Where have all the “Grey Hairs” gone?
It was interesting to hear Katie Perrior’ views of her time as No10 Comms Director.
But the thing which caught my ear was here critique of the make-up of the Prime Minister’s inner circle.
Perrior told the BBC: “Being in the Home Office for such a long time with that being her top team she became accustomed to that being it. Of course, running the Home Office is very different from running the country.
“Trying to make that change to Number 10 was more difficult than she possibly anticipated. I used to wonder why because actually she needed to broaden her circle of advisers, she needed to have a few grey hairs in there who have been around the block a bit, who could say: ‘don’t do that, don’t make enemies when you don’t need to’.”
This was interesting as it mirrored what David Davis, the Brexit secretary said of his Department for Exiting the European Union, made up of the “brightest and best” from across the civil service.
Davis, who said he wanted it smaller than other Government departments but just as effective, told members of the House of Lords EU committee “Once we get to that sort of size we’re going to be looking to outsiders. I’ve got a lot of very bright young civil servants – I haven’t got that much grey hair yet, which I may have to find outside.”
Be it running the country or managing Brexit, having experienced older staff is important for your team make-up.
In the PR industry, we seem to think the precise opposite.
We often shed experienced staff members because of the twin priorities of youth and cost. Many see PR (wrongly) as a young persons’ industry and that they can get good staff on the cheap by not paying for hard-earned expertise.
I away see this as a false economy – in medicine, the building trade or the legal profession you pay for experience. If you don’t want to pay the going rate for experience well, as the adage goes, you get what you pay for.
In 2015, the then Diversity Working Group produced a report looking at some of the issues that affect those in PR; how our senior practitioners were treated was one of the concerns. Part of the definition of a profession is having a knowledge base that can be passed on to future practitioners. In that case getting rid of experienced staff makes no sense for the profession; not just for your workplace.
The following is taken from the report, From Diversity to Inclusion: The Progression Of Equality in Public Relations and Challenges for the Future.
“By ignoring older professionals, many of whom may have gained invaluable experience from other industries, we risk depriving ourselves of fresh insight at a time when industry convergence is at an all-time high. Participants unanimously agreed that addressing this cultural imbalance ought to be regarded as a priority for the PR industry.”