Collectively we are no strangers to lockdown, remote working, and the uncertainty brought about by a global pandemic. But while we’ve all adapted to continue operating in this new normal, there’s also no doubt that we can all get into bad habits while remote working, whether that’s working in our pajamas, allowing ourselves to work late into the night or becoming disconnected from our colleagues.
Collaborating is integral to the function of any good comms team, whether that’s internal or agency side. We spoke to two comms experts about leading teams during the pandemic and how to get them to collaborate without being in the same room. Heather Delaney is the founder of leading London-based PR agency Gallium Ventures, while Paul Wilke is CEO of Upright Position Communications, a Silicon Valley-based PR agency specializing in strategic communications counsel.
You can read more tips from Heather and Paul, plus our in-house agency experts in our eGuide on how to collaborate during Covid-19.
Given the restrictions placed on our usual working environment, most companies have been forced to adapt to working from home. Every meeting has turned into a video call and most of us have been disturbed by pets, kids, and deliveries. While some of the changes can seem trivial, collectively they mean we are less connected with our colleagues and our team. We can be guilty of blurring the work-life balance and simply working beyond our usual hours because there’s not much else to do.
But Gallium Ventures Founder and Managing Director Heather Delaney decided to implement some working practices to tackle the fatigue of working remotely. “The blur of the work-life balance is a tough one when people are working out of their homes, and as a leader you can set an example to teams by scheduling emails so staff don’t get the impression they have to work late into the night simply because the boss does.
“I have found a lot of conversations throughout the pandemic have become stunted as the only thing people have to talk about is work, Covid or politics. None of these subjects are particularly positive and people can become quite lonely through the isolation. Because of this I created Gallium Open Mic: There is no video, purely audio, and it’s a chance to sit and work with your colleagues like you would in an office. There’s no agenda – as that would feel like work – and it’s an opportunity to collaborate and experience what you’d have in an office. It’s a very simple change but it has actually improved mental health and people’s ability to work with each other.”
By remote working, the only way left to work with our teams is through technology. Simply through messages on Slack or sharing screens on Zoom, we have learned to collaborate in this new normal.
Upright Position CEO Paul Wilke believes there isn’t a one size fits all solution when it comes to applying tech: “It’s less about what tools we rely on, and more about the tools that work for us and the variety of those available, because everyone works differently. Not every team meeting needs to be a Zoom call, nor do we need to put everything in an email. You develop a natural cadence for what works for a given team and you adapt. Signal AI is fantastic for making sure we’re informed internally with what’s going on both with our clients and the industries we follow.”
But for comms teams internally and in agencies, there is a need for greater collaboration to ensure everyone has access to the same information. Without that, work can be duplicated, time wasted and important stories can slip through the cracks.
Given this shift in how we work, Signal AI has introduced Workspaces to its platform, giving users the ability to work more closely within their teams. In-house comms leaders can share Workspaces across teams, and time zones, while PR and communications agencies can create Workspaces for individual clients and share critical information across teams working remotely.
Comms teams have the ability to steady the ship during these turbulent times. By harnessing their innate ability to talk to people in a way they understand, communicators can facilitate collaboration beyond just their team members and foster a sense of unity among the organization through their messaging. Comms teams have a vital role in providing this cohesion. The workforce can feel a sense of loyalty to the organization through a strong brand message based on a set of core values.
Beyond this, Heather Delaney sees the slowdown caused by the pandemic as a great opportunity to pivot into previously unexplored areas and for comms to get creative.“At Gallium, we’ve helped clients pivot out of expensive PR campaigns and instead helped with product development as the previous PR wouldn’t be suitable for the pandemic. It’s given every brand an opportunity to take a step back to have a rethink, and maybe even sort out a new product or implement a rebrand. Because everyone is stuck in the same position, you’re not losing ground. It’s a great time to experiment and be creative, whether that’s changing partnerships, thinking of new ways to sell products or adapting to new markets.”
Comms teams can be the glue that binds an organization together. PR people are innately social, making them perfect for collaborating not only with each other but with other departments to work towards shared business objectives. Tech should facilitate this way of working for comms teams by alleviating resources from time-consuming tasks, such as media monitoring or building coverage reports, and fostering better collaboration. Workspaces gives people the ability to work more closely and effectively, to the benefit of the organization or the clients they help.