Written by Kajal Shah • Published 20th December 2019 • 3 minute read

With Christmas around the corner, festive songs in full swing and mince pies galore, reflecting on my time spent in New York as part of the PHA 5W Exchange Programme invokes a big smile on my face on what was an incredible week but also a mixture of sadness – all because it went very quickly!

Working and living the New York life was made even more special by the fantastic warm welcome by 5W and experiencing it with my PHA colleagues turned friends – Tom, Frankie and Lawrence.

Whilst we made a good stab of going through our 10 page (!) Google doc list of things to do, eat and drink in NYC starting off with an infamous slice of Joe’s pizza, the exchange wasn’t all about fun, food and mulled wine!

I agree with all the thoughts shared by Tom, Lawrence and Frankie on the similarities and differences between London and NYC agency life. Sitting with the Corporate team at 5W and meeting with other divisions including the consumer wellness team, new business, and tech teams, it was great to hear and swap processes, strategies and ideas across different clients – whether this was in one to ones, brainstorms, listening in on client calls or a general natter over coffee.

Combining creative thinking with a value-driven strategy is no easy feat and something that both PHA and 5W excel at.  It is not enough to just secure quality coverage for clients – content needs to be optimised to lead to more conversions on social media platforms and the age-old question of ROI and “So what?” is always in the back of PR minds. Something that was mirrored at 5W.  This means it’s essential to continue in developing creative campaigns to build reputations, tell stories, grow the businesses of brands, solve client’s greatest challenges and capture the attention of what is a highly fragmented media and consumer landscape.

A client-agency relationship is like any other – hard work. It takes commitment, chemistry, honesty and passion – moving from a transactional supplier to becoming a mutual trusted partner relationship. It is something I see every day at PHA and at 5W while I was there.

I was particularly impressed with a case study presentation by the corporate and tech team, which showcased some key client campaigns, the challenges they faced and the results they achieved. It was grounded in evaluation metrics to demonstrate the value of PR and impact on business outcomes.  For some clients, an agreed matrix was devised to work out the reputational, financial and brand value of coverage to emphasise the results-driven work which was impressive to see.

Personally for me, the experience made me appreciate not only what PR means to clients but also how we in the industry continually try to evolve campaigns through new ideas and tactics and anticipate what adds value to the individual client and the organisation over the long term.

Outside of the programme, I will try and summarise my 5 takeaways of NYC life:

  1. The “let’s grab coffee” meeting takes on a whole new meaning – fast-paced conversations filled with knowledge and best practice as well as the fact that there are about a 100 different ways Americans take their coffee!
  2. There are enough food options to keep you well-fed for your entire life and small/medium portion sizes do not exist – cue infinite food comas/pathway to obesity!
  3. NYC is a sprawling metropolis – flagging a taxi was definitely harder than they make out in the movies!
  4. If you want an incredible view, you just have to step outside and look up.
  5. Despite the ESTA queue and queue for Rolfs (infamous Christmas bar), NYC is worth the wait and infinitely full of surprises

I am massively grateful to PHA and 5W for the amazing experience and look forward to what else the programme will bring in the future.