/ 7 June 2021

Rising PR graduates deserve professional support

The graduate unemployment rate is still lower than the rate among those with other educational levels. This means that education is still the key to these young people’s prospects improving in the South African labour market.
Graduates need to be able to show what they can do with what they know and universities should be measured, not only by the number and quality of graduates, but by employment statistics. (AFP)

Nurturing young, creative talent is vital to the sustainability of the public relations and communications industry. This has become even more apparent during the Covid-19 pandemic as agencies have had to adapt quickly to an ever-changing environment.

This move has been two-fold: firstly, agencies have had to pivot their own operations to function optimally in a new environment and secondly, they have had to help their clients adapt to the constantly evolving landscape.

To do this, communications players need employees who are flexible, creative, critical thinkers and, most importantly, resilient. These characteristics may be inherent in young people in the industry, but they need to be nurtured to be fully developed.

With busy schedules and constant pressure to meet deadlines, however, seasoned professionals often find it challenging to make the time to identify, grow and develop others. 

While on-the-job training and motivational support is an obvious place to start, more formal internal and external mentorship programmes – including setting and measuring achievable growth objectives, identifying aspirations and determining development needs – can facilitate and accelerate growth.

In addition, formal internship programmes that focus on challenging areas, such as writing, as well as  growth areas, such as digital, can provide talented young entrants into the industry with the tools they need to thrive.

Industry initiatives can also play a significant role. One example is the Prism Young Voices programme which was introduced in 2017 to offer 10 up-and-coming communications people the opportunity to receive mentorship from some of the country’s top professionals and take part in the Prism Awards. The initiative by the Public Relations Institute of Southern Africa provides the young winners with the opportunity to judge the prestigious public relations and communication awards, alongside industry experts and simultaneously receive valuable insights into the industry and the critical elements that make up award-winning campaigns.

To make a much more significant impact, the industry needs more of these initiatives. It also needs programmes and conferences that address the post-pandemic communications environment and the rapid changes brought about by technological advancements.

Notably, young professionals should be encouraged to embrace lifelong learning. They are, after all, the business owners of the future. They need to be entrepreneurial and dare to dream. To do this, they need a conducive environment to develop their talents and unlock their potential. This will ensure a sustainable, thriving communications industry that contributes meaningfully to South Africa’s economic growth.