What goes into a great agency? Talent, hard work and more than one finger on the pulse; the desire and ability to run with the news and the understanding to connect clients with opportunities; a strong mixture of experience and innovation. All true, but there is more to agency work than that – we laugh and indulge ourselves just like everyone else, and it’s the quirks of life beyond the laptop that fuel a winning culture. Read on then, dear browser, for an insight into the world beyond the PR desk, a world of pigs, pumpkins, Santa Claus and a veritable landslide of exotic chocolate. Here is the London office when pens are down and spirits are high…
Our first stop on the magical mystery tour is Ye Olde Kitchen Table. Commanding an impressive view of the Vauxhall crane yards, this unassuming piece of furniture is the scene of many a convivial takeaway and can often be found liberally strewn with beer and crisps come Friday. Its primary function, however, is to display the spoils of LEWIS employees’ travels around the globe: tradition dictates that anyone who leaves the country must bring treats upon their return as compensation for their absence. These are then deposited on the kitchen table, signifying that they are fair game for all and sundry. Immediately afterwards the generous giver announces the arrival of chocolate/haggis/kangaroo jerky (oh yes) by email before dodging the ensuing stampede/curious bumbling/horrified glances.
Turning the corner we hear a distant throaty honking sound, followed by muted cheering. Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it’s Dave the coverage pig. This pocket-sized porcine toy came to the office from Sweden and is now used to herald the arrival of client coverage – with his fetching woollen hat and the amusingly perky ‘oink’ he emits when squeezed, he brings joy and the knowledge of a job well done.
‘Over the months Dave has become a valued member of the team,’ says Tom M, who works nearby. ‘He gives coverage that extra something special.’ Dave was unavailable for comment at the time of going to press.
Festive seasons are also well represented here at PR Towers. Last Christmas saw yours truly attending the annual review in full Father Christmas regalia before handing out office-wide Secret Santa gifts, and the preceding Halloween was marked by the Great Pod Pumpkin Carving Competition. Most impressive, however, was the Desk Decoration Championship of 2015 – tinsel, miniature trees, fairy lights and giant paper snowflakes littered the office, warding off the dark outside and making it cosy and warm within. Bi-hourly tea runs became bi-hourly hot chocolate runs and all was merry and bright.
What more could a PR want, you ask? How about bagel Fridays, a tradition imported from our San Franciscan counterparts, which greet you with the warm smell of toasted bread and cream cheese as you enter the weekly home straight? Or employee appreciation day, when each of us is met with duly appreciative postcards and tea hand-crafted by our Managing Director, Giles?
Perhaps poetry is more your thing, in which case, office coordinator Emma’s Valentine’s Day desk drop would light your candle:
Roses are red,
Violets are blue,
Working at LEWIS
Is better with you.
Finally, there’s the school trips. My introduction to the world of LEWIS last summer was the inaugural team-building day, when the whole of London HQ decamped to Jamie Oliver’s Recipease in Notting Hill (now sadly extinct) to try our hands at making pasta from scratch; a month later it was St James’s Park in the sunshine for cava and rounders. We’ve had parties on top of the National Theatre and pub quizzes in King’s Cross, and many a post-work jaunt to the local pub, fondly dubbed ‘the Muppet’. In short, I’m rarely bored.
There are times when the daily life of a PR can lose its shine: pitching that hungover, deadline-ridden journalist who’s just dying to hear about your story; Google searching your way through the grey light of dawn; staring into your fourth mug of Nespresso with the dazed glare of someone who definitely opened that coverage tracker for a reason, but cannot now recall it.
The bottom line, however, is that a strong ‘extra-curricular’ office culture helps keep the team buoyant and engaged – and a happy PR is a productive PR. A great agency is the product not only of hard work but also communal relaxation.
And a coverage pig never goes amiss.
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