Every global communications consultancy touts collaboration.
Of course they do. If a prospective client is going to engage with a PR firm for support across multiple markets, it expects the account team members to play nice with each other regardless of location.
PR consultancies have nailed this message.
The reality is most PR agencies aren’t very good at this global teamwork thing. They reward senior leaders based on the revenue and profitability of individual offices. Sharing beyond their office corridors becomes an unnatural act.
And associated politics — these are often huge organizations with unseemly bloat – add friction to any type of movement much less movement crossing country borders.
A Scientist Walks into a Conference…
Let me share one example of how a scenario plays out in a mega shop and how we handle that very same scenario.
A scientist from one of our U.S. clients was invited to speak at a conference in Seoul, Korea. The client asked if we could leverage his international trek for PR purposes. This fairly innocuous request would wreak havoc in a typical PR structure, triggering a negotiation along these lines:
* In Korea, the term used for “piddly” is “juikorimahnhahn” (or 쥐꼬리만한 for our Korean readers), which loosely translated means “small as a mouse’s tail.”
At this point, the conclusion depends on whether the U.S. office can work out some type of quid pro quo — and you thought this term only applied to The Ukraine — to sweeten the budget or escalate the issue. They probably end up exhausting more time than it would have taken to handle the project.
Now contrast this scenario with what actually happened in our model:
By not worshipping individual office P/L and investing in relationships, we’ve created a different type of environment, one in which account folks care about their colleagues around the world and care about the client’s global success, not just local success.
Global Offices, Global Relationships
This investment in relationships comes in many forms ranging from Building Bridges (overseas assignments like the one taken by Kelly Trom) to HA Anywhere in which employees can extend vacations by working out of a different office on the Agency’s tab.
I raise this topic of relationships after holding a global leadership summit in our Silicon Valley at the state of the year. While we tackled a number of issues, the overarching objective was to simply help everyone get to know each other better.
Yet, everyone buys into same set of values:
- Everyone Is Valuable: It doesn’t matter whether a team member is an account coordinator, account director or vice president, everyone is important in contributing to the Agency’s success.
- Trust: We trust employees to be professional and do the right thing. Related to trust, we empower people to do their jobs.
- Accountable: Each individual understands the importance of carrying out his/her role. If obstacles surface, the individual (with the help of team members, if appropriate) needs to find a way around the obstacles.
- Care: Employees are not just numbers. We care about each other and help each other to be successful.
- Openness: People should share their views, ask questions and even disagree.
- We Listen: This relates to open communications. It’s important for everyone, especially the senior people in the Agency, to truly listen to the views of others.
- Team-oriented: We try to help each other succeed. Each person not only collaborates with his/her colleagues in the same office, but also often collaborates with colleagues in other offices around the globe.
You can find these values on our website; we want potential clients and job candidates to figure out on their own if they are a “values fit.”
Our Global Approach
I started the Global Leadership Summit and ended it talking about the person in the photo below.
Hyman Minsky was an economist in the ’60s and ’70s who gained fame for the line, “Stability breeds instability.” While Minsky applied this to the financial markets, it could easily be applied to communications.
We plan to keep zigging while everyone else is zagging.
Which inevitably means there will be periodic points of discomfort and even messiness.
And that’s OK when genuine relationships underpin the mission.