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Meet Shane Winn

The enthusiasm, passion and utter admiration that Shane has for the PR agency Allison+Partners is contagious. As the General Manager for nearly four years, his outlook on the company’s culture is unconditionally positive and yet he feels strongly he can’t take any credit.

“The agency was built on the idea of a strong culture — being supportive of each other, not being hierarchical and really working on maintaining a healthy work life balance,” Shane said. “The number of years a person stays at Allison+Partners is significantly higher than the industry average. If you ask people who have been here for a while, most people would tell you the culture today is what it was when they started.”

The culture at Allison was a common thread within our chat, which spanned topics including public policy, leadership and COVID-19 haikus.

From Public Policy to Public Relations

Shane’s first foray into public relations came via a position in transportation policy work in Chicago. Eventually he became a media spokesperson for area city managers and mayors on a variety of transportation policy topics, and realized he liked the media relations function of his job quite a bit.

In his eventual transition to public relations, he had to learn the field quickly. “I had bypassed being an intern and I hadn’t built media lists or done any of that,” he said. “In the first six months of my agency job, I worked my butt off to try to become capable of managing other people and essentially helping them learn how to do stuff that I really didn’t know how to do myself.”

From there, Shane found his groove. He rose through the agency ranks and eventually moved in-house to Washington Mutual, a client of his while working at the PR firm Jasculca Terman.

In-House vs. Agency Life

Shane’s client-side experience was marked by meetings and more meetings, eventually pushing him back to agency life.

“Every single person at an agency has to be a rockstar. I love working at an agency because we are the engine of a company,” Shane said. “You're the one that is driving revenue and growth. When you're a communications person or PR person in-house, you might play more of a supporting role, meaning you support the business lines that deliver various products and services in various channels. Both are vital, but I find myself more suited to agency life.”

Shane groups his current position at Allison+Partners into three buckets:

  1. Win Business: “Leading Allison+Partners, I have to bring in new business to the agency.”
  1. Serve Clients: “I still do client work and that’s one of the hallmarks here at Allison+Partners. There’s a senior member on every single piece of business. It doesn’t matter if it’s $10,000 or $100,000 account.”
  1. Staff Growth & Development.“My style of management is very much about empowering people. I give my team objectives to aim to rather than micromanaging who they are.”

Advice for the Next Generation

Reflecting on his past experiences both in-house and agency, Shane shared the below key insights and learnings:

  • Strong culture is the foundation of an agency. And that means putting in the work to preserve Shane equates culture to a plant that you’ve got to constantly water, and Allison + Partners never passes up an opportunity to nurture.
  • Create a positive work environment. “I internalize the emotion around me so when my team is happy, I’m happy,” Shane “The happier my team is, the happier I am and the more motivated my team is, the more motivated I am.” Positivity is a cycle.
  • Have a high level of empathy. Shane’s career shift from in-house to agency taught him how to put on a client hat and understand that there are internal politics, an immense amount of meetings and various levels of approval in the background that can sometimes shadow agency Having that experience made him a better practitioner and increased his ability to manage teams.
  • Praise Constantly reinforcing the good that people are doing goes a long way in making people feel valued and happy at work.

Constantly Learning & Leading

Perhaps the best example of Shane’s leadership can be found in his 4 p.m. Zoom happy hours while social distancing. On Friday afternoons, his office gets together for a weekly call, always themed. When I caught up with Shane, the most recent call revolved around COVID-19 haikus.

Each participant was required to write a haiku and send in a PowerPoint slide. Using the “share screen” function, one by one participants presented their haiku and used Zoom polling to vote for their favorite.

“We were having cocktails, reading funny haikus, but at the same time, people are learning how to use screen share functionality on Zoom and they're learning how to use polling functions,” he said. “You can make learning and development fun by putting it in a context that’s enjoyable for people. That’s when it really sticks.”

Shane’s career has been marked by a constant determination to learn and lead. I’m sure Shane’s future won’t hold anything different.

AGENCY PROFILE

Allison+Partners is a global communications agency with 30 locations and around 500 employees worldwide. Described as a highly entrepreneurial environment, employees are encouraged to pursue their passions while focusing on their growth and development as industry professionals. Fun and inclusivity are core tenants of the company’s culture and the agency is marked by a strong sense of camaraderie and creativity. Allison was rated the Best Large Agency  to Work For in PRovoke’s 2020 rankings. If that isn’t impressive enough, beyond the agency’s positive environment is its impressive growth — 2019 marked the agency’s 18th consecutive year of top-line growth.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Zoe Krey is a graduate of DePaul’s PR & Advertising Master’s program and works in Chicago at the PR agency MSL.

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