The Cliches You Need to Avoid When Recruiting Digital PR

The Cliches You Need to Avoid When Recruiting Digital PR

7th October 2015

SOD- Interview ap

It’s that time of the year again where the industry sees a shift in clients and an influx of new blood into the agency. Across all levels, from internships to senior roles, CV’s are being polished and sent to the inbox of agencies and brands. With every CV, there will be the clichés and typical ambiguous attributes classed as ‘qualities.’

PR in general is a hard one to recruit for, so it’s understandably harder to look for a Digital PR to join the team. Below are simple traits to avoid or to not take seriously when recruiting for a Digital PR.

“Digital Savvy”

First of all ‘Digital Savvy’ can be a number of things, from having a Facebook account to planning and executing a technical SEO strategy. It’s an empty statement, unless they have proof and can talk through their portfolio and their knowledge. One important thing to remember when hiring a Digital PR is that you can teach your style in reporting, analytics and digital marketing tactics. Public Relations is a tactic and industry where your personal attributes play a big part rather than your knowledge around digital. If they are used to working in traditional PR, they should be naturally a communicative person who can work well under pressure and use their personable personality to get the results.

What you want to see is how their hobbies can complement their position in Digital PR, for example: having their own blog, being a brand ambassador or having a genuine keen interest in the industry your agency specialises is.

It’s not the most important quality and the statement usually has been crafted to get your attention.

“Experience with Big Brands”

Immediately, this sounds great. If you have a candidate of all levels telling you how they made a big brand, bigger, do not take their word for it. In most cases within big brands and corporations, there are many small cogs in a very large wheel that would have been a part of a small portion of the activity. In PR, most big brands hire a PR agency and a Digital PR agency to handle the outreach, so unless the position is for a senior or director role, this experience will not exactly play to their advantage.

What to look out for is proof of entrepreneurial behaviour or their involvement in a small brand. This means you can actually see the work they have done, they will be able to talk through the good and bad and the challenges they faced. People who are more entrepreneurial are quick thinkers and normally not reactionary. They are used to bringing ideas to the table and relying on previous experiences to help create a PR campaign better. In short, these people are the doers.

“Knowledge of PR tools”



In short, PR tools will never build a case study, win an award or change the industry and should never be seen as a positive attribute to add to a CV.

When considering someone, you want to see unique tactics that are more cunning such as using competitor analysis to gain a better advantage or using Twitter search terms to find possible PR leads. This will show they think out of the box, they use their common sense and they have the brand and the industry at the heart of their Digital PR activity.

An executive that will heavily rely on PR tools will not be able to outreach, list build or think creatively independently. Tools can help, but they should never be the foundation to any Digital PR tactic or strategy.

“Strong Analytical Background”

A strong analytical background is not necessary for a Digital PR. Yes, you need to use analytics and data to predict and help shape your Digital PR, but years’ worth of experience is not needed. All those years stuck in Google Analytics could have been used developing contacts, executing PR campaigns, engaging with bloggers and carving a career within a specific industry.

What you want to see from a possible PR candidate is how they have reported in the past to a client or management. This could vary from annual, quarterly reports to how they constructed industry reports. This will show that they can not only execute the day to day tasks, but also can report and use their findings to shape and better their Digital PR efforts.

If you are looking for a strategist in Digital PR, ask for proof on campaigns they have done previously and what they propose for a client of yours. This way, you will be able to see proof of actual campaigns they have done and how they can think creatively on the spot.

“Extensive Experience in PR”

Having years of experience is not a bad thing, but it shouldn’t be preferred over less experienced applicants. Years of experience could mean a more traditional attitude, working at a slower pace and less hands on experience on the nitty gritty tasks that change every year. Someone who has extensive experience could run the risk of being cynical about the digital landscape and its importance to the digital mix.

What you want to look for is a candidate that has transferable skills that would complement their work in Digital PR. Typical traits from a new business developer, communications officer or a digital outreach specialist. These people will be used to following a strategy, getting in front of the right people, selling a story or a brand and build relationships- all qualities that are core to a successful Digital PR.

What attributes should you look for when recruiting a Digital PR?

=SOD- Good Skills

Experience in the industry you are looking to recruit in

This is not a necessity, I personally have fashion PR’s become the best B2B Digital PRs, but it is a great advantage. If a candidate has come from a sporting background or events and your agency has a majority of sport or event clients, then it’s a no brainer to consider them. You need someone that understands the key individuals and brands in a certain industry and how your brand or client sits with them.

If a candidate has experience in a specific industry, they will know the key times of the year that Digital PR activity needs to be ramped up and when are the quieter times of the year, for examples fashion and week and the January sales are the biggest times to sell in look book imagery and sale items for fashion ecommerce brands. More importantly, they will know how journalists and sites will react to a certain story and how they can make a certain brand more PR’able.

Great Communication Skills

Great communication skills needs to not be just a great writer. A great Digital PR needs to present ideas, sell in a brand and use their confidence to entice influential sites to feature the brand. A candidate needs to have impeccable listening and interpretation skills so they can listen to a client’s ethos and execute their plans into a Digital PR strategy. A great communicator shouldn’t be phased by all levels of management both agency and client side. They should also be able to put their ideas across and push back when needed, for example if a client thinks a story or angle will translate well online and the PR knows it won’t, they need to have the confidence and tactical skills to communicate this effectively.

A genuine passion for the industry or job role

Of course every candidate will say they are passionate about the role and the industry, but it is one of the most important assets of an individual. It is useless for someone who can tick all the boxes but not have their heart or their mind in the role.

It can be hard to decipher who is being genuine or who is simply looking to move on. Try looking at their hobbies outside of work, their accomplishments at previous roles and their portfolio of the work they are the most proud of. This will not only set the candidates apart, but it will also show you who sees their role as a 9-5 job or a career for life.

In short, what you need for a successful Digital PR candidate might be more about their personality, their natural skills and their industries expertise than what they have done in the past. A great Digital PR will should be adaptable, confident without the needs to spend a day going through an outreach tool to see results.


Written By
Jodie Harris heads up the Digital PR division at MediaVision. She has worked in publication relations since 2008. She specialises in bringing the rules of traditional PR to a digital platform.
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