Over the past few months, I’ve been involved in a few corporate job searches (including some for my own team) that require talented communicators who have experience with social media. Should be easy, right? This is one of the most important trends impacting marketing and communication in years and has fueled endless hype and soul-searching in several professions. But not so fast. The reality – from my humble observation as a hiring manager in communications – is that there are very few professionals who can legitimately claim to understand both PR and social media. Part of the reason for this is few companies are actually involved in social media (recent reports suggest only 15% of Fortune 500 companies have blogs), so the number of professionals with hands-on experience in the field is still very limited. What does exist – based on the resumes I’m getting – is a range of highly specialized workers who aren’t necessary appropriate for a Web 2.0 communication gig: web designers and architects; IT experts who understand the technology but not the strategy; technical writers; renegade bloggers; old-school communication experts; and, intranet or Web writers. Very rarely will you find somebody with skills and experience that cross across the technical, practical and strategic sides of the equation.

Most of the folk I have found with this rare mix are in agencies, who seem much further ahead than their corporate cousins on this topic. This is probably as it should be – PR and specialized agencies should be on the cutting-edge after all. And I’ve had great experience with importing agency talent into a corporate gig. But no matter who I hire, the sad reality is that there are still few professionals who have the experience and aptitude to help companies navigate into social media. I’m hoping that changes over the coming years.