The Future of Telework is Friendly

As our company moves to a more virtual model, the more of my colleagues, peers and clients that I speak to about the new model of work, the more I realize how universally it is being adopted. Strictly from the perspective of productivity, I have known for years that a day working from my home office was equal to two days of productivity in the downtown office. 

We have kept telework as an occasional option for our employees for many years, but as we contemplate a more structured move into satellite/virtual offices, my concerns turn toward corporate culture and maintaining a sense of team.

A few findings and words of wisdom from our peers and partners currently in the virtual office space: 

The cloud is a godsend. The cost and maintenance of some of our physical technology and software has been an expense that was a necessary evil. By making every day activities such as time and billing easier through an easy cloud-based system we are freeing up more time for our employees and taking administrative frustration away.

We still need face time. I am pushing very hard to conduct my regular phone meetings and conference calls with video these days. The bulk – 90% of my interaction – with clients is on the phone or by email. By increasing face time with video, I feel more connected and so do they. This also works for business development – I had a great prospecting video conference this morning that would not have been engaging had I not know what the individual in the UK looked like. We have begun using video more between our entire staff to keep connected. 

Bunny slippers YEAH – bathrobes NOT OK – Our weekly meetings are being held through video conferencing technology. However, the dress for success rule still applies. When we meet to discuss client meetings and goals on Monday morning, the expectation is that you bring the professional package to the virtual boardroom table as it will reflect on your work attitude and how you interact with clients throughout the day.

We are also committed to our team culture, which means that we ensure regular meet ups for brainstorming and team building in our downtown training facility and business lounge.

Now, I have to prepare for a couple more video conferences – I am wearing business casual today – with the exception of my big fluffy moccasins.


Timelines Marching On

Further to my post on June 15th (Minute-by-Minute: Timeline Happiness) there are other aspects you should consider when managing your timeline.  

Delineate responsibility – this is important in an agency/client or department/department environment where you may not have much face time but are working towards the same deadline.

I use a colour coding system that shows our agency, our client, and shared responsibility in different colours. Additionally, names can be added for each row showing who, specifically, is responsible for delivery. 

Track your timeline – this is as simple as drawing a moveable line (this can be done easily in Excel or Word) showing what date you are on. This is a great visual cue to keep everyone on deadline. It should be moved to the appropriate day every time the timeline is opened.

Number activities – I like assigning each activity an index number that moves with the item if timelines are changed. This makes identifying a timeline item easier if you’re not all in the same room. 

This should put you well on your way to generating and managing an efficient timeline. 


Talking to Reporters

So, reporters are people, just like you and me. But, they’re not, when you’re trying to pitch a story. Of all the skills that make a successful PR practitioner, talking to media is near the top. However, picking up the phone and pitching a reporter is one of my least favourite things to do. 

I think it stems from a fear of rejection. Reporters are busy, they want interesting stories and they want information now. 

So, what do you need to get your point across, succinctly, to get that coverage?

Believe in your story – if you don’t believe in what you’re selling, the reporter won’t either.

Pitch a story idea, not your client – find the interesting angle that gives your story a unique perspective (i.e. instead of a straight corporate profile, think industry trends and how your client can comment or contribute to that conversation).

Research the reporter and the outlet – customize your pitch and know who’s best suited to cover your story (i.e. the science reporter doesn’t care about your product launch pitch).

Be tenacious but not aggressive – following-up on an email with a call or a voicemail is ok, calling and leaving five messages is not.

Build relationships and be flexible – a reporter may not be interested in the story you’re currently pitching but have a conversation and together you may find an angle that will work.

Even with this all in mind, sometimes reporters just aren’t interested. 

If you do land a story, be gracious, thank the reporter for their time and work with them to get them what they need. A thank you note after an interview or an article comes out, doesn’t hurt either. 

Here’s a helpful what not to do from Ragan’s PR Daily.


From Slow to “Go!”: How to Handle the Peaks and Valleys of Agency Work

It’s no big secret that agency work can be unpredictable—some months you’re running around like a chicken sans head, and others you are doing your best to hit your billable targets. I’m sure if you polled agency employees, they would all agree, it’s better to be busy than bored. 

But how do you survive your day, when you have no idea what that day might include? Here are a few tips I’ve compiled with the help of Regan Lal, to get you through the insanity that can be any day in an agency. 

1. Stay on top of your emails

You never know when a client or your boss is going to email and say “We need this ASAP”. If you’re reading your emails (yes, even on a Sunday) at least you will know not to have that extra glass of wine, and head home to rest-up. 

2. Be flexible

One of the toughest things about being a PR professional is accepting that business doesn’t always run on a 9-5 schedule. Yes, you may miss the 5:50pm showing of The Avengers, but if your boss is nice, you may make the 9:45pm showing, next week.

3. Know your deadlines

Not all deadlines are equal—some are self-imposed, some are client-imposed, some are boss-imposed. Work with them to manage and shuffle your project work to accommodate all deadlines. 

4. Focus! 

I can’t lie, working in an agency for as long as I have has fractured my attention span. Sometimes, on hectic days, I have to stop myself from checking to see what’s happening online. If it’s really important, someone will tell you. 

5. Breathe

Yes, it’s an automatic response from our bodies (and thankfully so) but sometimes the best thing you can do on a crazy day is take a step back and breathe. A quick walk around the block, or a few flights of stairs can give you the chance to refresh your mind, without eating up too much time. And just remember, the work will get done, because it has to. There’s no option on that. 

Do you have any tips for surviving the craziness that can be working at an agency?

— Iris