No doubt, one of the coolest perks of working at a large—nay, huge—public relations agency like Weber Shandwick, is that we’re able to harness a global network of brainpower. For big brands with international presences, our 125+ offices in 80+ countries around the world is super relevant and helpful. For smaller brands with more of a local tie however, this may seem superfluous at best, overwhelming at worst. I’d argue that Weber Shandwick has nailed a way to deliver hyper-localized strategies, with global scale and a backing of some of the world’s most creative marketing and PR minds.
I’ve been fortunate enough to work with a number of these creative teams in three of our offices during my tenure with the agency and thought it was about time I reflect on some of the lessons I’ve learned. So here’s my list— three things I learned in the Weber halls of Washington D.C., Sydney, Australia and Seattle, Washington:
Don’t be afraid to ask.
The worst they can do is say no, right? Want to travel abroad for a few months and work with your far-away colleagues? Want to work on the media relations program that happens to largely feature photos of George Clooney? Want to manage an event from start to finish, even if it’s not in your job description? Want to up and relocate from one Washington to the other? Have you even expressed your interest in doing these things?
Lesson learned: Asking smart, thoughtful questions should never be off-limits—whether you’re a newbie or a veteran. Asking questions doesn’t mean you don’t know what you’re doing. And asking questions shouldn’t make you feel weak. Asking questions shows that you have an unquenchable desire to learn, develop as a professional and experience new things. Asking questions demonstrates your investment in your work and company. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and don’t let one “no” or “that’s wrong” deter you from continuing to do so.
The way I figure, asking a few questions is what granted me the insanely cool opportunity of pitching exclusive Clooney pics in Australia, managing a few high-level events in D.C. and road-tripping across the U.S. to make Seattle my new home—all while calling myself a ‘Weber Shandwickian.’ Sometimes, all you have to do is ask!
Use what your network gave you.
Whether you’re a team of two or an international agency, I’m willing to bet that your colleagues have expertise and experience in areas that you may not and vice versa. I was recently able to collaborate with our London Public Affairs practice to help develop a digital presentation at a few defense summits in Europe, resulting in a slew of unexpected and awesome results which equals a win for all involved!
Lesson learned: Use your combined smarts to deliver the most strategic and innovative products to your clients. Leverage your team—those that work in the same office PLUS those who hang their hat in India/Belgium/South Africa.When leadership preaches “collaboration,” we should actively practice it. It makes us all better, stronger and smarter and often leads to new business opportunities, crazy creative campaign ideas and most importantly, happy clients.
WARNING: Don’t be the one that always asks for help, ideas or resources but never returns the favor…that never bodes well.
Be a chameleon—a true-to-self chameleon, anyway.
Seattleites are casual, enjoy bagel Fridays and are pretty competitive when it comes to Halloween costume contents, holiday party karaoke or sport-your-team-jersey days. District folks adorn fashionable heels and ties, have a killer new office space and use east-coast escalator rules [stand to the right, pass on the left, people]. The Sydney crew features a weekly Salad Club, community iPod docking stations to fuel team jam sessions and hosts the coolest happy hour ever on Melbourne Cup Day.
I think the business culture is just as unique in each of our offices around the globe. We like to protect our culture around here. And while ALL of us are ‘engaging always,’ there are those unwritten styles unique to the local communities in which we live that make each office special.
Lesson learned: Ditch your personal expectations and norms at the door and try to absorb, participate in and learn from other business cultures, practices and approaches to make the most of each experience. That said, always be true to yourself—nobody likes a disingenuous copy-cat.
Obviously there are WAY more than 3 lessons learned in 3 years in 3 Weber Shandwick offices; but 3 is my favorite number. Let me know what you think in the comments below!
Image courtesy of Tambako the Jaguar.