Meaning and Purpose Fuel Attraction to Public Relations Jobs

February 8 2023

Early in my career, I once bought a $600 espresso machine thinking this and great snacks were the keys to employee retention and satisfaction. As a more seasoned leader, I cringe that I ever thought something so foolish.

The truth is that in all areas of our lives, we are searching for greater happiness and meaning. Work is no different. A recent Gallup study found that over the past couple of years, more than half of workers were disengaged, quiet quitting, if you will. The number creeps higher among those under the age of 35. 

Yikes. So, how does the public relations industry attract great talent…and keep it?

It’s a no-brainer that attracting employees requires competitive compensation, great job descriptions, a terrific culture, and an exciting opportunity, but here are a few tips for attracting and keeping great talent that you may not have considered.


1. Connect Meaning to Work

What do younger employees want? They want work that makes a difference in the world. The good news for the public relations and communication industry is that we specialize in what matters. We help people, organizations, and companies connect with their audiences. As senior leaders, we understand how important great communication is; however, in the hustle and bustle of a young colleague’s day, are we doing enough to connect why we do what we do and what affect it has on our communities, our society, our families, and our friends?

It is incumbent upon senior communication leaders to connect the dots for less seasoned colleagues. Sometimes it’s tough to see how creating a media list is changing the world.

2. Highlight Influence

As our traditional leaders fail in leading, increasingly our society is turning to businesses and non-governmental organizations fill the leadership vacuum. That means that no longer are we dependent on elected officials for societal change, people are turning to businesses and, specifically, their employers to drive the change that they seek.

Photo by Clark Tibbs on Unsplash

This massive shift started before Covid-19 but was accelerated throughout the pandemic. If companies and organizations are tasked with societal shifts, guess who drives these initiatives – sometimes it’s operational departments, but often it’s communication departments. 

This trend is compounded by the withering of the media landscape. Again, this presents an incredible opportunity to shape narratives about important issues and, frankly, shape our communities. We need to shout this from the rooftops. 

3. Offer Growth and Opportunity

Newly minted and seasoned employees alike want to be able to grow in their public relations jobs. At a big agency, the path is clear; at smaller agencies and in corporate communication roles, it’s less so. For some, growing means title advancement, but for others, it’s about learning. 

We must focus on the learning opportunities that public relations jobs offer. Employees in the public relations industry can have 100 careers because we have the opportunity to be mini experts in so many different industries without ever leaving their current employer. In addition, the communications industry is constantly changing, requiring renewed focus on learning. Just look at ChatGPT and Bard, which promise or threaten to upend the way we communicate. 

It’s not just enough to communicate what the opportunities are, but senior leaders in public relations must communicate how staff gets from where they are now to where they want to be. What are the skills they need? How can the firm or company help upskill employees? 

4. Reward Achievement

Employees want to work where their contributions are recognized and acknowledged – it is an old saw that good bosses give credit and take blame. We know that bosses/owners get credit naturally (and probably tangibly) when their business succeeds. It is important to recognize and reward employees who produce the good work product that drives the success of the business.

Additionally, explicitly recognizing when employees display an “entrepreneurial spirit” contributes to their interest in seeing the overall business succeed.


5. Curate an Enviable Work Environment

Employees want their working conditions to be fair and, perhaps more difficult when it comes to public relations jobs, predictable. Obviously, every employee expects to be treated fairly and no employee wants to be subject to unreasonable demands or emotional outbursts. Unfortunately, too often employees fail to speak up when they have issues with their work environment and may simply look for a new job. 

Managers must be proactive to ensure that employees enjoy coming to work – even if it is work. That means managers should be checking in with their reports at least weekly and executives should be checking in quarterly with all employees. 

6. Drive a Culture of Excellence

We have a saying in our household that superstars don’t like mediocre players and mediocre players don’t like superstars. I don’t think this needs much explanation. If it’s excellence you want (and I think we all do), you cannot tolerate mediocrity within your organization. This might seem counterintuitive when everyone has worked so hard to please employees over the past year. I promise you that any superstar employee doesn’t want to be surrounded by people who won’t sharpen their skills. Iron sharpens iron. 

As business leaders struggle to keep up with the economic whiplash of the past year when we couldn’t hire fast enough to considering layoffs, these tried and true practices will only strengthen your organizations and prepare them to flourish in more stable economic times.

Michelle Lyng
Founder & CEO, Novitas Communications
Michelle Balch Lyng has approximately 20 years of experience in strategic communications and reputation management relating to executive positioning, community engagement, issue management, corporate communication and crisis communications. Michelle advises a wide range of clients from Fortune 100 companies experiencing significant change to start-up grassroots political organizations. She has helped implement organization-wide communications strategies to uphold a reputation when financial and/or regulatory stakes were highest. The Denver Post named her one of Colorado’s “Up and Coming Most Influential Women” and dubbed her a “strategic communications expert”. Michelle has served her community as a precinct committee person, a Vice-Chairman, and a Chairman Pro Temps for the Denver Republican Party. She also has served on the boards of The Lincoln Club of Colorado and The First Tee of Colorado. She is also a member of the University Club of Denver.

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