Lansons Conversations

Rebecca Annable shares her experience visiting PROI agency partner, Walker Sands in Chicago

Rebecca Annable, Lansons account director and partner visited Walker Sands in Chicago as part of the PROI agency exchange programme this summer.

Aside from triple layered burgers, fresh guacamole made in front of you (and at no extra charge like every burrito house in London), pizza pie (whaaaaaat!!??), the 8lb weight gain in 8 days; two weeks in Chicago with the wonderful lot that are Walker Sands was one of the most incredible experiences I have had in my working career. 

Londoners tend to get stuck in this little bubble, perhaps not knowing or really even thinking (through no fault of our own) about what our fellow practitioners across the globe do and how they do it and I certainly found myself wondering ‘I wonder how everyone else does this job? What do they do differently? What’s it like to do this job out of London?  But most importantly how can I learn and change the way we do things for our clients?

What a welcome!

Via a jam packed schedule put together for me by the wonderful Holly Stehlin, I got to live life for nine days U.S. communications style. I’m not sure I really knew what to expect when I travelled up to the 36th floor but one thing I will never forget is the welcome I received and that view! 10 giant doughnuts and 40 smiling faces all greeting me proves that the Americans really are better at this hospitality thing than us.  Straight in for the kill with sessions, brainstorms, briefings and presentations on my role and catch ups with the wonderful CEO Mike Santaro, the content teams, the VPs and what I was most interested in – the Fintech team.  Every single person I met took time out of their very busy day’s to not only teach me about what they do, their roles and experiences but they really wanted to learn from me too. I entered the U.S as a sponge, ready to soak up everything from Walker Sands but what really touched me (and ultimately reminded me of all the things I have done in the last 10 years!) was that everyone wanted to know what I did, how I did it, my experience, my history and how I can help them.

Taking things for granted

For those that know me, my clear passion is media relations and big campaign creation and this is what I wanted to learn about specifically during my trip. I stand by the belief that if you work in comms, media relations is a skill that yes can be quite daunting, but ultimately you gotta do it! We cannot live without each other so I have worked hard at working together and this has paid off. However I’ll admit that I was totally unaware of how U.S comms practitioners built relationships with media – I assumed everyone did it like us but I was wrong. I didn’t even factor in the sheer size of the U.S, where the media are and the distance between everyone. Media in the U.S is a whole different ball game to back home and UK practitioners almost certainly  take for granted the access we have to every single national newspaper at least, on our doorstep. We have a national daily newspaper, a blogger, a magazine, a broadcasting house, a radio station a stone’s throw away from us and that doesn’t count the onlines and the wires. Without the face to face relationships, Walker Sands work twice as hard to build and maintain a relationship with the media – specifically tech. Using social media and a team of dedicated media relations specialists, I watched how they built contacts, respect and a rapport with media across all 50 states. It’s not just a coffee, a briefing, a call or a lunch – it’s sheer dedication to getting to know someone over the phone and online and getting the right media and exposure for their client.

Content Kings

  • Walker Sands are steps ahead compared to a lot of UK agencies when it comes to the tech and content services they provide and the way they deliver them.
  • Walker Sands has a group of incredibly dedicated and intelligent people who are churning out more thoughtful, relevant and insightful content than I have ever seen – in particular their recent report Future of Retail 2017 – The Connected Consumer and the Changing Face of Commerce and then The Future of Gig Work is Female report for Hyperwallet.
  • These types of teams across all practice areas have changed the way agencies work and Walker Sands are the perfect example of it working! Their clients trust, rely and hire them because they have dedicated content facilities and experts.

Walker Sands say ‘At Walker Sands, we believe that PR is more than simply getting placements. We help our clients use the intersection of Public Relations, Social, and Search to build brand awareness and generate new leads’ and they could not be more right and committed to doing so. What blew me away with the pure dedication and expertise at the agency which every single person delivers. Over a two week period I got to share the amazing work we do at Lansons but also admire and compare what we do vs. other agencies outside of the UK. And while I hate this phrase it really is all about content, content, content. Without creativity and the ability to look further than the next hour I believe Walker Sands have nailed something a lot of comms people are perhaps still learning to do in an era of fast pace and ‘there’s always something better’. I would like to thank Walker Sands and everyone I met for the most educational experience I’ve had, I think, since school.