Reflections on a Walker Sands Training Session

Marketing Superheroes

Earlier today, I attended one of our Walker Sands offsite training sessions.

This was an event for our Senior Media Relations Specialist (SMRS) team on the PR team. We have similar training sessions for our specialists in Digital Marketing and Demand Gen, who work within our Walker Sands Digital group.

Every person at Walker Sands is incredibly important, but, for our PR clients, an SMRS is the person who is perhaps most directly tasked with getting the results the client hired us to get.

We talk a lot about doing “GREAT WORK” here. The SMRS is a huge, massive part of that.

And with all the pressures in their current position, the next leg of their journey demands that they step their game up to an even higher level.

Not an easy job, but we are blessed to have an incredibly talented team at this level — as I learned firsthand while engaging with them during the training session.

I was the second presenter and I covered How to Run a Client Meeting, following a prior session on Engagement Planning. My session was then followed by one on Building a Great Client Relationship, and it continue on from there.

Senior Attention Matters

These first few sessions were facilitated by our three most senior executives, which is how it should be.

Last week, I had coffee with a guy I know who was quitting his job. “The senior people could care less about me,” he said. “I just want to go somewhere where I can learn and where people actually care about what I do and will spend time with me and teach me something.”

Reflecting on this, it made me so happy that Walker Sands takes training, support and teamwork so seriously — so much so that this training session’s batting order for trainers included our most senior team.

Our core values — LEARN, SUPPORT, DO — might not sound especially novel at first glance. But it really is part of our secret sauce that allows us to outperform the results that other agencies deliver — in so many dimensions that matter and in a big way.

It turns out that when you take your profession seriously and are constantly trying to do better (LEARN), you end up doing pretty damn good (DO).

When senior executives actively coach and mentor people (SUPPORT), you get even better.

Entrepreneurial DNA

Some other agencies might not take that same approach, and I believe it’s because they have less of an entrepreneurial approach to things.

In contrast to some of them, we don’t have a hundred-year history as a crutch to lean on, and we didn’t start out with big sugar-daddy clients. Our founders didn’t work at an agency, so we are not stuck in “everybody does it this way at other agencies” mode, which frees us up from a lot of baggage.

Entrepreneurial life is sobering, to say the least. When you bootstrap something up from nothing, you live or die based on results. And, anybody who has been through multiple startup cycles, as I have, knows that there is no entitlement in the world of business — you either perform or you close down.

Knowing that you live every day in peril of backsliding if you don’t perform, an entrepreneur next learns that they cannot do it all. Only with a good team can they deliver…and that’s why teamwork is such a high priority here.

Skill Building is Job One

This is why I will drop just about anything to train our people or answer a question.

As we have grown, fewer people tap me for that, which is not good. It’s why I was super happy to be able to present to the SMRS team today.

It’s why I’m always thinking — with a lot of folks here — about this critically important question: How we can improve our knowledge sharing and keep elevating our capabilities?

Aside from LEARN, SUPPORT, DO, we also preach HAPPY CLIENT, HAPPY EMPLOYEE, HAPPY BUSINESS as another manta, paying homage to a trinity that is incredibly valuable to what we do. If we’ve learned anything in our ride to becoming one of the best marketing agencies in the country, it’s that you simply can’t get execute on that trinity if you don’t invest heavily in your people.

Wanted: Superheroes

Because at Walker Sands (and also within Walker Sands Digital, our group that focuses on digital marketing), we are really asking our team members to be superheroes.

At the SMRS training session after mine, Mike Santoro, our President, asked the group what the attributes of a good account executive are and here’s the list they quickly came up with in a five-minute brainstorm:

  • Manages expectations
  • Highly responsive
  • Has a backup plan
  • Is a good listener
  • Empathetic
  • Handles internal expectations, not just client expectations
  • Thinking two steps ahead
  • Avoids scrambling
  • Excellent at what we do, willing to jump into the details when necessary
  • Organized
  • Enthusiastic
  • Graceful taking blame when needed
  • Open-minded
  • Understands the client’s industry
  • Knows client business and their goals
  • Trusting
  • Trustworthy
  • Inspires confidence
  • Fresh perspective and good ideas
  • Gives good advice
  • Delivers ROI, way more value than the clients pay for
  • Great communicator
  • Motivates
  • Delivers great work and results for the client

Wow. That’s a hard job to hire for, wouldn’t you agree?

As I watched our SMRS team during the session, however, I saw that they had the potential to become all of these things — and they were already well on their way.

People jump into the deep end of the pool right away at Walker Sands, and that is the best way to learn. You can only imagine the challenges these SMRS folks are dealing with. I heard a lot about that today. Such a hard job — did I say that already?

Found: Superheroes

Add our training and mentoring to that hands-on learning in the trenches, and you end up with what we’ve got here at Walker Sands — an agency of superheroes, people who take their professions seriously and who approach the job with a craftsmanship mentality and a “play for high score” mentality.

As a founder, I can’t ask for more than that (THANK YOU ALL SO MUCH!) and I’ll drop anything to invest in helping our people along their path to greatness.

Hopefully, the team that attended my How to Run a Client Meeting session got a lot of value from it. But just the prod to reflect on what a great agency we are building and the nudge to think about how awesome our people are…that made my personal ROI on today’s training session just absolutely out-of-this-world awesome.

Call to action for you, dear reader — if you need a great marketing agency, hire us. You’ll be amazed at the difference between us and them. Really. And for those of you just starting your careers in marketing, PR, digital marketing, and all the things we do here, get in touch…but only if you’ve got superhero potential, please. And, finally call to action for those of you at Walker Sands — keep being you, keep working to improve, have fun and stay awesome!

Ken Gaebler founded Walker Sands as a full-service marketing firm back in 2002 with the goal of creating an exceptional ..read more

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