4 Insights from A PR Expert Panel

Posted by Paladin on April 13, 2017

How to Build a Remarkable Public Relations Team

“The greatest part of going to work is a great team, a great company, great momentum. How do we build that?” – Orly Telisman, Founder of Orly Telisman PR, Inc.

In the midst of a Chicago snowstorm last month, Paladin Chicago was fortunate enough to host a panel of four PR experts to discuss the ins and outs of building a successful communications team. The conversation rewarded us with some great insights into what an effective team looks like and how to create one.

A high performing team is one in which people know the why as well as the results.

Ron Culp, Director of Graduate PRAD Program at DePaul University kicked off the conversation. “In a high performing team, results are everything,” he said. “Teams need to understand and clarify what successful results look like for them.”

Once the why has been established and metrics of success have been clearly defined, “team members need to hold themselves and each other accountable for results,” added Nick Kalm, Founder and President of Reputation Partners, LLC. “People are great at forming cross-functional teams,” but in a high performing team, “people need to be able to balance ownership over their function with collaboration and open-mindedness,” said Kalm.

The foundation of a successful PR team is diversity.

Building a successful PR team requires a variety of skills and experiences. “Writing is a lost art, but press releases need to get done,” noted Paula Thornton Greear, SVP External Affairs for the Chicago Urban League. “Strategic is also a buzzword that gets tossed around like candy at a parade, but you really do need to have strategic thinkers.” Greear also said that a strong PR team requires people to contribute, even outside of their specialty.

“I ask what they want to learn this month,” Orly Telisman said, telling us that she and her team do two webinars each month. “This all helps with diversity of thought,” she added.

All four panelists agreed that diversity in every aspect allows a team to better tackle problems from all angles.

For good PR leadership, find the self-aware advisors and master delegators.

Finding good PR leadership can be difficult, and according to Ron Culp, what you really need is someone with self-awareness. “A lot of leaders get there and think, ‘Now I’m in charge.’ They are hired for their subject knowledge and now they have to lead people,” he said.

Nick Kalm said the biggest mistake in his career was leaving agency life for the corporate side, because the new leader he worked under was a doer, not a delegator. “I came from the agency side also as a doer. Problem was that the boss still did everything. I was bored out of my mind.”

A great leader needs to be “authentic and an advisor, sometimes psychologist, and sometimes coach,” Kalm said. Moreover, as Paula Thornton Greear added, “good leaders can articulate what was a success and why it was a success. ROI can be difficult to explain, but a good leader does it well.”

When hiring junior candidates, find the hand-raisers.

On motivating vs. teaching millennials, Paula Thornton Greear said, “I won’t teach you unless you are out there trying on your own. I want to see you trying to improve.”

Ron Culp believes in empowering millennials by engaging them in something they want to do. “They are really good at collaboration, but let them form their own teams.” Culp mentioned a stand out student who worked for him. The student brought up Facebook livestream at an event and offered to run with the idea and manage it himself. According to Culp, the differentiator is coming up with ideas and proactively seeking solutions to unrecognized problems.

Nick Kalm takes a slightly different approach to hiring millennials. “I’m looking for those with an organization vs personal focus. I won’t try and change them, but I will look for those with longevity potential,” he said. He seeks out those junior candidates who are curious and collaborative with a strong work ethic

After a great discussion, the small but mighty crowd had an opportunity to network and continue the panel conversations. Overall, our panelists unanimously agreed that issues of thought diversity and collaboration are essential to creating a functional PR team. As a candidate for PR roles, an emphasis on being a proactive go-getter was a consistent thread throughout the conversation. As Paula Thornton Greear aptly pointed out, “I look for people who would show up in a snowstorm.”

Posted in: Communications, Marketing

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