A guest interview from Jo Preston, Director at Teamspirit who shares her career advice and insights

12 Jul 2017

Can you give me a brief overview of your background and experience?

I have been in the PR industry for over 15 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 six 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.

What would you say are your three key attributes that contributed to your career success?

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.

What is the best and the worst thing about working in an agency?

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.

What keeps you awake at night?

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.

What is the most important lesson you have learned in life so far?

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.

What’s the best piece of professional advice you’ve been given along the way and by whom?

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.

What areas of PR and communications do you see as growing or important in the future?

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.

How do you de-stress?

I don’t actually get stressed very easily, but a glass of wine or two never hurts.

Team Spirit has a great culture; what do you think the industry could do to improve employee wellbeing?

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.

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