The most important success factor
“Culture eats strategy for breakfast” – this is what management consultant Peter Drucker says about the power of corporate culture. He claims that strategy is important, but that a company’s culture is the true path to success.
Many PR agencies boast of their culture. On websites and social media channels, they share images of employees having fun together. They offer their staff goodies such as yoga classes, flex Fridays, Taco Tuesday lunches and cool office equipment. For Generation Y, such extras make an agency as an employer particularly interesting: “The working environment is more important than expected. One fifth of the millennials would refuse a job if they didn’t like the office design there.” (Source: wuv.de)
An agency can therefore attract potential new talent. But this has little to do with corporate culture!
What does the corporate culture include?
Corporate culture describes the values, norms and attitudes that shape the decisions, actions and behaviour of an organisation’s members. This includes how a company is structured in the hierarchy of employees, as well as the function and effect of the individual business levels among each other and with the customer. (Source: gruenderszene.de)
True culture evolves over time from the agency’s employees, their actions and passion. It embodies how they interact, how they work, what they value, how they interact and how they think about their clients.
If the agency’s employees are not passionately interested in helping their clients, their job or their organization, any incentives and benefits to agency success will not improve.
How do you know when a PR agency has a great culture?
Here are a few “telltale” signs:
1. Joy in their tasks
“The agency’s employees show that they enjoy doing the work, working with their clients and with each other. They are enthusiastic, optimistic and positively excited. They enjoy the challenges of their clients. They look forward to talking or meeting with the agency staff. And sometimes employees even spend part of their free time together.
For IC this means:
Our commitment doesn’t end with fulfilling requirements and agreements – for example with regard to deadlines, costs and success – but goes beyond that: we think ahead, are proactive and creative, keep our eyes open for our customers and propose unconventional solutions if necessary.
2. Long service with the company
The staff of the Agency have a long seniority. But many PR agencies have a high fluctuation rate of 20%-35%. However, if most employees have been with the company for more than 5 or 10 years, this is based on a positive, supportive culture.
For IC this means:
Our team consists of young as well as established permanent and freelance employees, many of whom have been with us for more than ten years. This gives us an enormous horizon of experience and a productive mix from which our customers benefit and which they appreciate.
3. Long-term customer relationships
The PR agency’s relationships with its clients are long-term and extend over at least 3, sometimes 5 or 10 years and more. In the PR business, where typical customer-agency relationships often last only months to 1 or 2 years, longer relationships can be a strong indicator of a positive agency culture and healthy mutual respect. Such long-term relationships suggest that the agency is more focused on being a long-term, valued business partner than on achieving some quick settlements and moving on to the next goal in a churn-and-burn mentality.
For IC this means:
Relationships with customers and suppliers as well as with journalists and other opinion leaders are long-term. We underpin this with a long-term relationship with our customers, many of whom remain loyal to us for 3 years or more.
The agency’s clients rave about the agency, its work and the integrity of its PR consultants. There is nothing more revealing and powerful than a satisfied client recommending his PR agency to his colleagues and other companies.
For IC that means:
“In 2011, we selected IC as our PR agency for Germany. We are very satisfied with their thorough work and the results. The team embodies Made in Germany in the truest sense of the word”. (Dan Warren, Managing Director, Trex Company, Inc., USA) IC continues to work for Trex today without interruption.
Ultimately, PR is about relationships and trust. And the culture of a PR company plays a major role in developing relationships with its clients. Brian Chesky, co-founder and CEO of Airbnb, sums up the company’s culture as follows: “If the culture is strong, you can be confident that everyone is doing the right thing.” And isn’t that what’s expected of a PR agency?
For potential IC clients, that means:
Get to know the agency in person before the first joint project: Not only to get in touch directly with the team, but also to be able to assess the office and the workplace culture and thus get a good “gut feeling” for the agency and its employees. Ask who will be working on your assignment and arrange a meeting with them. After all, you will be working closely with your PR specialist, so you should also like him as a personality and not just as an expert.