The revelation that the same background-checking firm vetted National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden and Washington Navy Yard shooter Aaron Alexis has made me think about the importance of support and trust in a process.  Trusting a team, and each individual member, to do the right thing without much supervision is something that most employees want – and something that managers who aren’t control-freaks like to see also. It’s that tricky area between oversight and independence that requires good preparation and training.

In a public relations firm, it’s essential that every team member have a certain degree of independence. You have to be able to count on people to make decisions quickly and do their jobs – whether it’s creating a media list or meeting with a CEO or a Senator – in a way that builds the success of the whole endeavor. RH Strategic takes the support role seriously. Here’s how:

  • We value ALL contributions – Every job is important; there’s no job that’s inherently unimportant. Some positions demand more skills and experience, but they’re not necessarily more important to a team’s overall success. For example, when the person responsible for media outreach turns to a media list, that list has to be appropriate and accurate. It’s a waste of time, not to mention a missed opportunity, to contact the wrong reporter because the list is inaccurate.  RH recognizes that the team’s success is dependent on the important (though often less glamorous) work of others. And we value each team member for his or her part in a successful campaign.
  • We share information – Getting the media list right is important, but it does take acumen to decide who should and shouldn’t be on it. Recognizing that and not just throwing it over the transom to the newest or lowest level team member is part of good oversight and training. Senior-level employees at RH work in tandem with those with less experience to help them understand the work of our clients and, subsequently, the target media for outreach. Getting those details right is important; it’s not just a menial task that that anyone can perform without information.
  • We trust and provide opportunities – If the lowest-level employee in the firm FEELS like the lowest level employee, that’s not good. We’re not going to be able to trust that person to do his or her best and support the rest of the team. RH gives all employees opportunities to challenge themselves and grow their career. For example, we let those employees responsible for creating the media list get involved in outreach to those media. This not only provides some removal from less exciting work, but also a broader understanding of it. And if we can’t trust in their ability to tackle these stretch assignments, then we find out why. Maybe they themselves need more support (like training).

“Support” means to underpin, hold up, or bear. The people who perform support functions in a public relations firm – or really any organization – have to be as good as those who present the firm to the public every day. As seen in recent news, an organization is only as strong as its weakest link.