The following is a guest article by Erin Wabol from Agency Ten22
Agency Ten22 has always been virtual since its founding in 2005. We put a lot of weight in qualified writers, account managers and marketers so we choose people over place when it comes to building a team. Julie edits our work (20+ pieces per month!) with her fine red pen, from North Carolina. Kathy manages two handfuls of social media accounts, from Arizona. Beth pitches media from Georgia but in-person biannual meetings are her sweet spot. It’s just how we do things. And it’s how we remain one of the most innovative healthcare IT public relations agencies in the industry. Here’s how we succeed.
With every proposal or work order, we set a certain number of deliverables we plan to achieve in the year ahead. This includes media mentions, bylined articles, branded content and more. This helps us tremendously when it comes to tracking progress on a quarterly, mid-year and end-of-year basis. The metrics are included in a PR and marketing goals document that each client reviews and has say in. Remaining flexible is one of our strong suits, but the metrics keep us accountable to our clients. And the document serves as our guiding light when it comes time to review progress. There is no gray area, quite common in PR, regarding our performance.
We have a time tracker for all full-time, part-time and 1099 employees. From a project management and revenue perspective, it’s our saving grace. We are able to see when we’re spending way more time than anticipated on a certain project. Time tracker also easily shows us where someone is spending a good chunk of time. Maybe they need help from a coworker or maybe it was just a busy month. From a management perspective, this is a crucial tool.
We used to have a fancy time management platform but went back to a simple Google Docs format. While this version works for us, you might need something more comprehensive. Whatever the platform, tracking time across all employees is a must with a virtual team since you don’t have the luxury of Monday morning huddles or real-time interactions with people. A time tracker serves as your set of eyes to ensure a productive team.
Though we don’t have the weekly Monday morning huddle, we do hold weekly Tuesday calls. We juggle so many client calls on a daily basis that it’s hard to step back and take time for Ten22 items. Outside our regular agenda priorities, we try our best to connect and talk about some personal things going on in our lives. When you’re in a remote office you use your time wisely. No commute means tackling a writing assignment early morning when it’s quiet. No official lunch break means a noon call with a client when a deadline is looming. Efficiency rules our world. But a remote office often limits opportunities for 1:1 bonding time with coworkers. Our weekly calls fill that void. We also hold an annual in-person team retreat, which we cherish. Our clients who operate remotely tell us the same holds true for their annual team retreats.
Virtual work isn’t all about being alone. One huge perk is owning your own schedule. Have a doctor’s appointment? Go. Volunteering at your kid’s school? Enjoy. Need to run out early every Thursday for a personal commitment? All good. We set our own schedules and run our daily deadlines. We are each accountable for getting our work done. Having the power to create our schedules makes us even more productive as we work within the time we set for ourselves. Warning: this arrangement only works for highly motivated people.
Highly motivated people work well with little to no oversight of their daily schedules. Along with minimal supervision, a marketing and public relations person must have a strong understanding of their role, responsibilities and ability to make decisions with minimal direction. PR agencies work at such a fast pace, you won’t have all the answers. Ten22 has found that hiring highly experienced and knowledgeable people makes for a stellar virtual team. We’ve hired interns in the past and it’s worked well. But an entry level hire in a remote office just doesn’t bode well for the team, or the person who probably needs to grow in a face-to-face environment first.
As with any virtual team, Ten22 is constantly learning and growing to refine our process. If you’re thinking of converting your office to a remote team, reach out to us. We’d be happy to share other tips and tricks not included here. In the meantime, feel free to check out a previous post on how to become a remote marketing master.
About Agency Ten22
Agency Ten22 is a healthcare public relations, content management, social media and digital marketing firm focused exclusively on the healthcare IT industry. Ten22’s proven techniques deliver compelling messages, maximize exposure and strengthen market share for healthcare IT and service vendors. Founded in 2005, Agency Ten22 is the most respected media relations agency for small to medium-sized healthcare companies. Visit http://www.ten22pr.com/ or join us on Twitter and LinkedIn.