As I followed the news of my former employer after my departure
and the departures of many, many of my colleagues [though this is not uncommon
in our field], a startling trend began to emerge – beginning in June with the
departure of the long-time CEO.
This was followed by the departures of the CMO, CFO, CEO and
more C’s and O’s as well as several VP’s of varying letters and a number of
rank and file associates.
In Porter’s defense, being the smaller sister of industry
giants Ketchum and Fleishman has, and continues to lead to unfair
comparisons.That said – this time of
mass exodus presents both the need and perfect opportunity for
re-invention.A rejiggering of
priorities and procedures, a new outlook – not unlike the cool concept and buzz-generating
stunt of the pop-up agency jack+bill, named for PN’s founders – Jack Porter
[which sounds like a cool menswear brand – right?] and Bill Novelli.
Any company’s success is dependent on people.And – the people’s success is dependent on an
employee-focused organization like the Container Store or Google or Wegman’s or
When a senior level executive said in a meeting that it was “company
first, clients second and employees third” – I knew that didn't bode well for
my tenure or our success.Incidentally –
isn’t it counterintuitive to hire leadership that neither understands nor
respects what your company does?How can
that leadership truly lead, empathize or inspire with no context? In order to be a part of the management of my
father’s company [a textile linen rental service], for example, the candidates
had to first work in the laundry and on the route trucks.
And – here we are.
What to do?
So – what can/should a company like Porter Novelli do to set
itself apart – other than whiz bang logos or zippy, social media laden
In an industry that doesn’t “make” anything, service and
talent – the people with the creative brains, the savvy strategists, the
consensus builders – are what differentiate one agency from another.Specialties do as well.Agencies that seek to be all things to all people
suffer from lack of focus.Tightly
niched agencies have a limited client pool – so there is a balance that needs
to be maintained here.
How do you recruit and retain the kinds of people that can
drive clients’ business and deliver the results and relationships needed to be
successful? What makes an agency successful?People and ideas.Plain and
simple.Nurture those and success (and
yes, profit) follows.
There are some things I’ve encountered in my 25 years in
this business.Some decisions that I’ve witnessed
that have made me cringe… some policies that are counterproductive… some I just
plain disagree with.It’s often
difficult for companies – mostly publicly-traded, driven by the almighty dollar
– with a relentless focus on the bottom line and not how to get there.
10 things – some
do’s, some don’ts…
Put your people first.The money will follow.
Skip the internal hype.If you’re not going to follow through with an
employee enrichment program and deliver a half-assed result.Don’t announce it.Don’t promise what you can’t/won’t deliver.
Commit and deliver employee enrichment
programs.Not just ongoing education to
enlighten, empower and enhance your junior team members’ experience and
contributions – but also for senior level executives who can become
bureaucratic automatons incapable of inspiring.They deserve and need to grow as well.
Hire against type.
Properly manage and utilize uncommon talent that
you’ve hired against type.The results
will dazzle the client and nourish your company.Don’t expect a creative communicator to be a
CPA as well.
Pay attention to environment even if clients
don’t visit.Your employees are an
important “client” so to speak.Depressing, run-down spaces impact work product.A coat of paint or having the carpet cleaned
and a plant or two can do wonders.Seriously.
Recognize and remember that “billability” isn’t
the only measure of a team member’s worth.
complacency – at both the junior level and the oft-stagnant upper level of an
I am not a C-suite guru.I am not an MBA.I am, however, a
pragmatic PR industry veteran and have been witness to the ups and downs and
demise of agencies and relationships of varying size and import.I’ve seen what works and what doesn’t and I
know how to reach consensus; to engage, enrich and retain team members.Sometimes the simple, obvious answer is the
Since I was wee I've been obsessed and immersed in the consumer world - from retail (at Marshall Field's, Williams-Sonoma and Barneys New York) to communications (at public relations agencies, big and small, as well as thrice as an independent consultant and in-house for the world's largest natural and organic grocery retailer).
I'm also wicked obsessed with and immersed in pop culture. I eat. I shop. I drink... I watch too much TV, drink Diet Coke, think $300 jeans are absurd - but will pay $5 for my coffee drink experience [go figure], can't schmooze but can chat up a storm and occasionally make you laugh.
For some reason people seek my style (fashion and home) advice. For some reason I LOVE giving it [apple...tree...thanks Mom].
I'm growing slightly weary of the desert, but am happy to have left the deep South and ready to share my warped ramblings about the world. As it says - we're going to sip, sup, shop, and take a look at style together. Along the way - I'll take a look at the communications world as well since it's a big part of my life.