In this article we will look at:
- What is Remote PR?
- The Key Ingredients for positive Remote PR
- How to build a positive culture to enable Remote PR
- Important Tools for Remote PR
- How to manage time your time doing Remote PR
- Benefits of Remote PR
- Drawbacks of Remote PR
- Checklist for Great Remote PR
What is Remote PR?
In a post-pandemic world where remote work has become a necessity among PR teams due to COVID-19, it is essential to ensure that it is done right. As working from home has gained momentum since March 2020, teams all over the world have been switching to creating offices in their bedrooms, kitchens and sheds. As we emerge into a post-pandemic world, it is essential that we take what we have learned from a year of remote work and implement it into the ‘new normal’ in order for us to grow and prosper. When done right, remote working can have a multitude of benefits including:
- The demise of the commute – saving time, money and the environment
- Extra time with family and friends
- A stronger work-life balance
- Increased working time flexibility
- A customisable office – personalise your workspace
- Financial savings – less outgoings with no commute, the chance to cook from home more often and the opportunity to move out of rent pressure zones.
Though adapting to remote working can be a challenge for some, when done correctly with the right support from your workplace, remote working can lead to a positive change in work performance and life satisfaction.
In the world of PR, communication is key and being an expert in communication can aid in the smooth transition to remote working. If you go into this new way of working with a plan of action and a can-do attitude, you will be rewarded with increased productivity and employee satisfaction. PR is an area that lends itself to remote working as the spoken and written word are crucial in the industry. In an adapting environment, it is imperative to not only play to your strengths, but to recognise your weaknesses and work to improve them. Working relationships play a major role in public relations and establishing and maintaining these while working virtually is a must.
The Key Ingredients for Positive Remote PR
The success of remote working can be measured by productivity, satisfaction and communication. Here are some of the key ingredients you will need for positive remote PR:
Plan your meetings:
When you are in and out of virtual meetings, it is important to plan your meetings, brief those involved and have measurable outcomes beforehand. This will allow your meetings to run smoothly and on time and ensure that everyone is on the same page.
The 30 minute meeting rule:
Limit your meetings to 30 minutes at most. When employees have a meeting or multiple meetings a day, it can quickly lead to ‘Zoom Fatigue’. As virtual meetings have replaced traditional in-person meetings, it is worth considering the impact that this new digital way of communication has on employees. To alleviate fatigue, keep meetings short and to the point and stick to a schedule.
Set a quality standard for meetings:
In order to keep a professional tone while working remotely, it is important to introduce a company-wide set of rules to ensure that there are limited distractions.
Here are some tips for improving your meetings:
- Have a strong internet connection
- Use headphones with a built in microphone
- Keep your bed out of view
- Don’t use a virtual background
- Invest in a ring light and laptop stand
- Keep your camera on
Respect time as the most valuable resource:
When working remotely, time is a valuable tool so it is important to ensure that you are using tools to complement your work. Building and using effective tools is a great way to reclaim time that can be invested into other projects. As a PR professional, using a media contacts tool can save you time and energy as it keeps lists, press releases and contacts under the one roof.
Implement a quiet day:
Having a cadence to your week can positively impact workflow. If your day is sporadically filled with meetings, this can impact work flow as the time spent preparing for, having and recovering from meetings can take up a large portion of the day. Meetings can also pull you out of your workflow and make it harder to restart a big project. Dedicating a day to quiet time, a day to reflection and some busy days with meetings can break up the week and take some stress out of remote working. Here at MediaHQ, we have busy Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, Quiet Tuesdays, and keep Friday as a day to wind down from the week.
How to build a positive culture to enable Remote PR
Building a positive work culture while working remotely is not only a key factor to productivity, but aides in long term staff retention. It can be hard to connect with colleagues when we cannot see them in person, but building a culture of team work, respect and community can help employees to feel included while working from different locations. When everything is stripped back, as it was during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, the only thing that a lot of people have to rely on is work. Maintaining a positive company culture during this time was essential in both the mental health of staff and the quality of work. As we approach the beginning of the end, it is wise to look back at a time of such uncertainty and continue to employ the strategies that had a positive impact.
