Since the coronavirus pandemic began, many industries, PR among them, were forced to switch to telecommuting. Some companies have already made their remote work policy permanent.
A recent report from GetApp indicates that telecommuting is up 400% over the past decade. And multiple research reports had already shown, before the pandemic, that remote workers are actually more (not less) productive. So while employees may be finding novel ways to spend time at home — from virtual workouts to buying stocks — they aren’t doing it during work hours.
Learning to work well remotely is now crucial for long-term career development. It requires a certain set of skills to succeed. Fortunately, these are skills you can learn.
PR Job Market Going Remote
The great thing about public relations work is that many tasks required fit well with working from home or in other remote environments. All a PR worker really needs is a phone, a laptop, and a wifi connection. With these, you can work anywhere.
With modern communications technology, it is now possible to stay connected regardless how remote you travel. This has led to the rise of digital nomads in numerous occupations. PR work is especially good for this.
Of course, the pandemic doesn’t allow for much travel. And since the demand for public relations is as great as ever, people are naturally working more from home. The advantage of this is that it can be seen as a warm-up for a future that could look very similar.
PR workers may therefore have an advantage on other workers in making a successful go of remote working. Read on to learn the skills required to be successful at remote PR work.
Skills for Successfully Working Remotely
At home or in another remote environment, you don’t have the structure of the workplace and the expectations of supervisors to get and keep you going through the workday. You need the self-motivation to stick with your agenda for the day, because nobody’s looking over your shoulder (including other workers) to notice if you don’t.
Consider setting and sticking to a schedule. One important aspect of this is preparing for the day. Eat breakfast. Get showered and dressed. It will help put you in the mindset of work.
Remote environments can be filled with distractions. To be successful, you need to be able to tune out those distractions and focus. One way, if possible, is to set aside a room where you work that has a door you can close and lock.
If that’s not possible, you should consider renting your own office space. Another option is to use noise-cancelling headphones or earplugs.
Most of all, let your friends and family know that you’re not available for calls and visits. One of the hardest things about working from home can be convincing others that you really are at work. Be very clear about this.
It can be much harder to perform consistently at your job when anything can interrupt your plans or your workflow. To get through these inevitable diversions, you need to be adaptable. You need to work with the circumstances you’re given and not the ones you want. And when those circumstances change, your approach may need to change with them.
If a quiet space suddenly gets too loud for phone calls, use earphones, text, change locations, or postpone the conversation for later. If a bus, plane, or train ride gets too choppy to read your research, listen to a related podcast or catch up on your voicemail messages instead. Always seek the task at which you can be the most effective given the current circumstances.
Similar to self-motivation is the need to work independently, without always needing to check in with someone else for guidance or approval. You need to set your own goals, targets, and courses of action and execute them to completion, either mostly or entirely on your own.
As much as you need to work well independently, you also need to work well with others to succeed at remote work. In physical workplaces, you have your coworkers down the hall to brainstorm about a problem you face. Working remotely, you need to reach out across long distances to connect with your colleagues.
This often requires extra effort although tools like Slack make this easier. Fundamentally, you need to think collaboratively, despite the fact that no one is physically present.
Offices, especially in physical workplaces, make organization much easier. There, personal items are necessarily kept to a bare minimum. In remote workspaces, personal and professional items and spaces intermingle and merge. That’s why it’s even more crucial for remote workers to keep their paperwork, projects, and files all neatly and smartly organized for easy access and retrieval.
Along with strong organizational skills comes the need for good time-management skills. A simple task can drag out into hours or days if you’re not effectively managing your time.
Keep in mind considerations like other people’s schedules, time-zone differences, and operating hours of various businesses. Assess honestly how long various tasks will take you to complete, and be sure to set aside enough time for each of those tasks.
Effective Written Communication Skills
People who work in PR generally have strong writing skills. When you work remotely, however, many more of your communications will be written. This includes casual tasks such as email and texts. But it also includes more formal duties such as progress reports.
The key to effective written communication is to edit everything you write, including texts. Never send anything you write without reading it over closely and correcting it for errors, clarity, and appropriateness.
It can also be a little too easy to communicate more casually and less formally when working remotely, which is something you will want to keep in check.
Useful Online Tools for Remote PR Work
You also need technological competence and trustworthy equipment to succeed in working remotely. You need the right tools for the job to work, communicate, and collaborate effectively.
Modern technology has put a host of powerful tools at remote workers’ fingertips for making their jobs easier and more successful. These include a range of collaboration tools that allow workers to meet and manage projects together, from video conferencing to shared virtual environments. These will normally be provided by your employer but if you find something useful, it’s a good idea to suggest it to management and other workers.
Other useful online tools for remote PR workers include communication and organization tools for keeping track of all your concurrent projects and contacts. Scheduling, messaging, online faxing, and digital document signing are also helpful.