Life After PR Series – “Vicky”, Part 6 – After rising to an EVP role in a top-tier PR agency, with a great deal of latitude to succeed on her own terms, what happened to disturb more than 10-years of stability? How did a change in leadership and the company’s priorities make a difference?

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judith cushman associates human resources consulting life after public relations prAnswer:   After more than a decade at the firm, the leadership changed and along with that was a shift in values—away from the original ones that Vicky had embraced. It became clear the culture had changed to a more intense focus on bringing in new clients and asking senior executives to handle larger account loads. Inevitably there was less time to build in-depth relationships. Also, there was less focus on employee retention which was troubling and ran counter to her values. Vicky took time to evaluate the situation and quietly began to let key associates know she wanted to make a change.

Vicky has always been a communications generalist even though she ostensibly was in a PR role. She used all the tools and techniques she knew to solve business problems. She was practical, down-to-earth and saw herself as a communications consultant. She said that working with start-up companies early in her career was a great training ground for learning how to “do it all.” Despite her rise to EVP, she was not hung up by her title and simply focused on meeting clients’ needs. Given her success, no one attempted to change her client-centric work.

As companies grew and roles became narrower (in the 1990ties), position descriptions distinguished between PR, Advertising, Marketing, and Marketing Communications jobs, but the content of Vicky’s work remained broad. Her more recent agency experience was with a Public Relations firm; however, she continued to see herself as a problem solver using whatever tools were right for the situation (and she knew how to use them well.)

In particular, she found a hallmark of her work was in storytelling. Despite the technical nature of some of the products she represented, she found that was a powerful way to explain the problem that the product solved—or the solution it offered.

With the advent of Social Media, the firm she joined has re-positioned itself as solutions-based with a wide variety of tools and areas of expertise. It seems the market has come full circle and caught up with an approach that is the way Vicky has always operated.

After many months under new leadership and increasing signals about the culture shift, it became an unavoidable conclusion that she needed to leave. Always a professional, she continued to perform at a high level, although she was no longer feeling fulfilled or rewarded. That was a difficult period for Vicky because her career had always been about tackling challenges and succeeding based on a shared vision with her employer. She had always felt recognized and rewarded for her accomplishments. It couldn’t be clearer that she was now in an organization where she was the outlier.

It became a struggle to do excellent work that was not valued. Finally, it reached a point where the price of staying under trying circumstances was too high and she felt her values were being compromised. She simply was not able to do the work she felt the client needed because of her workload and lack of adequate staffing.

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