What comes after the Great Resignation? How PR teams can navigate the waters


The Great Resignation of 2021 — sometimes called the Big Quit — made headlines this year as hoards of employees quit their jobs. No industry went untouched, including public relations. So what exactly spurred this movement and how did it affect PR teams? Even more important: What can we do to prepare our teams for the next phase that experts have predicted, the Great Reshuffle?

Let’s take a look.

The big picture: What happened during the Great Resignation

In March 2021, Microsoft published its Work Trend Index, highlighting findings from a study of more than 30,000 people. It found that more than 40% of the global workforce was considering leaving their jobs in 2021.

Here’s what happened: A whole lot of Americans quit their jobs. In September alone, 4.4 million people quit their jobs, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. This was a record-setting high since it first started collecting data in December 2000. It’s worth noting September wasn’t an anomaly. The quit rate has held high for most of the year.

So what gives? It’s not uncommon to see higher quit rates with low unemployment rates and plenty of open positions. But economists think there’s more at play here, especially with these record-setting numbers. Some theories include:

  • The rise of remote work: Why stay with a company that requires you to commute to the office with plenty of remote opportunities available? Some employers required workers to return to the office too soon.
  • A shift in mindset: No doubt the pandemic changed everyone’s lives, and it caused many to reevaluate what’s important and take a closer look at priorities.
  • Opportunities for increased pay: It’s not a secret that switching jobs can result in higher pay, and with a labor shortage, some employers were willing to pay more.
  • The burnout is real: Employees need a break or want to find work that feels more meaningful.

Challenges PR teams faced this year during the Great Resignation 

With people leaving their jobs, PR teams faced some unique challenges this past year.

Some teams had to continue operations with employee shortages.

Lisa Knox, the director of public relations at Saint Mary’s College said her team was temporarily down by three people, “which made it challenging to do anything outside of the basics,” she said.

Mike Maynard, the managing director of Napier Partnership Limited, feels as though the PR world stopped bringing new people into the industry.

“Now we’re struggling to find people with experience,” he said. He’s been on the hunt for account managers and junior account managers.

Other PR teams faced challenges due to shifts over on the media side.

“Due to COVID-19, so many press publications and radio stations lost or changed personnel,” Devon Leger, director at HearthPR, explained. “It made it hard to maintain long-standing relationships with journalists, and we just lost a lot of key contacts.”

This will require PR pros to sink time and energy into building relationships as new contacts become established in 2022.

How PR pros can prepare for the next phase: the Great Reshuffle

So what’s next? In 2022, you’ll likely hear the conversation shift from the Great Resignation to the Great Reshuffle. We can expect workers to start making moves—making changes to their career paths and settling in at companies that offer fulfilling work. Also taking center stage: Work arrangements and perks.

For PR teams to power through the Great Reshuffle and stay on top, they should consider taking some key steps, including:

1. Prioritize tech solutions

With a continued trend of hybrid and remote work, PR teams will need to prioritize tech solutions to ensure efficient communication and team transparency. Tools that’ll make PR teams’ jobs easier include:

  • Workflow solutions
  • Reporting platforms or dashboards
  • Video and chat channels
  • Media databases

By implementing these tools (you can see some of the ones the Muck Rack team uses here), your team members will feel more connected and supported as remote employees.

2. Showcase PR successes

In PR, it’s important to track, measure, and report the results of your media relations efforts.

There are two reasons for this.

First, your team will feel more invested in campaign performance, and with realistic, clear goals, they’re more likely to stay engaged and on task.

Second, if you’re on a PR team that’s part of a larger organization, it’s important to show how your PR efforts are impacting the company’s overall success. And, if you can automate this process to save time, even better.

Jennifer Gist, a communications associate for Team Rubicon USA, said her team struggled to track media replacements.

“Once we got Muck Rack it made it much easier,” she explained. “Also, we share our media efforts with the entire organization, so presenting our efforts in an easy-to-understand format is something we focused on in 2021.”

3. Diversify your skillset

Many PR pros agree that it will become more important to diversify their skill set during the Great Reshuffle. After all, the media landscape will continue to evolve.

“The biggest challenge I faced while working in PR in 2021 was adapting quickly to the constant change,” said Isaac Robertson, CEO of Total Shape. “Social media has made it especially challenging because things are constantly evolving and there is no time to get used to one way of doing something before you have another tool thrown at you.”

Not only will you have to diversify your skillset, but expanding your expertise will also be important as PR pros look for more ways to cut through the noise.

“One of the biggest challenges I faced as a PR professional in 2021 was finding competitive angles to cut through the circulating topics of the year such as political climate, social climate, and COVID/vaccine-related media,” explained Ashley Graham, CEO, and founder of Your Brandista.

This presents companies with an opportunity to provide their employees with the resources they need to grow their skillset, but it’s also an opportunity for them to hire employees with a more diversified set of skills.

Looking forward to the Great Reshuffle

Last year presented us with the Great Resignation, leaving employers scrambling to find talent. This year, as the Great Reshuffle takes hold, PR teams can combat challenges by taking some simple steps to set their teams up for success.

Above all, it’ll be important for PR teams to remain nimble as we forge ahead into 2022.




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