Without a doubt, the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted the functioning of public relations in virtually every way.
However, many of these changes, such as more teams working remotely and in a more flexible manner, which means that employees are generally happier, while the services offered by agencies are more and more popular. more widespread and streamlined, are very good for profitability.
An interesting result that I have observed about this new way of working is that once purely local agencies now have various employees living in different parts of the country, working from home. I believe this is why many local agencies have grown exponentially despite COVID-19. And that is surely a contraindication for how the agencies were impacted in the first six months of the pandemic.
From my perspective, most PR agency workers are working from home right now, no matter where they are. The advantage is clear: If a PR firm in Des Moines has employees in LA, Portland, or Miami, it is no longer considered a purely regional agency. This means that local agencies can tap into talent outside of their geographic parameters.
As a result, this radical change allows agency owners to boast of having offices “everywhere” and national reach, helping the company add more points on the map to its capabilities and offerings.
With this advantage, agencies can attract both clients and employees anywhere, again with the premise of national reach. This gives them the opportunity to promote their services in new markets and expand.
Good for the team
One of the main benefits for employees is that working remotely can allow them to take up positions in public relations companies anywhere, whether they live in a large metropolitan area or in a remote small town in the United States. Midwest. Digital technologies, like Zoom, Microsoft Team Meetings, and Slack, have become the primary communication tool for all businesses, including PR agencies, and can connect employees and customers wherever they are.
Plus, even agency CEOs can work and live anywhere they want; some New York City agency executives that I know work in the Hamptons all summer, for example.
The shift to the remote (or hybrid) workplace is changing the direction of many agencies, as employee skills and capabilities can be located hundreds or even thousands of kilometers away. This makes the world of PR agencies all the more competitive, as local agencies have traditionally not been labeled for national assignments.
For example, if a national account requires initializations in the field by their headquarters, the local agencies can now take care of it in the same way as the so-called national agencies.
The advantages are not lacking
Here are some additional positive pandemic consequences for PR firms right now:
- Having a geographically distributed team gives agencies the ability to “keep working” across different time zones and provide support to clients who are not in the same time zone as the head office. Remote teams from different time zones help maximize a PR firm’s ability to ensure productive work at any time of the day.
- Employees who collaborate in different time zones are more likely to be successful if they are able to work “together” from home. Working hours increase with more flexibility. In addition, the activity will continue “as usual” regardless of the weather conditions that could limit productivity due to commuting.
- Agency clients can have boots in the field all over the country, which contributes to their success and bottom line.
- Partnerships, joint ventures and acquisitions can take place more frequently, no matter where the agencies are located, thanks to video conferencing tools and other advanced communication technologies.
PR agency owners need to find the right balance of office and remote workforce that will make their business as effective and efficient as possible, especially at a national or even global level.
Embracing the new trends in remote working has become the norm since the start of the pandemic, and I don’t think it’s going to go away anytime soon. For these opponents, in the long run, resisting evolution from a distance can do more harm than good.
In fact, many PR agency employees now expect remote work opportunities. A recent Buffer report indicated that around 99% of today’s remote workers want to work remotely, at least part-time, for the duration of their careers. So, instead of resisting change, organizations should be open to implementing remote opportunities.
Ultimately, whether at home or in a physical office, all PR agencies must always compete to attract talent, ensure employee well-being and engagement, and run a profitable business. By giving your team flexibility in the workplace, especially from a geographic perspective, you can have an edge over other companies and earn a reputation as a nationally recognized and competent agency.
Art Stevens is Managing Partner of The Stevens Group, consultants to the public relations agency profession.