By: Katie Pusz
My heels click up a stairway that leads into a small Royal Oak building off West 4th St. Once inside, I proceed into a rustic-chic elevator that swiftly carries me to the third floor. I step out and face a glass wall that reads “Eisbrenner Public Relations.” I have arrived.
I’m greeted immediately by a friendly face from the Eisbrenner team, who is just as welcoming and cheery as the orange walls, pool table and “The Office” bobble heads on everyone’s desk. She leads me into a conference room. The table is lined with candy, Girl Scout cookies and plenty of papers. I‘m quickly joined by six or seven other WSU PRSSA members, and two others from the Eisbrenner team. We introduce ourselves, break the ice with a few laughs, and quickly get down to business: public relations with a twist of Eisbrenner.
“I like a challenge, and most of the people here do,” said Tom Eisbrenner, founder and CEO of Eisbrenner Public Relations. Yes, the man who gave life to Eisbrenner was sitting at our table, and all too eager to share with us the Eisbrenner way. His casual, nonchalant presence at our college agency tour, however, had already spoken volumes about Eisbrenner’s character.
Tom spoke passionately about the agency’s values, which we quickly learned are the building blocks of Eisbrenner’s existence. The rest of the two-hour agency tour consisted of a fifteen-minute rotation between groups of two Eisbrenner members who reinforced Tom’s value-based policy by illustrating their day-to-day work life through shared experiences and stories.
The emulsifying value at Eisbrenner is the importance of the team. Of course, the employees told us that, but anyone paying even the slightest attention would notice it. The employees and founders all joked, teased and prodded at one another with ease and comfort. As Tom later mentioned, there really isn’t a structure. He walks around, talks and works alongside everyone else.
Eisbrenner’s go with the flow attitude, however, is exactly what helps it to flourish. Every team member emphasized how different day-to-day is. Some days they stay until 8 p.m., and some days they leave right on time. Notice how I said “they”? The team acts as a unit to ensure that no one person is never tossed to the sharks. If one person is swamped and another has only a few low-priority tasks, that person jumps in to help balance the other’s work load. If one person is staying late, you can guarantee he or she will be joined by several others.
Another bold-faced topic was the difference between public relations at an agency versus a corporation. The biggest divide? Agency life is not – more like, ‘cannot be’ — scheduled. As one member put it, “sure, you can have a planner and write out what you want to accomplish every day, but it’s probably not going to happen like that.” The lack of structure also pushes business politics to a minimum. Agency life, as Eisbrenner reflected, is highly individualistic. Like cars? Take on some automotive clients. Social media nerd? Get to Facebook-ing! Eisbrenner is all about your unique interests and skills, and what those traits can bring to the table.
Everything up to this point has been an illustration of Eisbrenner’s image. But what’s the “real world” at Eisbrenner? What about at any public relations job? There was a segment on that, too.
The “real-world” is making mistakes. At Eisbrenner, mistakes are welcomed and embraced; there’s even a wall dedicated to quotes about the importance of it!
“If I make a mistake then it’s not really a failure, as long as I’ve learned from it and shared that experience with my team. If two weeks down the line, however, one of my teammates makes that same mistake – then I’ve failed. That second mistake is my failure,” said Tom Eisbrenner.
A recent college graduate-turned-intern-turned-employee shared the raw details of his personal experience through all of his bumpy transitions, too. His first and foremost piece of advice? Be honest with yourself. Know your strengths, but, more importantly, know your weaknesses. How do you react to things? How is your integrity? That, he said, is more valuable to your career than any title you can put on a resume.
Something everyone wants on their resume? Wayne State, of course. WSU-PRSSA couldn’t help but beam with pride during the last rotation – a segment on crisis communication – where we learned that Wayne State’s own Dean Seeger had performed crisis communication for Eisbrenner in the past. *insert applause*
Our minute of fame aside, Eisbrenner scratched the surface of crisis communication for us by explaining the golden rule: have an updated plan. Anticipate a crisis, mitigate when it happens, and continue to manage it down the road. And of course, hone your social media skills – it’s crucial to putting out a crisis’ flame.
A few photos, a couple Girl Scout cookies and two hours later, I was back on West 4th St. heading toward the parking garage. I reflected on all of the stories and advice I had absorbed in two, short hours. I looked down at my heels as they clicked on the salty pavement – I have some big shoes to fill.