That doesn’t add any value. It’s tied to development and career management and then it’s very valuable right. So it’s like anything else. Using it makes all the difference in the world.
Chip Griffin: Right and it becomes a real problem when that succession plan isn’t updated so you pull it out and you’re like that person can’t take that job now they’re not even with us anymore.
Patrick Rogan: Oh yeah.
Chip Griffin: Well on that note if you can share with listeners, where they can find you online Patrick.
Patrick Rogan: Sure. My website is IgnitionHR.com. So you can find me right there or it’s Patrick@ignitionhr.com if you’d like to send me an email.
Chip Griffin: Fantastic. Well thank you for joining Patrick. Again my guest today has been Patrick Rogan.
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About The Author


Jordan Gosselin recently began her career in marketing and communication with CARMA. Her experience includes social and digital work, creative content production, and marketing operations.

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