Why and how you should bolster the culture at your PR agency

For PR pros, creating a strong agency culture is more important than ever.

The news cycle is getting shorter, and public relations teams are under
increasing pressure to land meaningful coverage. PR professionals are held
to higher standards by clients, and social media makes it difficult for
people to “turn off” the news even after they leave the office.

With a robust culture, agencies can weather even the most turbulent PR
storms. From unifying disparate teams to setting the tone for how employees
interact with clients, agency culture should promote a healthy work
environment while alleviating work-related stress for team members.


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In any industry, the organizations that lack a supportive culture are at a
competitive disadvantage; all work and no play can quickly burn out
valuable employees and kill productivity. Although PR pros recognize they
have client obligations to fulfill, they also want to work at an agency
where meeting deadlines isn’t the only goal.

Culture helps maintain employee morale and alleviate work-related stress.
It guides employee behaviors and teaches people how to respond in any
situation, even when the manager has left the room. Culture can also
strengthen employee retention and serve as a guiding light when times get

Culture is the bond that holds your entire organization together.

Once you’ve identified your company values, it’s time to bring your culture
to life. In addition to sincerity and authenticity, here are four ways your
agency can develop a culture that employees will love:

1. Be sympathetic to your employees’ needs.
Great corporate teams understand and mitigate the stressors affecting
their employees. To ease the burden of work-related stress, your
corporate team must be in touch with your employees at ground level.
Our president sits with the PR teams so he can see and hear the
challenges our employees face every day.

2. Maintain culture during times of growth.
As agencies expand, change is inevitable, but your culture should stay
the same. To remain true to your roots, reiterate company values during
quarterly meetings and town halls. When change occurs, be transparent
with your teams. If employees understand why processes are changing,
they are more likely to welcome new ideas.

3. Surprise and delight to show appreciation.
A little fun goes a long way, and unexpected activities can break up
the monotony of employees’ routines. Regularly perform small acts of
kindness to show employees how much they are appreciated. Our agency
has ordered pizza for employees on heavy snow days and has funded
company outings to Cubs games, helping our teams to relax and forget
about work for a while.

4. Try to minimize non-client work.
Culture should not add to the stress of work. Robust cultures reduce
stress whenever possible. Things like simplifying requests for paid
time off and using work platforms accessible from anywhere are small
changes that give time back to your employees. Actively reduce
employees’ non-client work to build a culture that empowers workers to
maximize productivity.

Increased client expectations create challenges and pressures for PR
professionals, but a strong company culture reduces work-related stress.
It’s also what differentiates great firms from merely good ones. With the
right culture, PR agencies can reap the rewards of a more productive
workforce and happier, engaged employees.

Ellen Hanson is COO at Walker Sands.

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