29 Oct My Experience Working Remotely in PR: 365-days of Opportunities and Challenges
Note: Most of our blogs are about you, dear reader. This one isn’t. It’s about me. More specifically, it’s about SpeakerBox culture and how it accommodates someone in my situation – a remote worker.
Even though this post pertains directly to me, my hope is that my fellow clients who also work remotely will see some of themselves in this.
I remember both discussions – the one with my wife and the other with my boss – very clearly.
The former happened at dinner one evening in May 2012. It was an extension of a discussion that had actually been going on for some time. And it was finally time to make a decision.
“Why don’t we move back?” she asked.
By “back,” she meant back to Raleigh, North Carolina. It was something that had been in vaguely mentioned for a couple of months. We had family back there, and friendships that had been built over more than a decade. It was familiar, and it was home. And home was calling to us.
One small problem: my job at SpeakerBox was in D.C., and moving back would mean working remotely. Even knowing the very open and accommodating culture at SpeakerBox – and the fact that we have actually had other remote workers before – I thought this might be a fairly big ask.
Which brings me to the second conversation. It took place the very next day. I asked Lisa Throckmorton if she would be comfortable with me doing this. Of course, she was.
Thus began my career as a member of the remote workforce. It’s a career that many other public relations professionals also partake in, including some of my clients. Indeed, PR is often mentioned as one of the top telecommuting fields.
The majority of what I do is actually quite suited for a home office worker. We’ve written quite a bit on The Sounding Board about how PR has changed over the years. Skills like long-form content writing, social media monitoring, and even search engine optimization have all become integral part of PR campaigns. All of these can effectively be done remotely.
Technology has also allowed me to feel connected to both my clients and teams in the office. I’m on Google IM constantly, and have used Google Hangouts and Facetime quite frequently for a more personal touch to meetings. In fact, I would argue that telecommuting has made me even more connected through use of these various tools. That’s resulted in more iterative and adaptive work processes built on immediate brainstorming, the ability to edit and comment in real-time with other team members, and productivity through frequent, easy touch points throughout the day.
Still, PR is based on relationship building, and nothing takes the place of real, in-person contact. Hence, I travel up to the office every couple of months for quarterly meetings, client get-togethers, and such. And every time I’m glad that I do it; I don’t want to lose those connections.
Yet most days I’m surrounded by solitude (well, when my kid’s not home and the dog’s not barking). It’s quiet here, but that quietude lends itself well to thoughtfulness. That comes in awful handy when writing an in-depth white paper, for example, or even a blog post suchas this. There are no real distractions in my office, save perhaps for my view of the woods and garden out back.
At the same time, I don’t want to make this seem like a love letter to telecommuting, because there are several real drawbacks. The well-known and obvious ones are all true: it is hard to tell yourself when to turn off work, even if your stuff is housed in a separate room that serves as an office, and it’s easy to feel non-productive if you do not develop a routine.
I find there are also challenges that are specific to PR and marketing professionals. For instance, it’s often not possible to drop everything and attend a local event that some of your co-workers may be able to easily use as a networking opportunity. And it’s sometimes too easy to get used to the comforts of home and eschew the chance to attend an in-person event that might further your relationships with reporters or other industry professionals.
Now that I’ve been doing this full-time for a couple of years, I can honestly say the benefits far outweigh the drawbacks, at least for me. Overall, I’m more productive, creative, and, most of all, happy to be back home.
That said, I also acknowledge that telecommuting may not be for everyone. It takes concentration and willpower to focus and not let the distractions of home and family become overwhelming. More so, it takes a willingness to be away from people, and yet continually stay connected to them.
Connections, after all, are the basis of all public relations — even if they’re made from a distance.