In addition to summer hours and the legendary annual Cubs game, Walker Sands offers employees who have been with the company for three years a great opportunity: To visit an agency within the Public Relations Organization International (PROI) network. The goal of the program is to strengthen our ties with agencies around the world, while learning from our PR and digital marketing peers.
I was awarded the opportunity to visit Lansons, a full-service agency specializing in corporate, political and financial communications. At the end of February I packed my bags, exchanged my dollars for pounds and brushed up on the British monarchy by binge-watching “The Crown” for a full week of learning in London.
In July 2017, we were joined by Becky Annable, account direct and partner at Lansons. Not only did Becky share their incredible work and client portfolio, but she also emphasized Lansons’ interest in building a strong content program. As a content strategist and part of a 14-person team, I saw an opening to talk more about content’s role in public relations and digital marketing – and maybe show off some of the great work we’ve put together for our clients.
Learnings & Takeaways
After nearly 30 years in business, Lansons has cemented its place as one of London’s premier public relations agencies. And after meeting with their teams, it’s clear why. Everyone from new business development to financial services is so deeply immersed in what they do, and are constantly looking for ways to improve their processes. Here are a few of my biggest takeaways:
- Cross-Practice Area Opportunities. While Lansons serves several practice areas (public affairs, fintech, consumer communications, etc.), employees aren’t limited to one specific team. For example, you might have a client in the financial services space, one in consumer communications and one in public affairs. The reasoning behind crossing practice areas is it gives employees a chance to broaden the scope of their work, and helps maintain fresh perspectives for new ideas and media opportunities.
- Dynamic brainstorming. We love a good brainstorm at Walker Sands, and Lansons is no different. But instead of everyone sitting around a table, their brainstorms require a ton of movement and interaction. It was loud, fast-paced and I loved every second of it. In the end, the account team working on the client pitch had four white boards full of potential story ideas.
- Data-Backed Sales Processes. Lansons’ new business development team (our equivalent of sales) walked me through a typical presentation process. While most of their steps aligned with how our sales teams handled potential clients, one of the biggest things that stood out to me was how they incorporate data into presentations. They don’t believe in just showing prospects what they can do – they show them why that strategy will work
This trip would be misrepresented if I didn’t talk about the incredible staff at Lansons. I quickly learned there are few differences between Walker Sands and Lansons employees. Everyone is hard working and supportive, and truly enjoys being around their teammates. Plus, they know how to have a good time.
With the few extra days I had to myself, I explored around London (admittedly getting lost more than once). I wandered over to Oxford and Piccadilly Circus, strolled through Westminster and enjoyed seeing Tottenham Hotspur take on Huddersfield Town A.F.C. at legendary Wembley Stadium.
It’s hard to believe one week with another agency can have such an incredible impact on your professional growth. But it was unexpectedly refreshing and eye-opening to completely immerse myself in Lansons’ processes and cultures. Now if I can just make the case to go every year…
Like my colleagues, Kelsey Gunderson and Payal Shukla, I also had the opportunity to visit a PROI partner agency. Last month, I ventured over to the West Coast to spend time with C+C, a creative public relations and social media agency for companies that help people and the planet. I spent time in their Seattle headquarters as well as a day in their Portland office. They also have offices in Boston and Washington, D.C.
Here’s a look at my visit:
What I Learned
I spent most of my time in meetings with practice leads where we exchanged case studies and processes. Here are a few of my takeaways:
- Dull, niche subjects can be fun – We like to pride ourselves at Walker Sands on our ability to make obscure B2B tech interesting to broad audiences. We’re not alone. Many of C+C’s clients include equally niche, complex organizations: utilities, food labeling, diversity organization, etc. But that challenge is exactly what makes our job as creative marketers fun!
- Definition of “success” varies – Contrary to popular belief, “success” doesn’t always mean placement volume or lead generation. For some of C+C’s clients, changing consumer behavior is the real goal. For some of C+C’s clients, that means registering for health screenings or switching to green energy sources. It’s important to define success for each client or campaign to set expectations.
- B2B can be B2C – It’s easy for B2B clients to get stuck in the mentality that their customers are businesses. But the reality is that humans work at those businesses (at least until robots take over), and the best results for clients come when we take a more consumer-friendly (read: less intimidating jargon) approach.
What I Did
Of course, I had some fun in the Emerald City with and without the folks at C+C. Besides the obligatory trips to the Space Needle, Pike Place Market and the OG Starbucks, here are a few of my highlights:
-PRSA Totem Awards – My visit happened to overlap with Seattle’s PRSA Totem Awards dinner, so I crashed C+C’s table and cheered on their wins for the cool campaigns they shared with me.
