Published on Oct. 10, 2022, at 4:21 p.m.
by Breanna Erickson.
“Each of our team members cares so deeply about each other,” shared Erin Vogt, director of public relations, about her small, close-knit team at Peritus. Peritus is a Birmingham, Alabama-based public relations agency founded by women in 2014. In the eight years since, Peritus has been selected to be an affiliate of Public Relations Global Network for its “advocacy, reputation management and community engagement.”
“Anything that can affect an organization’s reputation” is how Vogt described an organizational crisis. As daunting as crises can be, Vogt sees crisis management as a rewarding, exciting aspect of her work.
Her first “breakthrough” experience with crisis management was the ability to build a crisis response from the ground up. This process allowed her client to increase their media literacy and become a more vigilant communicator.
“Once they started paying attention to it, in that first year alone … I think they had 10 or 12 crises,” Vogt remembered, as opposed to the client’s previous one or two annual crises.
In the current corporate field, Vogt believes that having a public relations communicator is integral to keeping relationships with stakeholders. Having a team in place that can identify and address crises in a timely manner keeps these relationships with stakeholders and customers afloat, which in turn keeps the organization running smoothly, she said.
Alongside crisis management, one of Vogt’s duties is media relations, which she described as “the bread and butter of what a lot of PR practitioners do.” She holds that understanding the wants and goals of the client can be the best way to make long-lasting, strong relationships that benefit both parties.
Media training, which works in tandem with media relations, is one of Vogt’s favorite aspects of her position, as it allows her to lead, understand and adapt with her clients.
To Vogt, one of the most tried and true methods of learning how to communicate with the media is to take baby steps; this practice allows clients to become comfortable and more trusting of not only the media, but themselves as their own spokesperson. “Let’s try a phone interview with a reporter first, and then an in-person one,” she said to illustrate.
This formula that Vogt stands by can be seen in a Facebook post from one of Peritus’ past clients, United Way of Central Alabama, which shows the team working with media to grasp “message delivery, body language, on-camera best practices, & defining our message.”
As director of public relations, Vogt spends her days managing the “health and happiness” of her 11-person team and client base. “You have to be very intentional about having that togetherness,” she explained.
“Working to live” is a phrase that defines the idea that a person’s career, whilst important, should not cause stress to their personal life. Many films — “King Kong,” “Good Night, and Good Luck,” and “The Devil Wears Prada,” to name a few — feature PR practitioners wrapping their entire lives into their work, which can give a bad look to the field in the real world.
Eliza Heidelberg, senior account coordinator at Peritus, sees her team as being able to “lean on each others’ strengths.” Working in a smaller firm, she recognizes the collaboration and inter-organizational work to be more of a privilege than a pain.
With the post-pandemic, hybrid workflow, the team at Peritus has made the change to balance in-person time with work from home. This change and balance have allowed the employees to “wear a lot of hats,” according to Heidelberg. While this phrase can seem a bit ambiguous, she believes that the level of collaboration and teamwork achieved by the agency makes the various tasks worthwhile.
Both Vogt and Heidelberg see the balance of work and life as one that comes from the culture of the workplace. Without respect and boundaries, for both the self and others, work can begin to bleed into time off.
Heidelberg remarked that the team is “always trying to respect each others’ [personal time off and] give people time to recharge.”
This recharge is possible by having respect for the team members’ routine. Vogt believes that finding a workplace with a culture that wants its employees to love their lives and the work that they are able to do. “When someone is on PTO, or if they’re out unexpectedly sick, or if they wanna knock off a couple hours early … we’re here to support each other,” she explained.
Team activities are another big aspect of the culture at Peritus. Vogt and Heidelberg both recommend the book “The Agony of Decision” by Helio Fred Garcia, which they read during their Peritus book club and has become a staple within the organization. The team was able to even host a Q&A with the author, which they said left a lasting mark on their collaboration and work, even years later.
Peritus’ mission is to “move the state [of Alabama] forward, and make time to support our true passions,” which is clear to see in the passion and commitment to the organization that Vogt and Heidelberg share. This commitment to each other makes the crisis-level decision between work and life all the less agonizing.