I can’t remember how many times I’ve heard people complain about agencies who deploy junior people, straight out of university, to work on their clients’ accounts. The complaint normally comes from two sources. First, from older PR freelancers who would love to do the retained work that agencies secure. And, second, from clients.
The second is that one that we should worry about. But it strikes me that the problem isn’t primarily one of age. It’s a question of whether the agency has recruited well and trained its staff. In the best agencies, there are young practitioners who are creative and diligent, who clearly have high IQs, who are daily consumers of the media, and whose views are well worth listening to. Their employers provide regular training activities, with outside speakers, and there is a constant hunger to increase skills. Young staff may not have the experience to deal with a media crisis, but they can pick up pitching a consumer PR story pretty quickly.
Of course, there are plenty of untrained and less able recruits in the industry. And clients should avoid them. When interviewing agencies, it makes sense not just to meet the MD, but also ask to see the team or individual who will actually be providing the service.
But let’s be realistic. Most clients will not want to pay for “six-figure” practitioners – such as strategists and crisis communications experts – to answer phone calls and write press releases for them on a day-in-day-out basis. It doesn’t make economic sense.