Name: Sarah Leembruggen
Company: The Works Search Ltd
Job title: Managing Director
What does your day-to-day job involve?
I usually have an early start to the day – up at six thirty to be in the office by eight thirty. I’m a great believer in planning to ensure long-term goals are met, so I regularly review my calendar and follow a ‘90 day plan’ which is broken down into a day by day basis.
Typically my day to day job involves checking in with my team and providing any advice to ensure everyone is happy and supported with any issues. I also frequently run training workshops, monthly business reviews and one to ones as I’m passionate about personal and professional development and want to ensure this is continually ticking over with my team.
I also spend much of my time speaking with and meeting my senior network – both clients and candidates. I work with my clients to secure senior PR and communications rainmakers to add value to their business, and my candidate network is over 20 years old and so the majority of my candidates I have partnered with throughout their careers, and I am still regularly in touch with them.
I’m also involved in quite a lot of marketing and PR in my role – I’ve provided thought leadership articles for books such as FuturePRoof, and trade websites and magazines such as PR Week and Gorkana, and write regular blogs for the business’s website.
Is it essential to be a graduate to get a job in PR?
In our experience PR and communications can be heavily traditional in terms of academic requirements, especially leaning towards the old-school ‘red brick’ ideology, which can be a huge headache and such a terrible waste of talent. However that’s not to say that young professionals without degrees can’t work in PR! We find direct applications, and being creative with direct applications, is a good way to stand out from the crowd. The approach depends on which sector really, however I’d suggest research is an important factor – subscribing to trade news so you can stay ahead of the curve. They should have a really good knowledge of who they want to work for, and which agencies and in-house organisations appeal to them most, particularly sector-wise. Being persistent about getting work experience is a must – it’s a hugely competitive industry and so I think it’s important to not give up about applying for internships, placements, or even straight in at junior level. Don’t give up!
Clients like to see strong influencing skills, a good new business track record, a great project manager and someone who is passionate about current affairs.
What do you look for in PR hires?
We have exceptional clients both in-house and agency-side, and that means we need exceptional candidates on offer. My business operates on quality and not volume – we work towards our clients meeting no more than four of our candidates, before offering one of them. So we look for PR professionals who stand out from the crowd, who are able to demonstrate impressive evidence of their campaigns, great achievements and successes which showcase their professional profile to the client. Clients like to see strong influencing skills, a good new business track record, a great project manager and someone who is passionate about current affairs. Naturally being a brilliant writer and having excellent attention to detail helps enormously too.
How do you find PR talent?
The majority of the PR talent we find is from our proactive approach – 60% of the job market are not looking for a new job, therefore the days of finding exceptional talent from advertising are over. Excellent people know other excellent people so we keep in touch with our network and ask for referrals – having been established for 20 years, both candidates and clients are continually coming to us in this way. We do also use social media and advertising to maximise our reach for roles although we find our contacts know where the gems are.
How much has changed in how PR practitioners are recruited in the last five years?
Over the last five years we have seen more in-house recruitment teams (teams based in big corporate companies) try to fill roles through advertising on LinkedIn or their website. However, we know that this isn’t the best avenue to secure the gems and they often pick up the phone after a direct search has failed.
Which sector or discipline is the most difficult to recruit for?
In our sector areas financial services in agencies are especially difficult – particularly at Account Director level. The preference from most PR professionals is to work in-house, although the professional development which you can achieve working agency-side is not to be underestimated.
Who is the most interesting or inspiring PR practitioner you’ve ever met and why?
Paul Downes who recently moved on from Instinctif Partners is inspiring, horribly well connected and great fun. He built and sold a success corporate and financial agency, Merlin Financial Communications to a major league international business. An admirable achievement.
Naturally I read the news every day and cheat at the weekend by reading The Week to make sure I haven’t missed anything.
Which PR blogs, news sites and websites do you read?
The team and I keep up to date with PR Week and Gorkana newsletters – they’re an invaluable source of industry news and it’s crucial to keep up to date with the latest moves and news – most of the recruitment news we have previously heard about anyway of course! Naturally I read the news every day and cheat at the weekend by reading The Week to make sure I haven’t missed anything.
What are your tips for seasoned PRs looking to move jobs?
It’s difficult at senior level in PR as many professionals may feel that they have reached the height of their career and they would potentially need to look at a ‘lateral’ move, and there is much discussion in the industry about the scarcity of opportunities at senior level which I have written some commentary on – senior professionals tend to stay in their roles for much longer, and especially if they work in-house, which means senior in-house positions are rarer to come by. This can make moving jobs at this level quite tricky – or at least can mean it can potentially take quite a long time (one or two years). Again, having clear priorities about what the objectives of the job move are, and also being open to the opportunities which do exist are important. And of course – persistence is key and using your network!
You will always need your network in your career so nurture it
What are your tips for aspiring PRs?
You will always need your network in your career so nurture it. Make sure you’re taking every opportunity to increase your network as it’s important to build up your contacts and this is a good way to hear about potential jobs or people on the move or thinking about being on the move. Get in touch with specialist PR and communications search consultancies who work in your sector and see what advice they can give you – or even whether they have suitable roles they could put you forward for. Write up a wish list of your ideal organisations to work for, whether that’s agency or in-house – and be open to both!