What makes a happy PR team?

If you love your work, chances are your office culture is positive.

Discussing the types of working environments that are more likely to encourage productive staff, Angela Casey, managing director of CM Porter Novelli, Edinburgh, says there needs to be a strong emphasis on a team culture: “A collective way of working is essential as everyone works best when they are happy. Maintaining a good equilibrium, an egalitarian approach and consistency of working are the essential elements of a strong team – from the top down. No one can work in an unhappy environment. I know from experience that where there are divisions within the management of a team, the unhappiness works its way down, bringing uncertainty and lack of direction. And that is not a good way to produce the best work.”

Rikki Weir, board director at agency Cirkle agrees with Casey that staff need to be supported in order to be fully engaged. This means offering flexibility, trust and rewards. But Weir hasn’t always been lucky enough to work in such a positive environment: “My worst job experience was working for a large software company where there was zero focus on staff welfare in favour of a total blind obsession with hitting the bottom line."

"Of course this is important, but a happy and engaged workforce is the starting point to business success. I can only describe the culture as totally ‘grey’ – I can’t even remember the mission statement as it was so un-inspirational. The atmosphere was demotivating, a blame culture, unglamorous … and even the carpets were grey – plus we had to hand in pens in at the end of each day to save the stationery budget! Suffice to say I, and many other colleagues, didn’t stay.”

Case studies

It is a given that you want to work for a great company. But are you better suited to work client side or agency side? The debate is taken up by two professionals with experience of both.

Client-side perspective

Naomi Prior, global PR manager at British Standards Institution (BSI):

“When I first moved in-house, I didn’t think there would be much of a difference from agency life, but I soon learnt that wasn’t true. They both have their pros and cons and which would suit you may depend on your personality, age and location. I would certainly have never given up my formative years in agency life as it gave me the best grounding for coming in-house, especially to BSI where we have such breadth of business streams, products and stakeholders.”

“When I was working for an agency I loved the camaraderie, opportunity to work on both consumer and corporate campaigns for different organisations across a multitude of sectors, and the buzz and pace of life in the agency. Also my agency history gave me the opportunity to work with and learn from some of the best PR people in the industry.”

“In-house is slightly different with most people thinking it will be more cushy – fewer hours and at a slightly slower pace. This is certainly not the case at BSI. The main difference is you get the opportunity to fully immerse yourself in the company, so you know it inside and out. I also wondered whether my thirst for variety and a curiosity to learn would be quashed. However, BSI has such a diverse range of products across all industry sectors, plus a large number of stakeholders that I need to keep happy, meaning I am constantly challenged and stimulated.”

Agency-side perspective

Andy Turner, founder of agency Six Sigma PR:

“One of the main differences of working client-side versus agency-side is the different degree of fun you're likely to have at work, and in work-related social gatherings. I'd argue this is generally going to be higher in most agencies. Another contrast is the speed with which you can progress, which is likely to be faster in an agency if you're very good. Agencies are generally entrepreneurial places, so they suit people who have a natural affinity with that – maybe those who harbour an ambition to start their own one day. On the client side – at least in larger organisations – there are probably more opportunities for a more diverse career. For example, I was recently talking to a former VP of corporate comms who is now a CEO for a sizeable region of a global pharma corporation. I doubt anyone in an agency would easily land a job like that.”

Written by Daney Parker

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