Monday, November 17, 2008

Looking to American Politics for Tips with Agency Change

Posted by Amanda Walsh

One of the many industry e-mails I receive every day is Issues and Trends from the Public Relations Society of America, or what is more commonly referred to as the PRSA. PRSA is the industry organization for public relations professionals in the United States. As an undergraduate, I was actively involved in the Public Relations Student Society of America, the collegiate branch of the PRSA.

One e-mail just featured the article titled "Election Offers Lessons in Transitions: Ten Timely Tips for Tapping New Blood—and Rotating Staff off Key Accounts" by Roxanna Guilford-Blake from The Council of PR Firms' publication, The Firm Voice.

Although, I'm currently in Spain, the results of the United States Presidential election were felt throughout the world. Damian Corrigan's post on the's Spain Travel Blog is a good read to find out more about the feelings here in Spain.

The overall theme of President-elect Obama's platform is one word, change. According to Roxanna Guilford-Blake, this principle of change applies to agency life as well. I have paraphrased some of the tips below from industry execs for creating and easing into change in the workplace as well.
  • First Ask the Questions… When? and Why? - Change needs to be strategically planned. Find out what is best for the client relationship and the employees. Sometimes a certain account needs new thinking, new ideas and fresh minds working on the team. At that point, proactive as well as reactive actions need to take place. Don't wait for the client to become bored and ask for change. That is a recipe for lost accounts.
  • Next, Focus on the How? - The key to smooth transition is consistent and open communication with the client. The open lines of communication will allow for more preparation time. This can help the agency to staff a client team appropriately for upcoming needs or events.
  • Do not Communicate Change via E-mail - Shifts and changes to an account should not be handled via e-mail. Step-by-step communication, either in person or on the phone, is the best way to ensure that everyone, employees and clients, is on the same page with the transitions.
  • Honesty- Transparent communication is needed in this type of delicate situation. By ensuring honest communication, you are preserving goodwill among the employees and maintaining the client's trust. All those involved deserve to know why the changes are going happen, or why they have been made. Candor can come in handy during these types of situations as well.
  • Radical Change is Not Always the Answer - Consider lower-level employee changes. Mixing up a team ensures fresh ideas and also gives new experience to junior staff members.
  • Recognize Contributions - It is important to acknowledge employees who are leaving current accounts. Engage them in the transitional process and encourage them to share their knowledge of the account and specific industry. Quick assimilation onto a new account is the key to a successful transition for these employees to assuage egos. Going back to the idea of honesty; this will help to preserve bruised egos also.
  • Ensure Proper Training - Proper training and preparation is the responsibility of the firm or agency. Preparing your employees with the knowledge they need to be successful will ease the transition as well.
  • Whenever Possible Consult with the Client First - It is important to cultivate a good working relationship with clients and be open and honest about firm changes. Be sure to include them in the news of new hires or other transitions within the company. If a passionate, driven employee becomes free to work on a specific client account, it is important to relay that information to it least let the client have the option to help decide. The overall key to success during a transition is quick communication. News needs to be conveyed rapidly.
  • Despite Preparation, Bad Chemistry is Possible… and Sometimes Unavoidable - It happens. The best way to deal with this issue is to rely on the good will that has been cultivated with both the client and the employees undergoing the changes. There needs to be an open atmosphere where the client, and even employee, can be comfortable saying, "This isn't working for me."
In the long run, the above tips will pave the way for smoother transitions and make it an easier process for everyone involved.

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