Daney Parker, Editor, PRmoment.com
Putting together a PR team needs careful thought. Discussing why it is so important to get the mix right, Shalon Roth, founder of agency PR-it, says: “Building a PR dream team is like a chemical reaction: if you get all the elements right, you end up with a useful solution; if you get the proportions wrong, you end up with a mess.”
Roth says that the most important thing to establish is the goal: “When agency leaders think about building a team, their mind often jumps to staffing with people perceived to be ‘good’ or those with capacity. Whilst it may seem counterintuitive, it’s challenging to build an effective team if you start with specific people. Instead, start with a list of the must-have skill sets to deliver the scope and achieve the goal.”
Roth adds that throughout her career she has observed superstars who thrive when they can shine alone, but create chaos when asked to work together. “The inability to collaborate often comes down to a difference in values (and sometimes ego) and these dimensions are just as important to consider as skills and experience when building a successful team.”
To help you build the most effective PR team, other PR leaders describe the key elements you need below.
A diverse mix
Lucy Newson, director at PR agency Alfred: “It’s crucial to have a diverse mix of personalities, skillsets and backgrounds within our team, as it means we all benefit from different approaches and ideas, and this ultimately leads us to our best work. We use Insights, a tool that maps personality types, to understand what motivates each of us and how to get the best out of each other. Whilst we celebrate our differences, one of the things that underpins a great team, is having shared values and a common belief in what we’re trying to achieve as a business - this is what our culture is built on, it means we all get out of bed with the same purpose in mind, and creates a happy and motivated team.”
A strong leader
Farzana Baduel, CEO of agency Curzon PR: “Most importantly, you need a leader who can create a safe space for the diverse voices in a team whilst steering projects to clear destinations, like an orchestra conductor. A global campaign we worked on failed because the person at the helm didn't have a north star and was easily swayed by all the diverse viewpoints of the team members."
Passion for PR
Olha Boiko, head of PR and communications at digital transformation tech company Innovecs: ““The art of mixing PR pros in one team can’t be underestimated, especially when hiring globally and fully remote. A perfect team player in PR should be passionate about communications in general and the client’s or company’s industry in particular, efficient when working under pressure, and have an entrepreneurial mindset.”
Problem-solving ability and creativity
Olha Boiko: “Also, it’s important to have a problem solver on the team who can manage any unexpected issue with a level head. Another vital role is a creative mind, who generates new ideas and gives you a breath of fresh air instead of a traditional approach.”
Olha Boiko: “A skilled negotiator is vital. Someone who will help you deal with any outside request as well as strengthen the bonds inside your PR team.”
Olha Boiko: “The core of each role is a positive attitude and a sense of commitment. These are the secret ingredients that skyrocket team co-operation and help get the best results”.
Rob Jones, senior PR and social media director at integrated agency ilk: “If there’s one personality trait that every member of a PR dream team should have, it’s an innate curiosity or inquisitive nature. The need to have one eye on the ever-evolving news landscape goes without saying, but the best individuals in the best teams are constantly exploring and trialling new channels or new ways of measuring impact, and are always willing to bring new ideas to the table, even if they may come with a degree of risk. No single book or academic qualification alone will ever equip you with the full suite of knowledge and skills needed to excel in PR, but being inquisitive enough to find that next big news hook, that emerging social media platform, or a different way of doing things can certainly take you a long way.”
Hilary Davies, head of corporate and global at communications agency M&C Saatchi Talk: “Flexibility and curiosity are really important. We’ve set up our client offering around a B2A model - ‘Business to All’ - to break down outdated silos between disciplines. Channels and audiences don’t operate in a linear way today so nor should client teams. The best teams are built with hybrid operators at their core, knitting together expert knowledge including corporate, consumer, social, data, strategy and creative development. The result is more connected and multidimensional conversations for brands, both globally and locally.”
How our dream teams work
Phil Caplin, founder of agency Broadcast Revolution: “We think the dream team comes from experience - both personal and professional. We hire on what people can bring to our mix already and we perhaps focus more on the life experience that someone has had to bring to our work. Due to the nature of our consultancy we have to put ourselves in the shoes of so many audiences - so lots of life experience helps us.
“Where this has worked really well is in and around our Broadcast For Good initiative. There is no limit to the number of pro bono clients are people can choose to support on a pro bono basis whether charity, local community or social issues we are passionate about. Our broad experience means that a client benefits from the passion of one, but the combined and broad charity experience of all of us. It’s this purpose that unites and excites the dream team to excel.”
How we locate each person’s strengths
Lee Cullen, director and co-founder at digital, PR and SEO agency No Brainer: “To create a dream team you will always need a good mix of different people, but the key is about how they work together and ensuring that each person understands how to get the best from one another.
“One of the most interesting and useful things we completed as a team recently was an in-depth look at our individual personalities. Through this we were able to get some very detailed descriptions and characteristics about ourselves and one another, which really rang true and was very eye-opening in terms of the detail and also what drives and inspires us.
“Particularly with the challenges of remote working because of the pandemic, the session helped us plan our time much better for creativity and collaboration, but also to create time for when things just need to be done! We’ve also introduced some time blocking and energy mapping strategies on the back of it that have been really good for helping with productivity and general wellbeing.”
Victoria Ruffy, founder of agency Little Red Rooster PR: “Through colour wheel/behaviour analysis we have discovered we have a healthy balance of personality types. This melting pot means that when we come together for events such as unveiling Smeg’s flagship London store or hosting all clients under one roof for our Summer Showcase, we are all hands-on deck. Whether it be booking in attendees, briefing press on the day, managing clients or styling an area - we always have someone chomping at the bit.”
With more people working remotely, putting together a team has been harder, but remains a vital task. As Pam Lyddon, CEO of agency Bright Star Digital concludes: “Team structure is so important because if you get it right it can be absolute gold and you have people that can be around a long time. You become a family, get it wrong and it can really make a difference to the team’s atmosphere. I have always thought that it’s important to get a menagerie of people on board. I think now more than ever a mix of personalities that complement the team and support each other is so important. We don’t know post-Covid how people are going to be, so it’s important we are there for our teams.”
If you enjoyed this article, you can subscribe for free to our twice weekly event and subscriber alerts.
Currently, every new subscriber will receive three of our favourite reports about the public relations sector.