DELIVERING A 24/7 SERVICE; INTRODUCING AN AGILE MODEL IN PR Dualta Redmond
Keeping all the plates spinning without breaking one is how many people feel about working in the modern 24/7 environment. Identifying how to navigate and succeed during a workday that never ends can be difficult.
• How to understand the demands of today’s 24/7 reality
• A simple set of actions to stay effective and informed in a continuous news cycle
• An overview of structures and workplace practices to deal with increased pressures
The 24/7 news cycle
The changes that social media, the internet and mobile devices have created in public relations are expansive. New platforms and audiences with vastly differing tastes in how they want to receive messages and how they communicate are the new reality.
More informed listening
The need to sift through an ocean of content and news to identify what’s of relevance is more important now than it perhaps it ever was. The sheer volume of material makes it a lot easier for something to slip through the net. Even with the newest digital monitoring tools, this can be a very time intensive, administrative burden.
A big drain on resources and a persistent cause of late nights and early mornings, are projects and issues that throw up unexpected twists and turns. You will never completely eliminate the unforeseen, but by having as much information at your disposal as possible you can certainly reduce the risks and ensure more manageable workloads.
How to become a more strategic listener
More informed listening is about intelligence gathering and keeping your organisation up-to-date about increasingly complex external media, business and political environments.
Crisis preparedness forms another element of informed listening. Business Continuity Planning and Crisis Communications Strategy should be closely aligned. By ensuring greater cooperation, better planning and testing scenarios across your organisation, it means you are not just paying lip service to crisis readiness, but devoting time and energy to creating a robust strategy.
Digital listening tools
The myriad of choice available can be off-putting. Many will struggle to get the monitoring ‘set up’ done in such a way to be effective and crucially, produce something that is of a tangible benefit to the business or client.
The objective here should be to turn what is learned via more informed listening into credible Management Information (MI).
Alerts for your company’s brand name and associated products might seem like an obvious thing to do. But taking some time to review the sector landscape might mean you develop alerts for issues occurring around your sector and even within the businesses of supply chain partners. Taking this approach will help spot trends and developing issues early.
More agile structures
Agile structures are integral to operating in a 24/7 world. While it might seem like the un-sexy nuts and bolts side of things, it’s vital. When the news no longer sleeps, and clients and stakeholders have a global presence that demands attention no matter the time or location, what is the best approach?
Digital tools will only take you so far. It is people that will get you the rest of the way. While some organisations are structured to have employees working around the clock, it is not the norm in public relations.
Nobody wants to be part of a never-ending on-call rota, but many organisations require someone to be there, just in case – 24/7. It’s not always a crisis related issue that necessitates long hours. Frank conversations amongst colleagues and clients, outlining expectations when it comes to time commitments are a good starting point.
The route to success here lies in an equitable distribution of the workload. If tasks and responsibilities that require significant out-of-hours attention, continually fall to the same individuals, it is highly likely that frustrations will develop. When they do, a slide in quality performance is sure to follow.
How to get that service without subjecting colleagues to burnout is easier said than done.
One option is to plan an advanced task or project schedule with time as the primary success metric. Other reports can focus on business and communications measures. Once the time resource required becomes a real focus, significant efficiencies can be found. This requires a shift in thinking and is not applicable to all situations.
By simply having more efficient (read shorter) meetings, overall project time can be dramatically reduced. This leads to fewer late nights on said projects and helps with work-life balance.
Another element, which isn’t often discussed, relates to self-imposed demands. Sure clients and internal stakeholders may occasionally require last-minute assistance to deal with an urgent issue, but how much of this support is unnecessary. Emails sent at 8:00pm or reports analysed at bedtime followed by a short summary email are best avoided. Unless the issue is particularly urgent, it can often wait until the next working day.
Sending emails out of hours helps to create a cycle of ‘always on’ which while needed for breaking or live issues, does not need to be the norm. Practitioners can help themselves by setting reasonably fluid boundaries for communicating on non-important issues outside of the normal working day – but boundaries nonetheless.
Seeking outside assistance is not the same as admitting defeat. Freeing up someone’s time so they can be more productive or have a work-life balance is a good thing. Outsourcing often conjurers up images of call-centres in far-flung parts of the globe. It can also be a byword for cheaper or poor quality. Through well-defined objective planning and research, that needn’t be the case.
With different communications teams spread across geographies, people don’t always work in a time efficient way. Instead of Singaporean colleagues taking a call from the UK at close to midnight, ensure structures are in place to let the UK office provide support. By spreading the workload across locations, more cooperative and pragmatic approaches can be realised.
The other element to consider is outsourced office support functions. By employing a corporate out-of-hours answering service, with the ability to screen calls against pre-determined criteria, you can dramatically reduce time spent dealing with non-urgent calls. While these are just a few options, they should act as a springboard to show you can seek credible, high-quality support from a wide range of areas.
By capturing relevant information and developing it into intelligence and MI, you can begin a strategic framework that reduces the need for significant out-of-hours support. Knowledge and the ability to plan through highly dependable and evolving monitoring systems, ensure accounts and processes run at maximum productivity.
More formalised methods of interoffice cooperation can dramatically reduce strains. Looking to outsourcing solutions for time intensive and tedious tasks should be considered to prevent employee burnout. This ensures energies can be devoted to tasks that have a real impact on company or client objectives.