Damian Hanson, co-founder of cloud-based telephony system for agencies, CircleLoop, discusses the need for the PR industry to become more flexible, and how cloud technology can help facilitate this.
The concept of flexibility in PR, as well as businesses in general, has become the subject of much debate in recent years. Businesses of all sizes and types are either considering making a move towards more flexible practices, or have already made the jump.
Whether it be flexible working hours, remote working or different approaches to traditional processes, flexibility and responsiveness is becoming increasingly important, especially for the PR industry.
In an industry where communication, speed and efficiency are crucial, PR agencies with the ability to be flexible and adaptable will have an edge in an ever more competitive landscape.
Three key benefits of increased flexibility in PR include:
Staying competitive and relevant
Clients will favour agencies and PR professionals who can be flexible, mobile and easily contactable over those who operate to a more rigid working structure. Millennials in particular, who are tipped to make up around 75 per cent of the workforce by 2025, are accustomed to the concept of easy, round-the-clock access to communication, and have come to expect this as standard from most of the professional services and businesses they use.
As millennials continue to grow their presence in business, so to does their chance of becoming the client contact for the agency. It is therefore critical to ensure this key target market is catered to – PR professionals need to be easily contactable and able to adapt to the schedules of others to avoid losing business to competitors.
Attracting and retaining talent
Finding good talent in the PR industry and then keeping it isn’t easy, especially when you consider the significant presence of senior females in the PR industry who may well require workplace flexibility to fit around childcare and home life. However, while nearly half of British workers would like to work flexibly, only two per cent of PR job ads offer this.
This means that PR agencies offering flexible working as an employment benefit will have a significant edge over competitors when it comes to attracting the best experienced and new talent, as well as keeping them motivated and wanting to stay with the company for the long-haul.
Relinquishing the traditional workplace ‘essentials’ such as large offices, IT departments, servers, desk phones and other office hardware in favour of more flexible options can save a lot of money in both the long and short term. This is music to the ears of all businesses, particularly PR agencies that traditionally rely heavily on these expensive resources.
Great as they sound, many PR agencies still haven’t made the move towards flexible practices, and this is largely down to not knowing what alternatives are available to them.
Technology to the rescue
20 years ago, the traditional nine-to-five, in-office working culture was the norm, as no suitable and reliable alternatives were available to make any other working formats viable. Fast-forward to 2017, however, and technology has created endless options for the PR sector to break out of the rigidity of standard business practices and create their own rules.
The rise of cloud technology in particular has revolutionised the way PR professionals can conduct their business. Allowing them to implement disciplined processes while keeping flexibility, UK cloud technology adoption has grown by 75 per cent since 2010, and further growth is inevitable as new technology continues to emerge.
So, we return to our three key areas: Staying competitive and relevant, attracting and retaining talent and saving money. How does cloud technology make this possible?
One of the biggest elements of cloud technology is its wide range of communication tools. With communication sitting right at the heart of every PR professional’s job, adopting cloud communication tools will give an advantage over those who still use traditional communication channels.
A cloud telephony system, for example, will allow PR pros to consolidate both their ‘office’ landline number and work mobile number into one device via an app, and can even access all of it through their own personal mobile device. This means they will be easily contactable from anywhere, and at any time of day the professional decides they’re happy to be contacted. This freedom and flexibility will score big points with busy clients who want to be able to contact their account handling team easily, and help build a strong reputation for the business.
Attracting and retaining talent
Cloud technology, especially cloud telephony systems like CircleLoop, communication apps such as Slack, and project management tools such as Basecamp and Trello, afford PR agencies increased flexibility in terms of working hours and locations.
With this in mind, agencies that have adopted this kind of cloud technology can offer new staff members the option to work from home, work flexible hours and manage their own time and clients, while retaining close contact with other team members.
The technology also opens the door for agencies to adopt ‘greendesking’ as a working option. Greendesking, or working outdoors, is becoming increasingly popular among small businesses and freelancers across many industries due to the potential positive effects it could have on mental health and sense of wellbeing, as well as it’s flexibility. And, with the UK’s ever-improving mobile connectivity infrastructure, outdoor working will only continue to grow in popularity.
The increased level of employer-employee trust, better work-life balance and relaxed company culture creates a healthy working environment that employees want to stay in for the long haul. Without the right technology, this beneficial set-up would be much less viable for running a productive PR firm, and activity would be restricted to the office.
Cloud computing negates the need for much of the expensive equipment traditionally associated with businesses and offices. In the case of smaller PR agencies and freelancers, the scope of the technology means they don’t necessarily even need an office, which saves thousands of pounds a month right off the bat. This is because communication with clients and other team members is easily done via the cloud, and the absence of servers and hardware means no additional space is needed to house equipment.
Which leads us nicely into the next big cash-saving factor offered by cloud technology: no need for equipment. All data is stored in the cloud, and all activity is done over Wi-Fi or mobile networks, meaning no expensive physical storage or servers are needed.
Other expensive items such as desk phones and their associated costly contracts are also ousted by cloud technology. The introduction of cloud telephony systems, which consolidate all business numbers into one app on a mobile device, mean that PR agencies don’t have to spend money buying desk phones or additional mobile handsets for employees.
The flexibility that cloud technology offers can make all the difference when it comes to healthy cash flows and profit margins during crucial early growth stages.
With flexibility becoming ever more important from both a business owner and employee perspective, more PR agencies need to begin exploring all the available technology and the doors it can open for an adaptable and progressive future.
The B2B PR Blog is a resource for both PR professionals and people working in B2B industries on how to devise and implement successful B2B PR campaigns. The blog is managed by b2b pr specialist Heather Baker, founder TopLine Comms, an inbound marketing, B2B content marketing agency and proud HubSpot partner agency and takes contribution from anyone sensible in the industry with something intelligent to say. Follow Heather on Twitter @TopLineFounder or contact her via email on [email protected].
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