Monday poll: Does teleworking work in PR?

There are many advantages to teleworking such as reduced commuting time, fewer distractions, a comfortable work environment and low accommodation costs. Since you don’t need specialized equipment for PR (basically a phone and a PC with Internet access), it could be ideal for a teleworking model.

But PR is also a team exercise. Activities must be planned, ideas brainstormed, news analyzed and reports generated. Training must be given to bring on new talent. Even just over-hearing client conversations and media pitches adds to cohesion. For in-house PR execs, there are product development meetings to attend, sales team briefings, executive updates. None of which can be done remotely.

Working from home for the occasional day may combine the two. But does teleworking actually work in PR? How can PRs make the most of this model?

[For those reading this via a newsreader, there is an AJAX-based poll pasted below which may not appear in this post via RSS. Please vote on the site – thanks].

  • I’d vote somewhere in the middle. As an agency man, some of my best clients teleworked, most of them do in fact, and I don’t think it impacts their ability to do good work.
    In fact the benefit of the employer being able to hire from a larger talent pool means teleworking is without a shadow of doubt a good thing for in-house PRs.
    For the agency world however I’m not so sure. Definitely not 100 per cent of the time, and not for every level of PR consultant, but there is a happy balance.
    It’s good stuff you’re churning out on these polls, Morgan. Keep it up.

  • Anonymous

    Can we PLEASE stop referring to professional communicators as PRs? What the hell is a PR? It’s bad enough those in marketing believe a press release is the be-all-and-end-all of what we do. Fix it from within, folks. Clean up your language. Well, that is unless you are fine just cranking out press releases at the whim of marketing.

  • I agree on the PRs thing. How you label the world is very important.
    But I also wanted to say that I work for a company called LearningChange (
    I am working with them as a PR professional, but also as a copyeditor and a copywriter for clients. I am also in school studying PR, so I do a lot of work remotely.
    I love my job. I really love being a copywriter for clients and for LearningChange as a company, but with my school schedule, it can be hard to get into the office sometimes, and LearningChange has been fantastic about letting me work from home or from school. I log my hours online and they understand that I cannot be in the office every day.
    So far, it’s worked wonderfully. It’s so much easier having so much flexibility while I am in school.

  • Drew – thanks for the kind feedback. I’ve had clients who telework and it is good from a responsiveness perspective. Fewer meetings = greater availability. But the downside is a reduction in uncovering new developments within the company. There’s a reason why clients want their agency to work on site occasionally.
    Within an agency, agree there too. It doesn’t work 100% if that person has a team to manage. If they are more junior, then the problem comes with supervision and training. Not unworkable but you’d want that person to be imbibed in the culture prior to teleworking rather than recruiting someone remote from the start.
    Anon – PRs as in PR people. I think it’s fair use here and not intended to be derogatory. I don’t condense PR to mean press release, since as you rightly say there there are more tactics to deploy, and that does irritate somewhat. This is simply a colloquialism not an acronymn.
    BTW – be good if you could kindly leave your name on this feedback. Carries more weight – and I don’t bite 😉
    Owen – sounds like you are building up some good experience while studying. It’s great that your employer can allow that flexibility – sounds like a good fit. For copywriting as a discipline remote working can make sense, but if you became the company’s full time in-house PR manager and had other responsibilities, would that necessitate an on site presence more frequently?

  • I worked from my home doing PR for two years. Was it a good model? You’d have to ask my boss. 😉
    The term “PRs” bugs me too..not sure why, it just does.

  • Without a doubt teleworking works! Without it, I wouldn’t be where I am today, in the lovely Isle of Man. Instead, I’d be stuck in cubicle in a grotty high-rise in some crowded metropolis, fighting traffic, sardined into public transport and paying through the nose for a matchbox size flat. No thanks. Virtuality lets me have the international career I want without all the downsides. My clients get world-class expertise and excellent value. It’s win/win.

  • Sherrilynne – glad it’s working for you. I can see how that model works for freelance PR execs, perhaps with a virtual team of seasoned pros. People they have worked with over the years.
    Where it breaks down for me is in training. How do you bring on new talent if you aren’t there with them for guidance? Presumably newbies have to do their stint in the heart of the business to learn the ropes.
    If everyone telecommuted, the business wouldn’t scale from below. It’s certainly an operable lifestyle choice for certain people at the more experienced stage of their careers. But for in-house teams and for agencies, teleworkers tend to be the exception than the rule. They’ve mainly worked onsite and then moved away rather than joined remotely from day one in my experience.
    The challenge for me in teleworking from an agency pov is how do you lead a team if you’re not in the trenches with them day in and day out? How do you teach them? Instill culture? Bail them out when they make mistakes? Earn their loyalty? Assess them? Notice when they come in early or stay late or make any myriad of other sacrifices? See how they relate to the rest of the team? It’s hard to do that by phone, IM, videoconference and email.

  • I miss the option “balance of both” in the poll. I work as a copywriter for a Czech Public Relations agency with some big names among our clients and i used to work from my home office for about six months. It worked but now when i started to go to the office regularly, its working even better. Its great to casually get all the information you need to know just by listening to the buzz around you. PR (we do not have the public relations/press release confusion around here due to different language) definitely is team thing. Its awesome when I stay at home for a day or two in a week but my own home office days were reduced dramatically by my own decision – it feels better among the folks at CoLin and the lunches out are far more fun.

  • Thanks Otaker – this makes good sense. To stay hot, you’ve got to be in the fire.

  • Morgan,
    I think if I were the full-time internal PR employee I might have to be onsite more often.
    It would also depend on how well connected and updated I was on the company’s progress, current work, etc.
    Being there does make it easier though.

  • I have found running a website can be done from the back room , but is much harder to make a success than face to face networking. Many super affiliates now attend gettogethers . Being technically minded i get my affiliates to do the PR side.