Family fortunes, by Brazen MENA’s Louise Jacobson

Brazen MENA’s managing partner Louise Jacobson says company culture is her priority and always will be

Company culture is a hot topic in the comms industry right now. The pandemic forced things like flexible working and mental health to the forefront of business discussions and policies. This is great news for the comms sector, but I hope this isn’t a fleeting thing, and companies aren’t jumping on the bandwagon for the sake of it and really do commit to culture long-term. It’s not only essential for a thriving business, but vital for the future of the PR industry.

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PR is one of the most exciting sectors in the world. In my 20-year career, I’ve found that no two days have ever been the same. We bring brand stories to life, we create impact and make a difference every day. But it can also be stressful. The long hours, client demands and ever-changing media landscape can be testing, even for seasoned practitioners like me. Of course, throw in a global pandemic and we have a very challenging working environment. However, that said, a strong company culture should enable you to weather these storms, and I know it has helped me on more than one occasion.

A strong company culture needs to be lived and breathed by your entire team every day. It’s a set of core values, ideals and truths for you and your colleagues to live by. At the heart of Brazen MENA’s company culture is our ‘family feel environment’. We support each other, we encourage growth, and we win and we lose together. I launched a company wellbeing policy in 2019 which included things like mental health checkups with professionals, duvet days and a budget and time for individual wellbeing pursuits. Since then, we’ve upped the ante with an external life coach, monthly team socials, motivational trainers and speakers, flexible hours and a hybrid working model. I’ve also seen counterparts have recently reduced working weeks – this will be an interesting one to watch, as from an agency point of view we are a multi-sector client-services business, but I wholeheartedly applaud them in making this bold move.

But isn’t this PR ‘fluff’? Well, no. We’ve all heard the famous quote from Sir Richard Branson: “Clients do not come first. Employees come first. If you take care of your employees, they will take care of the clients.” Richard is speaking about the importance of culture and valuing your team, which is particularly important in a people-orientated industry like PR. There are also many studies linked to a positive culture and employee satisfaction, increased productivity and staff retention – major wins for any business. I can also vouch that my investment in terms of financial, time and resources, has well and truly paid off. I have a happy, highly motivated team and we’re having a brilliant year. But aside from our own businesses, we also must instil a strong, positive culture as an essential part of the PR industry for future generations, and here’s the proof:

The 2021 MEPRA Youth Board Talent Barometer revealed that 38 per cent of respondents said workplace culture was most important when considering a job switch, beating things like salary. Talent retention was found to rely heavily on workplace culture, with it being ranked as the top deciding factor when selecting a workplace. Mental health is also to play a vital role in PR company culture, as the survey revealed that respondents expect mental health and wellbeing to be prioritised more heavily in a post-pandemic world. MEPRA’s 2020 Covid-19 Mental Health Impact Survey revealed that for almost half of respondents, mental health had often interfered with their ability to complete work-related tasks, and a third asked for direct support in training for management and leadership to better equip them to handle employee issues.

Yes, we’re well on the road to economic recovery, and we’re in a much better situation regarding the pandemic, but the effects of the decreased human connection we experienced and huge uncertainty that faced us all will still be here for a while yet, and it’s the responsibility of businesses to help employees in any way they can regarding mental health.   

In summary, company culture is key for a happy workforce, it’s important for business growth and the future generations of the PR industry. It’s part of my company’s DNA and it will always be my business priority. I hope it can be yours if it is not already.