This past Friday, November 4 the Grand Valley PRSSA Chapter was joined by members of the Wayne State and U of M Dearborn Chapters to embark on some insightful agency tours in Detroit. The morning started with a gathering at Starbucks in the Renaissance Center (that is once everyone fought through Detroit traffic and a confusing design layout). Oh and a wonderful sight of hundreds of people dressed in anime costumes for the national Youmacon convention. It made for a very interesting day at the Renaissance Center.
Our first tour was with General Motors (GM). Although GM is not an agency, it gave us a great feel for corporate PR and also how corporate integrates the use of agencies. GM talked a lot about how their communication department is organized; that includes everything from product communication to retiree communication. While walking around the department we stumbled upon GV PRSSA’s former president, Stephanie Rice, desk. This is where agency comes into play with corporate. Stephanie is actually an employee of Weber Shandwick. Corporate communication departments will work with a particular agency and integrate their professionals into their daily PR tasks. Often times the company does not have enough staff to cover everything so they use an agency or they know a particular agency specializes in a particular need so they will use those professionals. Stephanie is working onsite at GM doing PR for the numerous auto-shows that happen during the year. After learning about GM and how their communication department works, they talked to us about their internship program. They only take the best of the best and they hire very early for their summer internship program (had completed hiring by Nov. 1 for summer 2012).
The second agency tour we went on was at Lovio-George. This is a small agency in Mid-Town Detroit. The agency is in an old three story house, creating a beautiful environment and a homy feel. There were between 7-10 employees and one intern. Although the agency is rather small they work(ed) on some very large accounts, some of which include the Parade Company, River Days, and the 2006 Superbowl. One of the most enthralling things about this agency was their true love for Detroit. The owner, Cindy Lovio, gave us one of the most inspirational pep talks about Detroit I have ever heard. Knowing their true love for the city really gave us an idea about the type of work and time they put into their clients.
After a brief, but yummy, lunch at Panera we headed to Weber Shandwick in Birmingham. This tour was much different than the first two because they essentially let us run it. They gave us a tour of their building which was very cool. It used to be an old department store so it was an open layout with lots of natural light. After the tour we sat with a few of the agency professionals and asked them numerous questions ranging from tips to information about their clients. At Weber Shandwick we grew a better understanding of the integration of agency employee’s into corporate offices. Weber Shandwick does a lot of work with GM and has a few people on site with them. It was interesting to see the agency side of working with corporate after hearing about it from the corporate side in the morning with GM. Although we probably could have talked for another hour we had to get back to the Renissance Center to tour one last Agency, Franco.
Franco attracted all of our attention by sitting us at a table that was full of candy, yumm. Like Lovio-George, Franco does a lot of work with only a small number of people (17). Each member of their team works on numerous accounts and some of those accounts are full campaigns, not just special needs. The team at Franco really gave a sense of family and devotion to their work. (This was not the agency for me. I don’t know if it was the lack of natural light or the lack of people, but something about it just said no for me. Oh and the 4 month long extended interview in which you work 40+ hours a week and do not get paid. I don’t know about other people, but I cannot afford to do that.)
Although we started at 8:15am and were not done until about 5pm, the day was filled with excitement and learning. Each agency had something to teach us and I think by the end of the day our group was even more excited to be in PR than we were before the day began.