Five months ago, I took a huge leap. After more than 26 years of in-house communications in the public sector, I joined the team at Argyle as the Senior Vice President and General Manager for Western Canada. I figured it would be a piece of cake. After all, I’ve spent decades honing my craft, building teams, dealing with issues and crises on provincial, national and sometimes international levels. I was leading a team of communicators in one of the most contentious industries in our country at the Alberta Energy Regulator. I considered myself an entrepreneurial, innovative communicator with a high capacity for work. This would be easy-peasey, right?
Wow. I really had no idea.
I also owe a huge apology to every consultant to whom I have ever uttered a snarky “I don’t think you really understand what we do here.” In my defence, I had absolutely no idea what YOU did on a day-to-day basis.
So five months in, here are the five things I’ve learned about working for Argyle.
- You need to work to GET the work. OK, so this may seem obvious to a lot of you, but in-house, you are often explaining why you can’t possibly take on the latest assignment, let alone hustling to even get the chance to do the work. I had no idea of the research and insight that goes into preparing proposals and pitches, or the skill that’s required to take two vaguely worded pages of an RFP and figure out how to best meet the needs of the client. I also wasn’t prepared for the experience of putting your heart and soul into a proposal and then not getting the job. The first one took me weeks to get over.
- Accountability is on a whole new level. I thought I was efficient. Then for the first time in my career, I started tracking my time in 15-minute segments. What an eye-opener! While it didn’t take long for me to clearly see where I wasn’t being productive, it also brought me face-to-face with how I add value to a project or a file. When a client is paying for that time, you have to be strategic and thoughtful about how and when you contribute, and you need to make sure that you are adding value, not playing in a sandbox because you find it interesting.
- You need to learn… NOW. Not only do you have to get up to speed on an industry or a file right away, you have to bring something of worth to the table. In-house communicators are seeking you out because they want innovative ideas and strategic counsel. A ‘well I’ve always done it this way’ isn’t going to cut it, and nor should it. Working with clients across the country has challenged me to bring my best work to every file, every time.
- People are generous, kind and patient. From the moment I joined the team, even before I started, I was blown away by the generosity of the team at Argyle. Maybe it was my bias, and maybe it is something unique to Argyle, but I was not prepared for the level of collaborative thinking, creativity and the support I have received. I love being part of a team and every file has exposed me to someone new whose skill and experience has made me look at things in a whole new light. Our use of collaborative tools means we’re tapping into expertise from across the country on every project. I learn something new every day.
- It’s addictive. It’s not just that no two days are alike, no two hours are alike. The variety of work, the calibre of the team and the opportunity to work with some of the country’s top communicators in organizations that span all industries is energizing. It brings home the importance of the work we do and our ability to connect organizations with the people that matter most to them, be they customers, stakeholders, employees or the broader public.
Maybe I had gotten a tad complacent. I’ve learned lately I have a lot to learn.
To my PR colleagues, both in-house and agency, I’ve learned to appreciate the many facets of our profession and how the diversity of our experiences and our approach means better results for the organizations we serve.
To our clients, I’ve learned that Argyle’s cross-country team brings new opportunities to improve relationships through meaningful engagement, communicate strategically, tell compelling stories, deliver award-winning creative and digital programs, and build trusted brands and reputations.
To my fellow Argylers, I am proud to be part of a nation-wide network of incredibly talented colleagues who are as fun as they are skilled. I get to see, each and every day, the dedication, expertise and innovation that our team brings to every file, helping our clients communicate with confidence.
Oh, and this article wouldn’t be complete if I didn’t thank a fellow consultant who coached me, mentored me, talked me off the ledge and helped me navigate this exciting, and sometimes scary, transition: my son, Andrew Blanchette. Sure, he works for the competition, but late-night calls between two generations of PR practitioners eating cold takeout and meeting deadlines at opposite ends of the country, along with regular ‘you can do it, Mom’ texts, helped make my transition to #agencylife a lot easier. It makes a mother proud.