-Coach Mary – One of the best perks at C+C’s Portland office is a personal trainer, Coach Mary, who visits them once a week. I was there on Coach Mary day, so I participated in a surprise afternoon workout.
-Amazon Go – Amazon dominates downtown Seattle, and the city was abuzz with the opening of the cashier-less store. It was only open to Amazon employees at the time, but like any good Walker Sandsian, I pressed my nose up against the glass to peek inside.
It’s hard to believe I only spent three days with C+C! I learned a ton while I was there, and I can’t wait to go back to Seattle. If you’re ever given a chance to visit, go!
Back in November you may have read Walker Sands senior content strategist Kelsey Gunderson’s blog post on her week at Slaeger Communications in Norway, as part of our agency’s Public Relations Organization International (PROI) exchange trip. Like Kelsey, I was chosen to spend a week at the office of one of our partner agencies, immerse myself in their culture and come back with new ideas and inspirations for the way we work at Walker Sands.
While I didn’t venture quite as far as Kelsey did, I chose to visit Jackson Spalding in Atlanta, I learned just as much and managed to find a little time for some fun.
What I Learned
Jackson Spalding is a roughly 140-person agency headquartered in Atlanta, with additional offices in Athens, GA and Dallas. Their clients span a range of industries – from banking, to healthcare, to education – and include some of the biggest consumer brands headquartered in Atlanta (including The Coca-Cola Company and Chick-fil-A).
A large part of my time at Jackson Spalding was spent observing various weekly meetings for those accounts, where team members would gather to discuss items in progress, the health of the account and who had extra bandwidth to take on new projects. If there’s one thing I took away from those meetings, it was the importance of being able to grow and scale your services alongside a client. Some of Jackson Spalding’s largest and most successful accounts, like Orkin or Delta Airlines, started as small projects handling one piece of that business – like media relations or event support. By doing exceptional work and earning the trust of their clients, the JS team has been able to take on more responsibilities and expand the programs until they’re functioning largely as an extension of their client’s internal communications or marketing teams.
Second, the JS team is committed to doing whatever it takes to deliver the best results for their clients. Stories of team members becoming self-taught experts in, for example, email marketing to help a client in need are common around the office. That comes as no surprise considering how the agency has been able to grow their accounts service by service. Spending a week at Jackson Spalding, observing client brainstorms, and meeting with a handful of their account managers reaffirmed for me Walker Sands’ own belief that maintaining a scrappy mentality from our small agency days will be critical as we continue to grow our own offerings and accounts.
Here is a photo of me telling the Jackson Spalding team about work and life at Walker Sands:
What I Did
I’d be remiss if I didn’t talk briefly about what I did in Atlanta outside of Jackson Spalding’s office. The city is well-known for its growing arts and culture scene, especially in the Midtown neighborhood where I was staying.
In addition to checking out the High Museum of Art, Center for Civil and Human Rights and Piedmont Park on my own, the JS team was kind enough to take me to some of their favorite local food and drink spots – including the largest drive-in fast food restaurant in the world, The Varsity, and Ponce City Market, an old Sears Roebuck distribution warehouse that has since been converted into shops, restaurants and a rooftop bar/carnival called Skyline Park.
And of course, it wouldn’t be a trip to Atlanta or Jackson Spalding without a visit to the World of Coca-Cola museum:
I’d confidently recommend applying for the PROI exchange program to anyone in our office – not many PR agencies offer an opportunity like this. And in an industry as small and connected as public relations, it helps to have smart friends and partners in other cities.
Thanks, Jackson Spalding!
Walker Sands offers an awesome exchange program, which gives veteran employees the opportunity to visit an agency within the Public Relations Organisation International (PROI). The goal of the program is to immerse ourselves within different cultures to gain new ideas and inspiration for our work at Walker Sands.
I was chosen to visit a highly creative, award-winning agency called Slaeger Communications in Norway. So, in early October I ventured over to Oslo with a thick jacket and an open mind. Here’s a closer look at my week:
Slaeger works with a several large consumer brands such as Sony Mobile, Netflix and Nivea. The company conducts traditional media relations on top of large-scale creative campaigns. While our niche at Walker Sands is B2B tech, it was refreshing to watch some of the world’s most creative PR professionals at work, regardless of the industry at hand.
I sat in on several brainstorming meetings each day to learn about how Sleager approaches new projects and challenges. I was put to work during these meetings! I conducted research to help inform campaigns and offered my perspective on their ideas and processes.
Here are my three biggest takeaways from my daily meetings with Slaeger: