We interviewed Jo Preston, Director at Teamspirit about her journey through the PR industry including her successes and learnings from agency life. Her colleagues describe her as creative, great fun and 100% unflappable and we totally agree.
I have been in the PR industry for over 18 years and started at a small agency working on tiny B2B clients. Those clients are hard to land coverage for, so the grounding is really solid. I moved on to handle the reputations of companies and individuals as diverse as Euro Disney SCA, the Evening Standard, Andrew Lloyd Webber and the RNLI before settling nine years ago at Teamspirit, where I am a Director specialising in consumer issues, reputation management and communications consultancy. I am the strategic client lead across clients spanning the financial and professional services sectors. I also head up People and Recruitment for the agency.
Across the PR sector communication is key; and the ability to build relationships with clients, prospects and media has been an important component of my career to date. Emotional intelligence is also vital, particularly in my People role. Agencies can be pretty emotional places and I have needed empathy and understanding in spades.
Agency life is busy, sometimes frantic, which is probably both the best and the worst thing about it! While sometimes it feels like we exist at warp factor 9, I thrive on multi-tasking, and love working with a brilliant team to get results that drive our clients’ business forward. Getting under the skin of new clients and working out what they really need from a communications campaign is challenging, but hugely rewarding.
I don’t think the fear of whether a big campaign will land ever completely leaves you, but I think that fear is essential to making those campaigns successful. I have to say very little keeps me awake though –I like my sleep way too much.
To value the amazing talent and ability that exists at all levels of an agency or organisation. We have so many incredible people at Teamspirit and they all bring something different to the table. I love discovering that someone has knowledge or talent that I was unaware of and working out how best we can use those abilities.
I can’t actually remember who this came from, but a really vital learning has been to consider the long term. A disappointing pitch loss can often in the future turn into a win if that prospect is nurtured in the right way.
The important thing is going to be ensuring that PR agencies aren’t silos for traditional media relations activity. I do believe that side of things will remain important, but at heart we are, or should be, communications consultants, and as such we need to be thinking broadly about the content and channels that will deliver for a client business – whether that be social or digital, SEO, influencer marketing or any other of the myriad options that can drive results. Transformation is at the heart of communications, the content and channel is just the mechanism for that transformation.
I don’t actually get stressed very easily, but a glass of wine or two never hurts.
At Teamspirit we believe that we should put our people first. They are the reason we are able to do a good job for clients, and we want to look after them. I think as an industry we are getting better at recognising that, but there is still work to be done. Over-servicing clients is still a real issue, and that clearly has a knock-on effect on employees across the spectrum. It’s something that we have done a lot of work on over the past few years to understand and reduce – we are not perfect yet, but we are getting there.
Thank you Jo for taking the time to answer our questions.
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