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

Public relations pros must cope with the stresses of new technologies, ever-increasing client demands and a shifting media landscape. Ease those burdens to boost morale and efficiency.

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.

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 tough.

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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