Q & A with (W)right On Communications President and Founder, Julie Wright
What’s (W)right On Communications all about?
Our public relations agency was founded in 1998. As we’ve grown over the decades, we’ve continuously adapted to a shifting communications landscape. Today, we serve organizations in complex and unpredictable business environments like energy and cleantech public relations but also hospitality PR–which became very chaotic in 2020 and 2021–as well as senior living, education, healthcare, B2B, not-for-profit and public sector strategic communications.
Our mission is to elevate the agency experience for our client partners, employees and industry. We do that through a winning combination of savvy, imagination and earning our client partners’ trust every day. For employees, we invest in their success and growth. We want the team to have the tools and support they need to deliver wins for our clients and to be rewarded and celebrated when they do. The joys of agency life need to far outweigh its challenges.
And we want to uplift our industry by maintaining high ethical standards and quality in our work as well as sharing our thoughts and experiences where we think it could add value.
What are some examples of (W)right On’s elevated experience?
For our client partners, something that stands out is that we’ve never locked them into contracts with exit clauses. If a client isn’t happy or has a change of strategy or fortunes, they can halt services. That means we work to earn their business every day. It goes both ways, however. We have ended client relationships when we encounter a mismatch in style or expectations. That’s important to maintain our team’s positive outlook and high motivation. One of our values is to he inspired by our client partners. It’s critically important.
For team members, we have a compensation structure and benefits plan that recognizes their value and talents while being highly competitive. More than that though, we try to make time for fun and organize quarterly team socials or friendly competitions so that we all stay connected and build stronger relationships.
What are (W)right On Communications’ core values and what do they mean for the agency?
We value contagious passion and being inspired by our client partners. The first value is important because it means we can “infect” others with our knowledge and excitement for our client’s subject matter or news. The latter means we can feel great about going the extra mile, as is often the case, to help them reach their business or communications goals. Relationships are something else that (W)right On values highly. This includes relationships with each other, client partners, media, communities and more. We’re in the people business and need to be mindful of our relationships and the impact of our actions, words or decisions on them.
In short, our core values keep our thinking and actions smart, imaginative and guided by a desire to build trust in all our interactions. We look for team members who are attracted to those values.
What’s been your experience running a PR agency during COVID-19? What are some of the biggest challenges you have faced?
The uncertainty and panic that peaked at the start of the pandemic in March 2020 was a big psychological strain to me as a leader, my team and many of our clients. We immediately communicated to the team and to our clients that we would stand by them. Throughout the pandemic, agency ownership shouldered the volatility in client partner budgets without no team member layoffs and with confidence that “this too shall pass.”
Our hospitality and tourism clients were severely and immediately impacted as were our senior living clients. But we also had life science innovators among our clients who contributed to the technology inside every dose of the Pfizer vaccine. It felt great to support them and their biomedical advances while helping our tourism and senior living clients through their unique challenges. It wasn’t easy, but it was important and strategic communications were front and center during the peak of the pandemic.
A big shot in the arm came in the final quarter of 2020 when (W)right On Communications was named to Forbes 2021 200 Best PR Agencies list. The list was independently curated and based on client reviews. That felt like an endorsement of our commitment to elevating the agency experience! Other PR agencies in San Diego and Los Angeles also made the list.
Our optimism has paid off. Business returned to pre-pandemic levels within a year, and we are hiring again to meet demand.
The pandemic narrative has also shifted and now we’re telling happy stories, like one about the Valentine’s Day vaccinations a husband and wife got together at a Bay Area senior living community we represent. Their sweet story was shared on every local newscast in the Bay Area and some in Sacramento and Salinas.
(W)right On Communications has a wide breadth of clientele, so how do you specialize?
While we do have well diversified practice areas, which helped us during the pandemic, all of our client partners have something in common. They need an agency partner who can help them navigate in ambiguity and uncertainty.
This is true of our innovators in business, technology, and healthcare; our leaders in hospitality and tourism; and our not-for-profit and public sector difference-makers. We know how to get stuff done and make stuff happen when there’s no roadmap. That also helped us during the uncharted COVID-19 environment. I’m proud of our team and the culture we’ve built, and I appreciate the trust of our clients.