Something that has cropped up in conversation recently has been the discussion of why a PR person joins a particular agency. Now, of course there are a number of factors involved but I think it basically boils down to two elements (assuming you can do the job of course) – do I like the agency and do I like the clients.
Now I suspect that many PRs are making their decision based on the clients they will work on and not, as they should, the agency that will be paying their wages and will be their employer – that is where employees allegiance should lie.
The test: when you go to a dinner party and someone asks you what you do, what do you say?
A: I work for XX PR agency and I work on X clients
B: I do the PR for client X.
The right answer of course is A but many PRs in my experience answer B because they are not proud of their agency and where they work. Flip this to the ad industry:
A: I work for Saatchi & Saatchi working on the advertising campaigns for Toyota.
B: I do the advertising for Toyota.
The answer is invariably A.
I know this condition to be true from personal experience – I have made this error on a number of occasions. When making the decision to swap agencies, I even remember saying to myself ‘how bad can it be? Client x wouldn’t be at the agency if it was not a good place to work’. Now I don’t regret any choice of agency I have made as I wouldn’t be here if I did, but you’ve got to trust your instincts. Happy client does not necessarily mean happy PR agency staff working for that client.
The agencies are the guilty ones, luring employees with a promise of working on desirable brand X… and people fall for it, so far. Things will change because the emergence of so-called Gen Y will see employees want a more nutritious work environment that feeds them professionally and personally. My view is that agencies who continue to recruit on the back of their clients name will find securing quality staff harder than they do now (more on quality PR later).
At the end of the day, clients do come and go – that’s agency life, but the agency is who you work for and provides your working environment day-in and day-out. That has to be the primary driver of your decision to join. Is the agency going to inspire you? What is the vision? Is the culture strong? Are you going to be mentored and trained (externally and internally) and are you going to be fulfilled and driven to succeed – not just by the client but by your employer…
When I was at Bite the equation was simple. If the agency can create a complete working environment that people want to work in, this will attract (and keep) the best staff, encourage them to deliver the best results which will in turn secure the best clients… Clive got that one right. It’s simple and it has worked.