Culture fit: A smart business practice

Ginger Hardage, SVP of culture and communications for Southwest Airlines, recently spoke to our team at Linhart PR about the secret of a successful agency/client relationship.

Ginger Hardage, SVP of culture and communications for Southwest Airlines, recently spoke to our team at Linhart PR about the secret of a successful agency/client relationship.

Without hesitation, Ginger said the key is having a good cultural fit. “Understand and treat our people well and, of course, know our business,” she added.

We love working with Southwest Airlines, in large part because of their fun, irreverent, and slightly kooky culture. It is a treat to work with people who don't take themselves too seriously, even while they take their business very seriously. For proof, just look at how everyone, including CEO Gary Kelly, dresses up on Halloween.

We hope more clients will consider cultural fit when selecting an agency partner. Here are some tips we've found to help determine if there is a cultural fit between an agency and a client:

  • Have the prospect visit you in your office so that they can see your environment … but also go to their space. The environment says a lot about who you are and how you operate. Our office is open and airy, showcasing our collaborative and transparent approach to work and building relationships with our people and clients.
  • Proactively share how you describe your culture — and ask the client to tell you about theirs. There's power in being able to articulate how you view your culture and what adjectives you assign to it.
  • Collaboratively determine what a successful relationship looks like. For example, one of our client service standards is that we work at the pace of our clients — so we need to understand their turnaround times, limitations, and expectations. This is part of their culture that impacts ours and how we need to adapt to provide them the service they expect. Before starting an agency/client relationship, this means asking all the right questions.

Like most agencies, we pride ourselves in having a special workplace culture and continually finding ways to motivate, reward, and recognize our great people. Another way we retain great people is by ensuring we work with clients with whom we have a cultural fit. This makes work enjoyable and gratifying, and brings results for us and our clients that prove it's a smart business practice.

Sharon H. Linhart, APR, is managing partner at Linhart Public Relations.

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