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PROI Exchange Recap

Theresa Ianni

By: Tyler Balkin and Theresa Ianni

This year, Walker Sands participated in an exchange program through our network of independent PR firms, PROI. Our copywriter, Emily Johnson, took a trip to visit Jackson Spalding in Atlanta. While it was tough to leave Georgia's warm weather behind, she made it back to share some insights and key takeaways with our team.


Before diving into the details of her agency experience, Emily explained why she chose Jackson Spalding among other agencies. The agency’s fun corporate culture and strong content development program made them stand out.

Jackson Spalding is a mid-sized agency with clients spanning from Coca-Cola to Delta Airlines. They assist a variety of B2C clients with media relations, digital marketing and video development. Their culture is evident in their hierarchy. Jackson Spalding employees don’t have job titles. Instead, they have designated roles. This offers cross-team collaboration, flexibility and the opportunity for lateral moves.

Here are three main takeaways from Emily’s trip:

Grow your video and digital departments

Jackson Spalding’s growing video and digital department reflects the evolving public relations agency. Businesses no longer rely on video, digital and media relations as standalone entities. Instead, they are integrated to elevate a brand’s message across multiple platforms. Video helps summarize and elaborate on the written word by telling a brand story in a different way. It is also becoming more important to SEO efforts.

Research before jumping in

Jackson Spalding is building a set of programs that focus heavily on audience insights. The JS Excavations program digs up insights on clients to ensure consistency and stronger messaging, which in turn helps management teams better understand their clients’ competitive landscape and audience.

The rules of branding in PR are constantly changing. Brand stories matter more than ever and help organizations increase influence through research. If companies don’t take the time to fully understand their audience and industry, it’s more difficult to develop a meaningful presence and build connections.

Think Global

Although Walker Sands is headquartered in Chicago, our reach extends beyond the midwest and the U.S.  As a part of this year’s exchange program, we were lucky enough to learn from one of our German partners, fischerAppelt. The exchange program helps build strong relationships with our partners and creates growth opportunities for employees. Agencies within the PROI network are essentially our colleagues at home or abroud. From video production capabilities to social media strategies, each company has a specialty to bring to the table.

The PROI exchange program is a great way to learn from and share with other agencies. Senior staff members often have the opportunity to interact with PROI members, but the program opens up opportunities for all levels. Plus, a lot of other international PR networks have partners at their disposal, yet don’t proactively reach out like PROI does. We plan to continue participating in the PROI exchange program - check back for updates on our next trip!