Client turned PR Account Director – Wendy Harbutt

“Just eight weeks after the birth of my first daughter I was sitting at my desk at home managing my first ever PR account,” says former business-to-business (B2B) marcomms manager Wendy Harbutt.

“That was mid-2002 and I’ve been working part time for Turtle Consulting Group ever since,” she adds.

Like half the members of the Turtle account handling team, Wendy had a client-side rather than PR agency background.

“We like to maintain this balance,” explains MD Phil Turtle, “as I think account handlers with different experiences can learn a lot from each other and people who have worked in client-side organisations have a deeper understanding of the difficulties and pressures that client contacts face.”

Wendy’s past work history is no mystery to Phil as Wendy is the former marketing communications manager for longstanding Turtle client ADC KRONE where, after ten years and four changes of ownership, Turtle has helped them maintain their public profile throughout many internal changes.

“I found it surprisingly easy to make the leap from client to agency,” remembers Wendy, “and of course I already knew a lot about how Turtle operates, having worked with them for over five years at ADC KRONE“.

Wendy remembers clearly the good impression that Turtle made from the very start.

“Having worked with other PR agencies I found Turtle’s approach a breath of fresh air. There were no naive juniors and from day one everyone spoke the technical language of my industry,” she explains. “I’d never come across an agency like them.

Wendy adds: “I loved the Turtle team for their expertise, their writing skills, their good humour and above all, because their consistently high results made me look good as marcomms manager!”

“Working now as part of Turtle,” says Wendy, “has allowed me the opportunity to develop, grow and push myself as a freelance at my own pace. It’s a great place to hone your skills or try new things. I’ve gained lots of confidence whilst working with Turtle and MD Phil Turtle is a great believer in teaching his team new skills.

“Turtle is a very supportive community,” she adds, ”and when you want to freelance but lack the confidence to completely go it alone, it’s a fantastic group to join,” she says.

Since 2002, Wendy has worked between two and three days a week for Turtle. In addition to being a mother of two, Wendy also has other marketing consultancy clients of her own, works as an actor in roleplays for training and development and is director of Playing Dead, a murder mystery company.  “Not many people know about this side of me, but I write, direct and act in murder mystery shows!” she reveals.

Wendy explains why being part of Turtle has worked so well for her: “Turtle has allowed me to have the regular basis of freelance work that has been my foundation.

“Onto this framework I have been able to build a varied and profitable mix of other ventures. This flexibility has meant I can try new avenues, test new ideas and generally concoct my own version of successful business life.”

Like many Turtle account handlers, Wendy wants make the best out of juggling work and family life.

“One of the biggest bonuses of working with Turtle is fitting round a family. Parents will know that schedules change as kids grow – first it’s fitting round feeds, then the nursery hours, then the school run,” she says.

“Because I control my hours, I can work round whatever my family demands. For instance tomorrow I’m going to see the school play and so need to be free in the middle of the morning – not possible in conventional office land but easy in Turtle world,” she adds. “It works well for the company too because we mums with small children are an untapped reserve of senior skills, very flexible and we’re happy to work at all levels. So the company has no need for juniors and the clients only ever deal with senior, experienced people.”

Other advantages to this way of working cited by Wendy include working with other like-minded people who you can bounce ideas off and being able to access a large and diverse pool of collective knowledge and experience. Wendy says that knowing she is part of a team has helped her to get beyond the isolation of freelancing.

“You may miss office banter and face-to-face chats, but the lack of interruptions when you need to concentrate does mitigate this. And when I feel like a chat, there’s always someone ready to talk.

“We all keep in touch over email – whether it’s about a client matter, general business or just sharing jokes,” she says.

Wendy admits that she doesn’t miss the “politics or dull chat” that accompanies most office-based work and feels that her work-life balance is better than it’s ever been. “And I reckon I achieve 100 percent more in the time that I do work compared to office-based life.”

“The ethos of Turtle is fantastic in terms of worklife balance,” she says.

“You have your work to do and your life to run. You manage how they fit together and there’s complete understanding, empathy and respect from the whole team for your personal life and time you need for yourself.  “As far as clients are concerned we make sure that they never feel we’re not working 24×7 because the whole team is focused on instant response to client needs and we all simply keep an eye on each other’s clients. Plus, of course, we all have mobile phones and e-mail so even when we’re ‘off-duty’ we’re keeping in constant touch with each other.”

“Culturally Turtle is a good ethical enterprise.  We treat each other as we would wish to be treated and it’s a great team,” she concludes.”I think clients really benefit from this too, because it makes us such a happy team that we’re always in a really pro-active frame of mind and go the extra mile – you simply don’t give the same when you’re in a weary office-based job.”