2016: The flexible future of communications
By Chris Lee MPRCA, freelance integrated communications strategist and digital skills trainer, Silvester & Finch
In its end of year review for 2015, PR Week cited flexible working as a key challenge for the UK PR industry. This got me thinking about the general structure and culture of agencies and in-house teams, and – while all differ, naturally – all should address two key themes:
1)Flexibility of working in a mobile economy
2)Teams based on skillsets, not seniority
Work is changing. Can you remember when working from home was a big thing? Now it’s common practice, but it took many years to catch on. Working remotely is just one small element in a wider debate on how to retain talented staff – particularly those with children – in a competitive economy where workers regularly rate job satisfaction over salary.
Mature organisations will trust professionals to do their work, wherever they execute it.
Communications is changing. Does the classic pyramidal agency structure of Directors, Account Managers and Executives provide the flexibility required in an era when communications’ remit now often includes content creation, community management, paid media etc.?
I think that in the same way as smart communicators segment audiences according to relevant interest over set demographics, so agencies will structure teams according to skillset rather than level.
We have a really wide skillset from which to build strong communications teams: some people are fantastic client handlers, some are great strategic planners, and some are awesome writers. Agencies should get the most out of their staff by structuring accounts to play to those individual strengths to get the best results.
You wouldn’t put Wayne Rooney in goal, or Joe Hart in central midfield, yet one could argue PR encourages ‘out of place-ment’ in how it attributes roles.
And those small skills gaps can be easily plugged. Work is changing. We live in a collaborative economy, where anyone with a car can be a cab driver (Uber) or run a bed-and-breakfast (AirBnB). It’s the same with communications, with many choosing a freelance life over agency or in-house. This means agencies have access to an increasing pool of flexible talent to tap into as a resource to turn on and off as they need it.
Communications is changing. Are you changing with it?