At MediaHQ, we have remote wellness months which encourages employees to get involved with a different wellness challenge every day for a month. The challenges include getting 10,000 steps in, doing 45 minutes of activity, dedicating some time to yoga and meditation and spending some time in nature. We have weekly social calls which pair two or three people from the company together each week to have a cup of tea and a catch-up about non-work related matters. This helps us to form and maintain relationships and friendships while working remotely.
On the third week of every month, MediaHQ holds a virtual story club. One person chooses a story, whether it be a book, tv show, short film or podcast, holds an interview with the creator and opens up a discussion on the story. So far we have discussed Channel 4’s ‘It’s a Sin’, RTÉ’s ‘The Summer of Astral Weeks’ documentary and ‘Logicomix’ among others. These activities not only boost company morale and bring about a sense of togetherness, but ensure that employees are prioritising their wellbeing in a time of otherwise heightened stress.
Some factors to consider when building a positive company culture include:
- Encouraging staff to get involved in challenges that benefit their wellbeing.
- Using tools (Teamwork/Skype/Zoom/Teams) to facilitate effective communication in a way that works for your team.
- Breaking up the week into quiet and busy times.
- Keeping meetings organised, short and to the point.
Important Tools for Remote PR
Giving your team the tools they need to work effectively while remote can have a considerable impact on the success of your company. Here are some important tools for PR professionals to utilise while working remotely.
Video conferencing – Skype, Zoom and Microsoft Teams are some popular examples of video conferencing software that have been widely used during the COVID-19 pandemic. Using video software that is accessible and works for your team is the first step to successful remote communication. At MediaHQ, we have utilised video communications to have ‘Make The Leader’ talks with leaders from all over the world. This is a major benefit of remote working as it allows companies to connect with clients and colleagues from different parts of the world.
Media contacts – As a PR professional, it is crucial to keep your media contacts safe, in the one place and regularly updated. The key tool involved in contact management includes a media contacts database, where you can access your contacts, lists and press releases.
Project management – Using a tool that keeps track of projects and the everyday tasks of the people in your team can make the world of difference when working remotely. As you cannot talk to your team in person, using a tool like Teamwork where your team can both chat and record tasks and projects is a great way to combat this.
Calendar – Planning your days while working remotely is the key to productivity and reaching your goals. Using a collaborative calendar like Google Calendar where others in your team can see your tasks for the day allows for an ease of planning and can hold you accountable for completing work in a timely manner.
How to manage time your time doing Remote PR
Time management is an aspect of remote working that can positively impact your life. When working from home, it can be easy to switch on your laptop an hour early or before bed to get some extra work done. While extra productivity is great, it is even better to effectively manage your time during working hours so that you can switch off at the end of the working day. Here are some easy to effectively manage your time while working remotely:
Daily check-ins – Schedule a time each morning or several days per week to check in with your team and with the company as a whole if possible. At MediaHQ, we have a Monday morning and Friday afternoon meeting to lay out and wrap up the week, as well as regular team meetings to discuss any problems or positive situations that have arisen during the week. Checking in with your team keeps everyone in the loop while allowing any issues to be ironed out.
End of day reports – Keeping track of the work that has been completed on a daily basis allows both you and your manager to keep track of what has been completed. This allows your superiors who may not be involved in your projects to see where you are excelling and where you may need help.
Measuring outputs – Having set KPI’s to reach each week or month and measuring output gives employees a goal to work towards. When people have a set number to reach, it will encourage them to dedicate more time to a task in order to achieve this goal. It has also been proven that achieving a set task is rewarded in the brain with a serotonin boost.
Weekly stand-ups – Having set meetings during the week where each employee lays out their tasks for the week can be a great way to start the week and ensure that everyone knows what their goals are for the week.
Appropriate physical meetings – It is important to structure in-person meetings on the basis of need, rather than throwing around an arbitrary number of days to be in the office. Having a central hub for hot desking provides a space for those who may want to work in the office on certain days while allowing employees to make the choice to work remotely or in the office. By setting in-person meetings only when essential, this gives employees autonomy over their working location on a day-to-day basis while giving them the opportunity to meet in person when necessary.
Benefits of Remote PR
As we have seen over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, remote working can enrich our lives considerably for a number of reasons. We have more time to spend with our loved ones, don’t have to sit in traffic for hours at a time and are even contributing positively to the environment. Here are some major benefits of remote PR.
According to a study by Stanford of 16,000 workers over 9 months, working from home has increased productivity by 13%. This was due to several factors including less commuting time, more quiet space and fewer breaks and sick days.
