Recruitment outlook in PR and comms with Kathryn Woof from 33 Talent

Recruitment outlook in PR and comms with Kathryn Woof from 33 Talent

Kathryn Woof is the Managing Director and Co-Founder of 33 Talent, based in Singapore. She shared her thoughts with Telum on the state of PR and communications recruitment in Southeast Asia for the year ahead.

An overview of recruitment in Southeast Asia's comms industry
In 2023, we saw an unusual situation in Southeast Asia where agencies were simultaneously hiring and making redundancies, especially at the Senior Account Manager level, where competent, skilled PR practitioners can offer a lot of value. The exchange of talent at this level persisted even in a year where hiring had been slow overall.

Apart from that, we also noticed a trend where boutique agencies were reaching out into ASEAN markets to set up their own teams, which led to more hiring in several countries, especially Malaysia, Philippines and Indonesia.

Compared with previous years, employers are in a position of power where they have more choices when it comes to talent. With that being said, top talent remains in demand and those candidates could receive several job offers when they are in the market.

Comms agencies have also used the market shake up to shift their skills scope, and make sure they are hiring the right talent to move forward in the industry, particularly those that fit the fastest growing PR and comms specialisms listed below:
  • Web3 specialties: We observed an increase in the number of PR practitioners pursuing Web3 specialism, either by practice group or agency preference.
  • Leadership communications: This area of specialisation is also growing as senior leaders act as anchors for internal communications within businesses in the face of constant change.
  • Corporate advisory: We also noticed that teams who offer corporate advisory services continue to expand.
  • Sustainability communications: Sustainability is a rapidly growing area, with agencies beginning to appoint specialists to spearhead their businesses in this space.

Top skills a communications professional should bring to a new role
For Kathryn, a PR practitioner should bring a full spectrum of skills to their work. She lists a few below:
  1. Core skills: These are effective storytelling, critical thinking, and influencing skills. These capabilities remain crucial for any comms professional.
  2. Innovative application of core skills: The ability to build upon those skills in a creative way in the new era divides one comms person from another. For example, how would you utilise AI for content creation and strategic planning?
  3. Leadership: This is still an in-demand skill, with agencies seeking talents who not only serve their clients, but also contribute to the business and its strategy.

Kathryn's advice for emerging (or seasoned) PR practitioners looking to secure a new role in the industry
Listed here are some of the core attributes of a PR practitioner, which are valuable skills for any roles in the communications industry. For some people, these attributes might come naturally, others may need to make a more concerted effort to develop them. Either way, you can improve these skills on-the-job; by working with your managers, peers and mentors, or learning at institutes in person or online.
  1. Be adaptive: If the last few years have taught us anything, it’s that being nimble and adaptive is a hugely important attribute. It could be weathering through market changes or adjusting to new tools such as generative AI. Take this attribute one step further and cultivate it as a skill.
  2. Thought leadership: Be an evangelist to clients and colleagues on new ways of working. Every client requires a trusted advisor and that person should be you. Contrary to belief, it’s not just senior leaders who can do this - everybody can do it at every stage of their career. Educate yourself on trends and what requires actions, or what can be kept-in-view.
  3. Curiosity: This means a hunger to learn and try new things, eventually leading to building new skills throughout your career, or suggesting new ways of working, wherever you are.  Curious members within a team create progress, which ties back to being adaptive.
  4. Relationship management: More often than not, hard skills are talked about more but it’s important to remember the advantages of honing soft skills as well. Half the future lies in the hands of those who are brilliant with people, while the other half lies in the hands of those who are brilliant with tech.

Kathryn Woof has worked with 33 Talent since 2012, providing recruitment, human resources and coaching services to a wide range of clienteles. She is also Co-Chairwoman of APSCo Asia, a dedicated recruitment trade association for Southeast Asia.

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