Written by: Kate Colquhoun, Lea Vitezic, Natalie Anderson and Maddie Scott Knight
What’s the secret to success for a small team juggling multiple clients with different goals and directions?
At Grifco, five smallish teams each handle a portfolio of clients that varies across boutique luxury, corporate, ski, cruise, new openings, grand dames, designers, entrepreneurs and more. They plan group media visits, individual trips, interviews, events, competitions and awards nominations, they conceive and reach out for brand collaborations and they dive deep into the stories of their clients to generate features, roundups and mentions. That’s the tip of the iceberg – and it’s all in a day’s work.
Today’s public relations climate is constantly evolving, driven by an accelerating media cycle. Sometimes travel PR feels like sitting at the helm of an air traffic control hub – shepherding clients in the right communications directions, avoiding collisions, swerving conflict and setting up the best journey for all on board. Agencies like Grifco focus on creating dynamic, challenging and culturally rich environments where creativity thrives alongside process and focus. We work individually and autonomously (especially since hybrid working) but the only way to real success is to dance as a team.
We’ve been thinking about this dynamic and decided to try to distil the recipe for that dance by writing this … together. Sharing ideas, we together identified some of the key ingredients.
Trust and Communication
Busy teams can only thrive if there is a foundation of trust and open communication that supports successful collaboration. For our team, it’s vital that each of us feels that our opinion counts to help us to be confident in expressing our ideas. Hoping to achieve this, we have regular brainstorming sessions with the aim of creating plans that are more complex and sophisticated than they might otherwise be, aiming for outcomes that are democratic and make us all proud. We even shift our seating according to the project at hand: it helps us to understand the different ways we each work and to keep an eye on the details, watching each others’ backs. Without trust and open communication, we might not feel as comfortable picking each other up on dropped balls, skewed priorities or (rare) mistakes. It enhances how all of us feel about our tasks both individually and collaboratively and it contributes to our overall job satisfaction.
Clear Goals = Dream Team
To ensure our team is cohesive and that we are hitting targets, we agree on clear individual goals each week – whether small tasks or big boulders, getting a picture together of our priorities. In a perfect world, we would always complete these tasks by ourselves but in reality, that’s not always possible. Instead, we might need to rely on whoever has the bandwidth to jump in without being territorial about clients, journalists or ongoing activations. Aiming for our goals to be specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound (or SMART) keeps these priorities precise and, without them – and with so much to juggle – we might feel like a ship without a destination rather than focused, motivated, and aligned.
“Two Brits, an American and a Croatian walk into an office…
Our team of four consists of two Brits, an American and a Croatian, all with stories and backgrounds that shape how we work collectively. We’ve found that embracing our differences really helps to drive innovative ideas for clients. Each of us brings a unique perspective to creative problem solving, whether it’s in one person’s nature to jump into action immediately on an important task, or for another to take a beat, think a little more slowly and consider the bigger picture before devising a plan. We work pretty hard on patience, understanding and inclusivity, and we agree that when we each feel that our voice is heard, it empowers us to make confident decisions and contribute the best for our clients.
Tangoing as a team
We’ve reflected on how our team dances in the process of our individual professional developments and we realise that we’ve also developed a dynamic that encourages any one of us to take on brand new tasks – knowing it might take a little longer, but that the rest of the team will pick up the slack. The navel-gazing process of writing this blog collaboratively has also led us to consider how we might encourage even greater professional stretches in one another: buffering risk while championing trip-ups and mistakes as part of the process of learning. We think that’s a kind of tolerance that fosters boldness, innovation and confidence.
Being ‘the Glue’
The longer we work in PR, the more clear it is that agency life is about being the ‘glue’ – orchestrating effective, rich relationships between editors and writers, clients and editors, clients and brands and even – often – clients and clients. That ‘glue’ has to exist with us as a team, too. Without it we are disorganised but with it, we are empowered to be honest, imaginative and smart – and more than the sum of our parts.
Generalist or Specialist?
With a diverse client portfolio, another challenge is the need individually to be both specialists and generalists. We try individually to follow our real curiosities – whether in F&B, wellness, culture or design – and to develop deep and lasting particular knowledge and relationships – and then we fold our specialisms into our more general, shared proficiencies. Like this we can flex and evolve as a group, adapting our perspectives and working practices to reflect changes in the media and in our clients’ strategies and positioning – keeping our eye on the horizon as eagerly as that proverbial air traffic controller.
MMGY’s values – inclusivity, curiosity, creativity, and being empowering and transformative – are actually a bit like different steps in a dance – and each of us finds them more or less natural. Focussing on how a team functions at its best is a reminder that as an agency we are all about the kind of service that cannot be delivered by an individual alone. To put it another way, and to quote Simon Sinek, ‘People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it’ (and we would add, how you do it, too: together).
What are your insights on working in a team? We’d love to hear from you, please feel free to email us at: email@example.com