How do you define your agency's culture? What makes a culture real, and something to be proud of?
That question is one many agencies grapple with and it’s one we continue to debate at Grayling. I do not underestimate the value of culture in PR agencies, nor in fact in any of the creative industries.
From attracting the best talent to keeping consultants motivated and ensuring clients are getting the best service, the culture of your company is what dictates those key performance metrics - so understanding it is naturally of great commercial value.
Most of us will automatically define agency culture anthropomorphically - this agency attracts that 'type' of person. As a people business, this is understandable - but you would be wise to question whether the people or the agency are defining 'type' in that phrase.
Instead it might be worth trying to differentiate culture from methodology. For example, the Grayling Scotland team has a reputation for doing things in a certain way - typically our campaigns are considered, well researched, relevant, politically savvy and intelligent.
But our culture isn't really about that - if you work with us, you'll understand what I mean. Our culture is fun, banterish, informal, flexible, relaxed...and yet we take our work incredibly seriously, because everyone is busting a gut for their clients. Our culture is certainly different - complementary, yes, but different - from our methods.
What I want to know, and it's an open question, is how to define those cultural building blocks in order to better exploit their benefits, for both clients and staff. If the CSI team weren't solving fictional crimes all the time, I do wonder whether their forensic skills might come in handy here.
Why do it?
Firstly, I genuinely believe that to define your best characteristics is to understand what makes you tick as a company. Secondly, to understand your company's beating heart enables you to nurture its heartbeat. Thirdly, I care enough to stupidly think this might actually be useful.
Of course we all care passionately about the culture of our business. But that word 'passion' is used too much these days - I remember being told by a school teacher a long time ago that I had to use the word in interviews if I wanted to get a job - but believe me, if you talk to a Grayling employee about company culture, you'll get a passionate response.
I think that is because we exist in our current form due to a series of mergers, and our workforce consists of a patchwork of different but equally valid and accepted types of cultural approach. The common thread is passion for the job, thinking differently and a desire to do your best, so when you talk to people about culture, everyone has a point of view based on a keenness to do better. Passion seems to be the lowest common denominator.
This is something I’m looking forward to understanding better.
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