Event Recap: Creating an Environment Where Collaboration Trumps Tension

As agencies continue to increase the breadth of their service offerings in order to support clients on a number of fronts, how do we create the right environment to foster collaboration across different internal functions (PR, digital, creative, marketing, etc.), and make sure that we’re working toward a common goal? This was the pertinent question that was tackled at last Thursday’s Masters’ Institute, sponsored and hosted by Eastern Bank in downtown Boston.

Nearly 30 leaders from both agencies and corporate communications departments came together for the first Masters’ Institute of the 2016-2017 Publicity Club of New England season, and it was a lively affair from the start. Moderator Greg Stone of Stone Communications posed questions to panelists Laura Tomasetti, CEO and founder of 360PR+; Ben Grossman, VP, Strategy Director at Jack Morton Worldwide; and Krystin Hayward, Director of Communications, Aortic and Peripheral Vascular at Medtronic.


Some highlighted best practices from the panelists and the audience participants included:

  • Lose the ego – Not only will egos interfere with your internal departments and teams, but Tomasetti said she’s seeing clients start to ask for case studies showing collaboration with other agencies, especially when they retain several at once and expect them to work together. Playing well with one another and listening are critical abilities almost as valued as specific account-related experience or skills. Demonstrating to a client that your firm can orchestrate collaboration between partners is another way to provide value.
  • Hire intelligently and strive for diversity – Many attendees provided the feedback that ego-fueled behavior is best weeded out during the interview process. Bringing in team players has become a top priority. “Hire for attitude, train for skill.” Similarly, a diverse team can combine varied strengths to produce better results. While personality tests like Myers Briggs are sometimes used to assess candidates, they can also be leveraged to help project teams better understand each other’s working styles.
  • Collaboration comes from the top – The panelists agreed that a structure that rewards teamwork and discourages “land grabs” is an important tone setter in any organization. If everyone understands that it’s more advantageous to be part of the collaborative process than to sidestep it, involvement will be universal. Strong and decisive leadership can help to set the direction and get people aligned.
  • Make brainstorms work efficiently – Meetings can quickly turn into group think if preparation isn’t done in advance. Coming to brainstorms with some ideas already fleshed out will help to get everyone organized, especially if there are staff representing several different departments. Grossman introduced the concept of “Plus Up” where participants are only allowed to speak if they can add something to a given idea to make it better. No criticism. Good ideas are made better until they can be put into action, and weaker ideas simply die out.

Grossman summarized his thinking on collaboration by saying that chemistry and culture are two main necessary pillars, supported by three key intangibles; shared objectives, social relationships and strong leadership.

Our next Masters’ Institute will be in early 2017. Please check this space for updates on the date and topic.

Follow the panelists on Twitter: Greg Stone, Laura Tomasetti, Ben Grossman, Krystin Hayward

Post by Brian Alberti, VP Client Engagement at LEWIS

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