I could be generalising. I could be being unfair.
But from what I know, the vast majority of PR agencies do not welcome former employees with open arms and warm wishes after they’ve left. Instead, there’s a typically sniffy attitude from both sides, with the employer sometimes feeling slighted and the employee feeling unwelcome, or jaded. The connections made through social media are changing this, but nevertheless a malaise remains.
PR agencies are people businesses. People do get on with other people. Some of my good mates are people I worked with years and years ago and I still meet up with them from time to time. So it’s natural that when people leave agencies they will stay in touch with former colleagues. In my opinion, the best scenario is if they stay in touch with the employers too, and that everyone appreciates the contribution people make in working hard and their achievements in developing their career.
Of course some people leave jobs with a bitter taste. A shame, but it does happen. Employment law being what it is, it can be difficult for these things to happen in the way both parties would really want, and can be far from ideal. Equally, some seem to struggle to move on and it takes a while for them to give up tapping into gossip networks. If they’re particularly lacking other things to focus on, the wooden spoon can come out.
Which is all a bit daft. One of my former employers, now operating as Ketchum Pleon, started doing an annual reunion about 10 years ago and it has spawned various (positive) splinter factions of people who get together for drinks occasionally. They make contacts, they remember what was good about working there, they wonder at how old some people look these days.
Speed has been on the scene for nearly a year, but its short history goes back further, to the roots of BMA Communications, Mantra, Lighthouse PR and Rainier PR, and a spin-off, Custard PR. Over (in some cases) 20 years many people have passed through the doors. Most have left smiling. Typically the teams were good at retaining people and most got a lot out of it. Many have gone on to develop PR and marketing careers that those who founded the agencies are rightly proud of. Which is great; how it should be.
After work on 23 March we’re asking them back. We have contact details for most, and if not we know people who know people. So it’s an open house. It won’t be glamorous, but we’ll have food and some booze in the office and a crowd of people nattering. So very much like old times.
Agencies should take their alumni seriously. People should be, ideally, proud of where they worked and the bosses should be proud of the people who worked there. Here’s hoping the rest of the PR industry can do something similar.