The Jekyll and Hyde of offsites

This is a post from PRISM’s Social Army – regular briefings on topics aligned to our business or close to our hearts. Today’s entry is from Adrian Higgins at the Ford Content Factory.


Ever heard of this guy, Deacon Brodie?

Just a Google search away, Brodie was a Scottish cabinet-maker and councillor, though this was not how he found fame, or rather infamy.

Successful in his trade he nonetheless chose to supplement his income via an orthodox new business opportunity – namely, making wax impressions of his clients’ keys and leaving those same clients (and the authorities) at a complete loss when they found they had been parted from their most valuable possessions.

There followed betrayal, capture and an untimely end at the hands of the hangman – despite a daring attempt to escape that fate, which relied on avoiding strangulation long enough to be pulled down from the gallows and spirited away by accomplices. Unfortunately for Brodie, the drop killed him before he could survive the asphyxiation.

Or at least legend has it. And for Brodie, there were many legends.

The tale by which he is best known is that of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, written by near neighbour and contemporary Robert Louis Stevenson – who is said to have based the titular hero and villain of his novel on Brodie himself.

In hindsight, Brodie’s is likely not a great example of the new business which formed part of the discussions in Edinburgh for this year’s PRISM offsite, which took place earlier this month.

As part of the downtime at the offsite, I joined the Secrets of the Royal Mile walking tour, which led us meanderingly towards Edinburgh Castle, and left us in possession of local stories like the one above about Brodie.

New business and the entrepreneurial spirit (though perhaps not Brodie’s particular brand) were a theme of the 2017 offsite. So was the importance of the team – which helps ensure PRISM’s offering is a differentiated one, even for those of us a step or two removed from PRISM’s HQ in the JWT building in London (I’m based with other UK Content Factory staff at our WPP partner Hill+Knowlton across the capital in Clerkenwell). Storytelling was another focus – which is a fundamental part of mine and my team’s role – but also the way in which we all articulate what PRISM is, where the company is going, and how we try to get there.

Offsites are a mammoth task of organisation (hats off Jackie Madincea, our global HR director, and EA Justine Charles), and can present conflicts to attendees who have to balance client work with being truly present and engaged enough to ensure value is extracted from the experience.

To paraphrase the Harvard Business Review article Off-Sites That Work, what they should do is leave “fingerprints” on the business. Offsites are also, as Steve Madincea our group MD and founder pointed out, about shared experiences, such as a walking tour, applying the glue that lends a team strength to celebrate successes and to address improvements – such as how a little design know-how can improve the workflow of the pitching process.

A company culture that supports shared experiences and group learning – it’s easy to take for granted, until one finds that is not the case for friends and colleagues who work for other agencies. At PRISM we work for a company that both sees value in offsites – and ensures there is value in the offsites that we attend. That’s not the case for everyone in our industry.


And besides, without them how else would I discover what a philistine I am when it comes to whisky? But that is another story. It was great to see many familiar faces, and a few new ones. I hope to see you next year.

Adrian Higgins 

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