As the coronavirus pandemic forces companies to lay off workers, businesses need communications services more than ever.
That paradox was something that an April 24 PRSA webinar sought to clarify for PR job-seekers. The event was hosted by Vanessa Yanez, global head of print communications at HP in San Mateo, Calif., and president of PRSA’s Silicon Valley Chapter. Krista Wierzbicki Todd, vice president of global communications for Logitech in Newark, Calif., moderated the webinar.
For PR professionals, the job market “is going to be rough” in the second quarter of this year, said panelist Jessamyn Katz, president of the San Francisco office of Heyman Associates, a communications and marketing recruiter.
In health care, “our clients have come to a screeching halt,” she said, but opportunities still exist in areas such as technology and financial services. “There will be a huge pent-up demand for communications after companies start hiring again,” Katz said.
Webinar panelist Jim Delulio, president of recruiting firm PR Talent in Huntington Beach, Calif., said he’s seeing job opportunities for people who can tell digital stories across multiple platforms.
Segments that are hiring include: higher education, law firms and franchises, which are often bringing in freelancers before committing to full-time hires, he said.
“Financial communications and investor relations are also hot areas now,” Delulio said.
Another irony for the profession is that while companies need PR help, “Communicators are so busy right now that it’s a tough time to bring new people on board,” said panelist Angee Linsey, president of Seattle-based Linsey Careers, a search firm for marketing and communications executives. “Many companies have put positions on hold, and are saying, ‘We need to see if we’re still here at the end of this,’” she said.
Panelist Brooke Kruger, a founder of communications-recruiting firm KC Partners in San Francisco, said she predicts more hiring in the third and fourth quarters of this year.
Employee communications and crisis communications are “functional sweet spots” that employers are looking for, Katz said. “There’s a hyper-focus on internal communications right now,” she said.
PR professionals must be “super agile and flexible across all communications needs,” Linsey said. “Having a calm, rational, clear-thinking communications mindset will set you apart.”
As job losses mount amid COVID-19, some PR professionals are being thrust into freelance roles. An upside of freelancing is that “You can keep your skills sharp and maintain your contacts,” Kruger said. If you’re looking for freelance work, then she recommends reaching out to contacts to let them know.
For recent college graduates hoping to enter the communications profession, “This is a good time to hone your networking skills,” Delulio said. “Leverage your alumni networks, look for common interests and ask for 10 minutes on the phone.” During the coronavirus pandemic, senior executives have more time and are more accessible, he said.
“Be open to a job,” Linsey said. “Maybe it’s not the job you want, but it will get you one step closer.”
Greg Beaubien is a contributor to PRSA publications.
Photo credit: Tetiana Yurchenko