• Meredith Montalto

Smart Steps to Building Your Work Team


When building a team to tackle client projects, there are important questions to consider beyond simply, “Who has the time to work on this?” While availability is obviously a critical factor in the equation, you need to think about the strengths, experience and relationships that each player can contribute in order to achieve the best outcome for your client. Pulling together the right team always makes the job so much more enjoyable and successful.

I recently took on a project focused in Philadelphia that involves helping to educate citizens and City Council about the benefits of Green Stormwater Infrastructure (GSI) and a program called “Green City, Clean Waters.” I have a good deal of experience in environmental and sustainability issues, as well as in working with clean energy and energy efficiency business groups. And I have worked for many years on policy and advocacy at the state and federal levels.

But I haven’t done much work of this nature in Philadelphia proper. And so, I turned to our amazing staff at Ceisler Media & Issue Advocacy to put together a team that would bring this Philadelphia government expertise to the table.

Associate Director Brian Dries has years of experience in municipal government, having worked as Director of Communications for former City Controller Alan Butkovitz. And Senior Associate Max Weisman knows the ins and outs of Philadelphia City Council from attending and reporting on every Thursday Council session for the past three years. Max also brings the asset of knowing most staffers across the city.

So when we started working with Sustainable Business Network of Greater Philadelphia to help educate Council on their new research about the myriad benefits of GCCW and GSI, I made sure to get Brian and Max on my project team.

Together, Brian, Max and I have been able to leverage all of our different experience and relationships in exciting ways. From helping to plan a briefing for Council members about the GSI research, to writing op-eds, to creating strategic partnerships – we’re not just enjoying the work; we’re also learning from one another and developing our own team dynamic.

It’s important to be thoughtful and deliberate when building your team. You need to choose coworkers in whom you have confidence, especially when you need to rely on them to be present when you can’t. In fact, this project with Max and Brian got underway while I was on maternity leave. I got true peace of mind being able to trust those two to serve our client when my availability was limited.

Some things to think about when building teams around client projects:

1. Figure out what the work is that needs to be done and match it to the skills of your staff. Do you have a lot of press releases or other content to produce? Better have a strong writer on your team. Need to pitch stories? Look at which teammate has reporter relationships on the topic you’re promoting or in the markets you need to generate earned media.

2. Decide who will handle which responsibilities and define everyone’s role. Not every member of the team needs to be front and center and client-facing. Some people have a mind for strategy; some relish in the execution; some are more comfortable behind the scenes doing the research, planning, etc. Think about how different personalities and work styles among your team members will elevate your effort.

3. Once you have your team assembled, commit to be accountable to each other. It can be tough enough to meet the demands and expectations of a project; if you can’t rely on your team to be honest about challenges, deliver quality work product and generally pull together, you’re doomed.

At an agency like ours, everyone is always busy. Really, sometimes it feels like we are all moving at warp speed. But if we put in the time and effort on the front end to assemble the right team for a particular project or client, we know we can then deliver the best we have to offer.

One of the things I enjoy most about being at Ceisler Media is that it’s a constant learning experience – not just about issues or tactics and strategy, but also learning from the smart and strategic folks I get to work alongside. I’m so proud of and inspired by our teams and their talents.

Meredith Montalto is a Director in Ceisler Media's Philadelphia Office.

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