Written by Dyan Dolfi-Offutt, Soda Pop PR
As we head into the inevitable busyness of Q4, now is a great time to take a step back and reflect on the year and commit to plans for 2018. Here’s my question: how’s your company culture shaping up?
These days, in order to attract and retain top talent, PR agency owners and managers need to ensure a thriving company culture as much as salary and benefits. And as small business owners, we have to be committed to finding creative, budget-friendly ways to foster a sense of community that will establish core values and a sense of belonging.
For us, one initiative that helped to define company culture at Soda Pop Public Relations is our annual retreat, where we get out of the office for a few days and spend time dreaming, planning and having fun together. If you’re interested in establishing something similar, here are a few tips & ideas to help you get started.
Be thoughtful about the location of your retreat
The location sets the tone, so pick a place your team will be excited about, and ideally, a myriad of nearby options for food, drink and play. We held our most recent retreat was at Caravan Outpost in Ojai and it was by far our favorite spot yet. Use Instagram to research cool new spots in your area and target boutique hotels or privately owned spots as they are more likely to have hands-on staff that go above and beyond to help you plan and add personalized touches.
Bonus tip: If budgets are tight, stay in the off-season or during the week. Airbnb can also be great budget-friendly resource.
Beware of over-scheduling your employees
It can be tempting to jam-pack that itinerary – after all, you likely have some big goals you want to discuss and some important decisions to make in concert with your team. However, make room for spontaneity – this is often when the big A-has happen. Resist the urge to tackle every aspect of the business that needs TLC and instead identify 2-3 topics to address over the course of the retreat. Host discussions as workshops with clear outcomes.
Bonus tip: Don’t be afraid of bringing in outside resources to give yourself a break from leading the conversation. In the past we’ve partnered with influencers that shared insights about social media, artists for creativity workshops and a professional organizer (Beth Penn from Bneato Bar provided valuable tools to help manage the craziness of email clutter!).
Model vulnerability and build trust and commitment to your vision
Vulnerably is the heartbeat of innovation and creativity…it also takes enormous courage to be vulnerable, especially in the work place. Your agency retreat is the ideal opportunity to dedicate time to sit around the proverbial fire and get personal. As a leader, your willingness to open up about the state of business, insecurity, and fears opens the door for participants to get similarly real about the challenges currently impacting personal and professional growth.
Bonus Tip: Give your team a heads up that this is part of the retreat’s focus and provide conversation starters rather than simply asking a big scare question. We used a Ted Talk about vulnerability to kick off our conversation.
Don’t forget to enjoy yourself!
Laughing until your sides hurt, inside jokes, hilarious mishaps – these are the gold of a life-changing retreat experience. So eat, drink and play! Public Relations is an exciting industry but it also is ranked as one of the most stressful professions. To thank your team for their hard work, make sure to add good food, drink and activities to the itinerary.
Bonus Tip: As an extra takeaway, have a photographer take headshots of your team as a post-retreat thank you.
As you plan your event, put into practice the same creativity you employ for clients. Add in a surprise element no one on the team has experienced such as learning to cook over a campfire or a wine safari adventure. Any event worth talking about includes a thoughtful gift so include a gift bag, and don’t forget to take advantage of this time together and have a photographer on site to capture images that you can use for marketing and company branding moving forward.
As the founder and owner of L.A. based Soda Pop Public Relations, a PR shop that specializes in media and influencer relations, product launches, campaigns and events for food, beverage and lifestyle clients, Dyan Dolfi-Offutt has over 10 years of experience managing teams. Dyan has a passion for mentoring and has taught workshops and spoke on panels at Create & Cultivate, Worthy Women and at her alma mater Ohio University. When Dyan is not in the office you will find her a local restaurants with friends, planning her next road trip or relaxing at her home in Echo Park with her husband and impossibly adorable dog.