In today’s corporate culture, tenured employees are few and far between. Gone are the days when a recently graduated young professional takes a job and stays with the company for the remainder of his or her career. But, there are a few rare gems that find a career path and stick with it, and we’re lucky to have one of these employees in our office.
Lauren Hannaford started with Obsidian as an intern during the height of the 2008 economic downturn. Not deterred by her entry-level position and national economic hardships that were deeply affecting businesses, Lauren worked diligently to earn a professional spot on the team. Over the last decade, Lauren has held every role that Obsidian has (literally, every one), and has a wealth of knowledge about our firm and its history.
She now serves as our director of client services, a fitting role for our resident OPR expert. In her role, she oversees all of our accounts, many of which she once managed. Her career path is an interesting one, and in this month’s spotlight, she’ll share that journey with you.
- Share a little bit about how you became connected with Obsidian.
- I learned about Obsidian after my mom (somehow) found out that a former classmate of mine at Harding Academy, Daniel Wade, was employed here at the time. I had just graduated and thought I wanted to do film or work for a magazine. I decided to reach out to Daniel and ask if he’d heard of any jobs or opportunities in Memphis, and at the time, he had not. After that initial correspondence, Daniel contacted me two weeks later asking if I’d be interested in an internship at Obsidian…and the rest is truly history!
- What do you think you did as an intern that made you stand out?
- I’d like to think it was that I worked hard and was always willing to help the account team at the time. If you can hone writing skills, pay close attention to detail, learn quickly, be a team player and develop strong relationships with people, you can excel in PR!
- What challenges did you face as a young professional? Do you think those challenges are the same today?
- My answer is a mixed bag! As a young professional, I definitely had to overcome the perception that I was “green” and therefore not as knowledgeable. Obsidian as an agency was still young at that time, too. In a sense, I do think those perceptions about age and experience still exist in some cases, but because we live in a social media world, the perception has shifted some to feeling more confident with younger professionals because “they know social media.”
- Talk about your transition to account management. Was that transition hard?
- I’d say it was challenging in the same way that it’s always challenging to start a new job. I had six months of experience and learning from the account team when I was hired on permanently, and at that time, we had a different model where each client was paired with only one account representative. So when I was given a few of my own client for the first time, I was literally the only one driving those trains (under the guidance of Courtney)! It’s baptism by fire! It forces you to learn very quickly, which can be a good thing. My internship, though, was super hands-on because I was the only intern. So, that was very beneficial. I got to be a true account assistant.
- What advice do you have for new mid-level managers?
- Find a balance between being a friend and being a boss with the people you manage. You can be both. Understand that not everyone works, learns or grows in the same way, at the same pace or from the same types of experience or environments. As a manager, you must tailor your approach with each person you manage.
- As a director, what has been the biggest change for you?
- I feel just as busy or even busier than I was when management accounts of my own, but as director, I feel more focused on one greater goal rather than individual client goals. That has been an interesting transition. I sometimes miss client management but I love what I do now because I get to be a part of all of our client accounts!
- Over the last decade, what has stayed the same at Obsidian? What has been the biggest change?
- I could give a lot of examples here but I’ll point out Obsidian’s philosophy on client service. As long as I have been here, we have never wavered on providing the very best service to clients. We are a true powerhouse of PR knowledge and are very committed to client success. As far as changes go, I’d probably have to say our team structure – going from one account rep to two per client. I think that had a ripple effect we didn’t even know was possible at the time!