The best practice for building an in-house team combines pragmatism with ideology

Corporate readers of PRWeek generally want to know one thing - what works? The question most often asked is, what are best practices for building an effective in-house team?

Corporate readers of PRWeek generally want to know one thing - what works? The question most often asked is, what are best practices for building an effective in-house team?

It is not always easy to find answers to the best practices questions. PR, as one global CEO recently reminded me, is still a relatively young discipline. The body of knowledge supporting it is still being developed as the industry continues to mature. So, the profession's best resources remain its thought leaders. Bill Margaritis, SVP of worldwide communications and IR at FedEx, who is always incredibly generous with his knowledge and experience, offered a checklist for building a team. It combines the pragmatic and the ideological - including everything from hiring an ethnically diverse team to positioning the function within an organization in order to ensure its place in the pecking order. "Be strategic, self-disciplined, and act as a counselor, not an order taker, to internal clients," he advises. With the focus of PR departments and leaders firmly set on the company's stakeholders, internal and external, it is not difficult to understand why many leaders do not have time to share their experiences for the greater good of the industry. The best of those who appear on these pages share not only their knowledge, but the process by which they gained that knowledge. Three questions for Bill Margaritis, SVP, worldwide communications and investor relations, FedEx 1. According to our recent PRWeek, Corporate Survey some 65% in-house PR respondents said they are spending more time on integrated programs than a year ago. Is that consistent with what you're hearing/seeing/doing - and why is that? Yes. Size and scope of business across the globe and the need to present a cohesive "One Vision/One Voice" to both the workplace and marketplace makes an integrated communications program the most optimal approach in today's business environment. Moreover, the speed and proliferation of cross-media information dissemination (broadcast/print/electronic) makes an integrated approach even more necessary. 2. What's keeping in-house leaders up at night these days? Is it different from a year ago? Year over year, the issues have been about the same. 3. If you were building a PR team from scratch, how would you figure out the right model?
  • Start with a holistic view of the workplace and marketplace, preferably on a global scale if that's relevant to the business
  • Align all marketing/communications and investor relations channels, programs and audiences (positioning strategy and messaging)
  • Use reputation management as the framework to guide all planning and actions
  • Set up a measurement system to track and evaluate all key stakeholder areas against the main competitors using reputation management drivers as the key anchors of the research.
  • Assess behaviors and attitudes of employee base, media coverage, analysts influencers and customers
  • Set a clear vision for the department, one that is fully aligned with business objectives
  • Hire the best talent possible (ethnically diverse)
  • Establish appropriate training and development programs
  • Create online project management tools and central information repository that house key content for day to day communications execution
  • Incentivize people around reputation and evangelize the principle throughout the org and the company
  • Report measurement results up and down the organization and turn research into actionable programs/activities on a regular basis.
  • Instill a sense of business acumen in all communications staff
  • Be strategic, self-disciplined and act as a counselor, not an order taker to internal clients
  • Remember to win inside before winning outside, that's where the game is won or lost! 'Closing The Gap' delivers tangible solutions Procurement is still a highly provocative topic, judging from the response to the latest installment of the PRWeek/Peppercom breakfast series, "Closing the Gap." The panel discussion, which was held on June 24, brought agency, in-house, and procurement experts together to talk about how to cultivate a common language for engaging with each other. Eleanor Trickett, deputy editor of PRWeek, moderated the discussion. She says what made this panel discussion stand out was its focus on tangible solutions. Too often, conversations about procurement focus on the frustration agencies in particular feel about the role of the purchasing managers. Participants included Charlie Young from Tyco, Kodak's Loren Martin, and Kathy Cripps from the Council of Public Relations Firms. "The key word here was deliverables," Trickett says. "That is what works for procurement people, according to every panelist." Measurement is, of course, key, but it may surprise some to hear that media impressions and proof of media relationships is, in many cases, sufficient - though tying to hard business objectives is still worth striving for. Trickett says that the panel's outcome was basically a "call to arms." Corporate communicators were faulted for not fighting enough for what they need, so there is a leadership vacuum. Young, in particular, said it is time for in-house PR leaders to fight the good fight, in part by making deliverables relevant. - Julia Hood The next PRWeek/Peppercom "Closing the Gap" breakfast panel, which will focus on improving relationships between PR and legal departments, will take place on September 23 at the Waldorf Astoria in New York City. For more information, send an e-mail to

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