Amazon transformed the search for talent in Seattle. Now the company’s headed for New York and DC. How will its arrival impact the competition for talent in those regions? RH Strategic Associate Vice President Kara Lundberg explains.

How has Amazon’s growth in Seattle affected recruiting there?

There’s no denying that Amazon’s dominance in Seattle has made it more challenging for companies in many industries to attract and retain top talent. As Amazon continues its aggressive expansion and technology innovation, it will remain an attractive employer in the Seattle market. And not just for public relations talent, but techies, retail experts, contractors based in Seattle and those who relocate on the company’s dime. While Amazon has made it tough to compete with its stock options, benefits and other attractive perks, when it comes to keeping employees, the behemoth suffers from one of the highest turnover rates among Fortune 500 companies (PayScale reported in June Amazon’s average employee tenure at just one year). Still, Amazon’s dominance has made it more important than ever for companies large and small to promote unique and aggressive compensation and benefits packages.

What impact do you expect HQ2 to have on recruiting in those locations?

For those of us who have felt the impact of Amazon’s 45,000 Seattle employees, we can guarantee to the businesses and communities of the HQ2s that things are about to change – albeit likely less acute than the “takeover” in the Pacific Northwest. It has been reported that Amazon chose Long Island City and Crystal City based on talent. Both locations claim specialized kinds of talent that will help meet the company’s growth needs – New York for global finance, retail, media and D.C. for public sector experience and cloud customers (AWS). In addition to those experienced in cloud, data, book publishing and retail respectively, contractors in these regions will finally get a piece of Amazon’s pie as the company often brings on workers to support specific hype cycles and major launches for just months at a time. Companies headquartered in the greater HQ2 metro areas will feel the strain on their recruiting pipelines as talent commits to longer subway rides to the suburbs in exchange for bigger paychecks.

What has RH done to overcome the recruiting crunch?

As RH Strategic commits to finding the brightest and most creative PR talent in Seattle and Washington, D.C., we have recently launched a formal internship program to get to know and groom those looking to make their way into the PR community in each city. Our internship program is intended to create a beneficial relationship and growth opportunity for RH, its employees and young professionals. With our first two classes of RHockstar interns, we have enhanced our ability to recruit top talent more naturally and funnel top talent into full-time members of the team. Young professionals are seeking guidance and inspiration as they graduate from their college programs and we are looking to build our team with the best of the best – a win-win!

What’s changed about the public relations skills you look for in candidates today?

While PR fundamentals like organization, client service and media know-how will always be at the top of our talent wish list, PR candidates with extra experience often stand out. An interest in and knowledge of design, social media and audio/video editing are skills that have significantly advanced our PR toolkit. Moving forward, candidates that demonstrate an understanding of what goes into a great content strategy and what it truly means to be an integrated communicator are also becoming valuable hires. PR skills are expanding far beyond traditional media tactics to include an holistic outbound communications experience – knowing the right communications tools to use in order to get the job done. Rather than punt to broader marketing or advertising teams, to be successful in the future, PR pros need to understand when to deploy paid media and social media campaigns, sponsor webinars or integrate content into an email marketing campaign.


RH Strategic is a Seattle and D.C.-based communications firm providing strategic public relations for innovators in the technology, public sector and healthcare markets.