Katie Mallinson

What started out as a one-woman operation in 2013, Scriba PR has grown into a 10-strong team of award-winning communicators, specialising in complex and technical briefs for clients across the globe. But it’s no fluke. Since day one, founder and MD, Katie Mallinson has committed to investing 14% of turnover in staff development per year, and here, she explains why and shares her advice for other small businesses.

Over the past seven years, the driving force behind everything we do has been to demystify the world of public relations and create a company with real soul – that lives authentically through its values.

Although I only envisioned being a single-person company to begin with, business took off a lot quicker than I could have imagined, and eventually I knew it was important to hire experts to do things I couldn’t or didn’t have the time to – such as finance and admin.

These were elements of the job that didn’t come naturally to me – nor did they excite me. And, once I hired Operations Manager, Louise Jaggar – who joined as a PR assistant back in 2015 – it became easier to identify when we needed to add more talents to the team.

Fast-forward to now, and we’re a group of 10 hard-working communicators. But if you look at the Scriba collective on LinkedIn, every one of our band of ‘word nerds’ has a completely different CV.

When it comes to growing the team, I never look for carbon copies of my colleagues. Instead, we focus on core strengths, integrity and likeability, not just experience and qualifications. We each bring different skills and experience to Scriba – no one has a formal PR qualification as we have different communication backgrounds – and I like to combine those to help us grow as a collective.

It might sound clichéd, but our team is Scriba’s greatest asset, and this is something I work incredibly hard to protect. Therefore, I believe it’s extremely important to invest in staff morale and development.

Central to recruitment and retention

As a team, we dedicate a day per month to learn something new together – either through peer-to-peer learning, or with the help of our professional mentor. And that is on top of everyone’s individual personal training plans.

Of course, we don’t do this ‘just because’. LinkedIn’s 2018 Workforce Learning Report revealed that 93% of employees said they would stay at a company longer if it invested in their careers – meaning a commitment to development is central to staff retention too.

Quarterly away days, mentoring sessions, peer-to-peer learning, monthly lunches, staff socials, a day of paid leave per month to volunteer, and employee awards are held because we care about our team's wellbeing, growth and empowerment.

We’re also really open about our personal and professional development plans, and we don’t just look at boosting the most obvious workplace credentials, but personal strengths such as confidence, imposter syndrome, handling conflict, and message delivery as well.

Training isn’t limited to colleagues

It’s important too to focus on where you can add further value beyond your own four walls. As a communications agency which majors on the power of the written word, it’s hopefully a given that our employees will be at the top of their game when it comes to penning powerful prose, identifying a solid news hook or a killer whitepaper theme – and those skills are often transferable.

Scriba shares its knowledge, rather than hiding it, and trains businesses to become strong communicators through focused workshops – and we’re happy to upskill teams in social media management, awards writing, webinar hosting, media training and more.

Nobody knows everything

Of course, it’s important not to neglect yourself when it comes to upskilling a team. As ‘the boss’ you’re often expected to ‘lead from the front’, and your own development is just as important. A trusted, third-party mentor can act as a sounding board for your most ambitious plans, as well as a sense-check to remain focused on targets.

There is certainly no one-size-fits-all when it comes to finding the right advisor – it depends significantly on what you want to get out of each session. Personally, I needed someone to lead my decision-making along a path, but ultimately give me things to think about too – and this has helped me tremendously as Scriba has evolved.

No matter how clichéd it may sound, the driving force behind Scriba PR has always been doing right by clients and colleagues. Not for commercial gain, but because positive, valued and rewarded employees are more inclined to stay.

Establishing a sense of camaraderie is vital, particularly during challenging or unexpected times, and clear investment into colleagues’ futures is a key component in building that relationship. And, when you must deal with something negative – whether in a personal or professional sense – a strong workforce will always pull together.

Abi Bentley-Cottam
Article by Abi Bentley-Cottam
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