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Walker Sands PROI Exchange Recap: My Week in Atlanta

Payal Shukla

Payal Shukla

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 its 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, Georgia and Dallas. Its clients span across 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 business – like media relations or event support. By doing exceptional work and earning the trust of its clients, the JS team has been able to take on more responsibilities and expand the programs until it’s 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 its accounts service by service. Spending a week at Jackson Spalding, observing client brainstorms, and meeting with a handful of 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:

payal proi trip

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!