Cost of Living:
Remote working allows for reallocation which means that workers no longer need to pay high rent for accommodation in a city or pay for transport to and from work.
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to improve, workers have more time to spend doing the things that they enjoy as they no longer have a commute to and from work. At the end of the work day, employees are free to meet friends, go to an exercise class or engage in a hobby without the extra time of commuting.
In a post-pandemic world, employees have the freedom to move around and work in remote locations either within their country or abroad. As the world opens up, so too do opportunities that wouldn’t have been considered pre-2020. Knowing that your team can work effectively in a remote capacity increases the trust that they could work effectively while living somewhere new.
Attracting Talent from a Wider Pool:
Remote working takes away the limitations of going to a physical place of work and opens up the possibility of hiring talent from a wider area, either within your country or internationally. With the increasing popularity of common working hours (2pm – 5pm with America and 9am – 1pm with Europe) employees can create working hours that work for them.
Drawbacks of Remote PR
On the other hand, there are some disadvantages to remote working. Office jobs and specifically roles in public relations are based around communication and it can be a strange adjustment going from being in an office with a group of people every day to working alone. This suits some people and may not suit the more extraverted of us. Strong communication and organisational skills are imperative to the success of remote PR.
Human connection is an essential part of work and the lack of it has taken a particular toll on the younger generation of recent college graduates who have just begun to build their networks and establish their careers. Unlike those who have been in their field for years, those in their early twenties are just figuring out what their career direction is. It is a rite of passage to move to a city and make friends and connections in the early days of your career. With that no longer being an option, it is essential that there is cohesion from the HR team to ensure that younger employees feel involved and still have the opportunity to connect while working remotely.
Zoom fatigue is a recently coined term that describes the struggle of communicating in a digital capacity. There are a few reasons for zoom fatigue and being aware of the cause is the first step in improving the situation. Some of the causes include:
Increased eye contact – During a digital meeting, we hold eye contact with the person speaking whereas at an in-person meeting, you are generally taking notes or taking in other things that are happening in the meeting. While on a digital call, everyone is looking at everyone all the time.
Seeing yourself on screen – Seeing your own reflection on a screen for hours at a time can have a negative impact on self-image and increases the pressure to look perfect all the time. In a real life meeting, you are taking in a presentation or the words of a speaker, but constantly being faced with a view of yourself can increase distraction and reduce focus on the topic at hand.
Distractions from your living space – Many people have had to set up working spaces in family homes with noise and distractions in the background. It can interfere with meetings when there are children or other working people on calls in the same area.
Some ways to help with zoom fatigue include:
- Scheduling meetings with time in between for recovery.
- Keeping meetings short and to the point.
- Introducing days where no meetings are held.
- Turn off self-view while keeping your camera on.
- Set an agenda and stick to it.
Checklist for Great Remote PR
Although the COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way that we work, it has also brought with it the opportunity to embrace a new way of working and living that can be beneficial to our work and our quality of life if done correctly. It has changed the narrative of the 37.5 hour work week and has redefined productivity. Working common hours means that people have the opportunity to travel and live in places that they would otherwise never have been able to. The option to hot desk at an office allows workers to have a change of scene and shake up their working spot.
Meeting on a quarterly basis for a few days to strategise, plan and catch-up provides the social interaction that is otherwise missing and makes the prospect of having a meeting all the more exciting. Putting an emphasis on a positive work environment and culture while working remotely benefits not only in productivity, but enriches work-life balance.
Here is a checklist of the tools and techniques you can use to effectively manage your remote PR:
- Have you set guidelines for meeting times and quiet working days?
- Have you set a quality standard for communication?
- Do you have a range of tools that save you time and increase productivity?
- Have you got an inclusive company culture policy?
- Do you have frequent check-ins with your team and the company as a whole?
- Do you have set KPI’s and measure outputs?
If you have all of these structures in place, you are in a great position for effective management of your remote PR. In the industry, communication is key and a transition to remote work has challenged what it means to communicate while also pushing us to work in ways that hadn’t previously been considered but have a generally positive impact on work and wellbeing.
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More about Ciara Byrne
Ciara is a Research Executive at MediaHQ. Ciara has a degree in Media and English from DCU and has been working with MediaHQ since graduating in 2019.