Laura Beth Telep (LB), Vice President of Clyde Group, reflects on the employee support she received from co-workers, as an intern to a manager. LB also reflects on Clyde Group’s CEO, Alex Slater, whose guidance and empathy helped his staff during a time of uncertainty. LB talks to Dante Muccigrosso from D S Simon Media and Emma Atkinson from Ragan Communications, about the top tips in communications that industry professionals should not miss.
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DANTE: Hi, I’m Dante Muccigrosso, Client Reporting & Media Planning Manager with D S Simon Media.
EMMA: And I’m Emma Atkinson I’m a Writer and Editor with Ragan Communications. To start off, I’d love to know what’s the difference between working for a large company versus a small company. I know you started with Edelman and now you’re with Clyde Group, and that’s two very different sizes.
LAURA: Yeah. Wow. I mean, there’s a huge difference. It was really, really great at a big company that’s so well established like Edelman, to get all of your PR 101 under your belt, you know, you’re working with the best of the best and professionals who really know what they’re doing. Your team is super structured, and you know where it’s going, you know how it’s going. It’s a great process and a great way to start my career. And when I took the leap to join Clyde Group, which was a startup at the time, about seven and a half years ago, just completely different, you went from kind of receiving research assignments to soup to nuts, leading a project from beginning to end, and having to figure out the solution. You know, it’s really where your team and the people that you surround yourself with matters a ton. You know, I got so much one-on-one time with our CEO and founder, Alex. Not that many people can say that they get in their career, you know, having that professional development time with such an amazing leader. So, was really spoiled in that regard but, you know, also catapulted to my career, to be able to learn so much in a short amount of time.
DANTE: Great. Yeah, I really like that point you made about working at a small company and having the ability to have one-on-one conversations with everyone that you work with, which I can relate to a lot because at D S Simon, I’ve worn many hats since I first started working there over the past 2 years. I guess looking at your current role, how did you grow into that over your seven years or so with Clyde Group?
LAURA: Yeah, you know, I was actually our first intern at Clyde Group, and we now call them fellows and have an amazing program that we now call our fellowship program here. And that program is very dear to my heart just because, you know, I started that first initial role. And as you can imagine, how quickly you learn that with only three people at your company. I just kept hitting milestones very quickly, but I really had amazing teammates there to support me and was able to, you know, over the years, rise up the ranks. And a harder position, but a great position for me to be in during that transition was actually in that middle management role about, you know, three years in my career where all of a sudden, I’m, you know, managing my peers. And it was a really big challenge for me because, you know, you are friends, but you also don’t know how to delegate or assign people work. You know, we all kind of go through that. And again, just with such support from my team, top and bottom at Clyde Group has really been able to allow me to get into a leadership role and continue expanding my career here.
EMMA: That’s something that a lot of young professionals at this stage in their careers can absolutely relate to. So, now I kind of want to ask, as Clyde Group grew and as you grew in your role, you were hiring more people and so retention became more of a priority for you. What are the top three things that you would say have increased retention over your time at Clyde Group?
LAURA: It was really challenging at the start and I again credit CEO and founder Alex to really turn the tables when we were having struggles, you know, right when you first start a company, it’s really hard to convince people, you know, “Hey, I promise this is going to work. I promise I’ll stand for something, you know, be in the trenches with me.” And the first year was really hard. We had a lot of turnover, a lot of people that didn’t quite believe in what we were trying to do. And so, to Alex’s credit, the number one thing that he did and what he can continue to do is actually talk to us and get our feedback. Number one, having a leader who truly cares about what you think and feel was a big priority for me. Because of all of the culture surveys and feedback Alex was getting he made Clyde Group really, really competitive even when we were just starting out. So, being able to be, you know, 22, taking that leap into a startup but having 401k, amazing pay benefits, PTO that I probably wouldn’t get anywhere else for another five years, sick days, sabbatical time, you know, these are all things that I was super fortunate to have, and Alex and the team really, really encouraged, you know, take time out for yourself. I would say, both from our client and internal perspective with colleagues, you know, we really get to choose the clients we want to work with, which is rare in an agency setting. You know, we want to work with people we know can move the world forward and we want to align with their values.
DANTE: Awesome. Yeah, and I think a good next question would be kind of touching on Clyde Group’s visibility efforts. I know you briefly talked about it with regards to choosing who you work with, which I think is great and definitely contributes to a longer retention rate, but yeah, maybe a little bit more about the visibility efforts within the agency.
LAURA: First of all, through our own channel, we have a really active blog that talks about what we’re doing internally, what we’re doing from team building exercises. And second, which is a really cool thing that we do at Clyde Group is that we have so many very smart and nerdy people as well. Clyde Group is about 60 people now and everyone is experts in just amazing, knowledge, industry knowhow, you know, understanding what’s going on in the world at any given point. And so, sometimes when we know that a thought leader at Clyde Group can speak to an issue going on in today’s world, we provide them media opportunities to speak to reporters who are talking about those issues right now. Lastly, you know, we are either nominating ourselves, or our clients, or our colleagues for awards. PR Daily and Ragan do an amazing job of putting out awards, and content, and workshops that we can all be doing for professional development. So, we follow and track those closely and also nominate awards just to be able to say we are the industry standard in any given topic, or campaign, or work, that we’re doing.
EMMA: You are pretty far in your career, but I would still consider you, you know, a young voice in communications. What is some advice or what are some of the skills that you think that young communicators should know?
LAURA: Two skills that stand out for me, one is to be flexible. I think at any given point, you can plan as much as you want, and might have like the perfect plan and path forward, and it is going to be blown up into a million pieces, you know? This is the industry that we chose. You have to be flexible and in that flexibility almost find something better that comes along. So, I would definitely encourage people, especially, you know, those early in their career in a PR, communications field is that you need to be flexible and be okay when things are not always going to plan. And then I think another one for me right now is trying to make feedback, a less scary topic or a less scary thing to think about, you know, I think feedback is so important during review time, or if your company does 360 reviews, you know, how can you learn from people to make sure that you’re always getting better? And I feel like, you know, there are these times where it’s like, oh, I got to get on a call and have feedback with my boss about something. And I, you know, I would encourage people to make it part of their everyday conversations with their colleagues, with their managers, with their mentors. It’s something that you can do day by day, every day and in real time, and I think that’ll make the conversation a lot less scary, but will also help people grow much faster and in a really much more healthy environment.
EMMA: Well, thank you so much for joining us.
DANTE: Yeah, thanks so much, that was great.
LAURA: Thank you both.