As a remote worker for going on 10 years now, I definitely have learned my share of “productivity hacks”. When you’re working for yourself, you kinda have to! So, when I saw this post on PR Daily recently about 11 productivity tips for remote workers, I was intrigued. Let’s see what others have to say!
But, as I read through the list, I found myself saying to myself, “I actually do the OPPOSITE” of that tip!” Not to all of them. But, for some of the top tips, the complete opposite approach is definitely what I would suggest. Then, I went researching other remote working productivity hack posts and found a few others I disagree with as well.
Given that, I give you the top five productivity hacks for today’s remote worker than I think are dead wrong.
Productivity hack that’s dead wrong: Set up a dedicated, quiet work space
Unless you’re a huge introvert, I would suggest the exact opposite approach. Work in a busy place with lots of people! Why? Because working remotely can be extremely isolating. Do it one day a week and it’s not so bad. Do it for 10 years and it’s pretty lonely. You have to get out of the house. Sure, have a spot at home. That goes without saying. But, my hack here would be to find a few spots out in your community where you can work and be around people–even if you’re not always talking with them.
Productivity hack that’s dead wrong: Pretend like you’re going to work
I’ve always thought this one was a little overblown. Isn’t one of the biggest perks of working remotely that you DON’T have to get up, get dressed and do everything that goes along with getting to work in the morning? Why do you have to pretend like you’re going to work? Instead, I suggest dressing for your day. Some days, for me, that means jammies and a sweatshirt. All day long. Other days it means jacket and jeans–for class and client meetings, in particular. I find it absolutely silly to “pretend like I’m going to work” every day.
Productivity hack that’s dead wrong: Identify and eliminate distractions
I actually say embrace the distractions! Because a lot of them are reasons you wanted to work at home in the first place! Walking the dog, for example. Doing the dishes. Getting some laundry done. Most of these tasks take you a FRACTION of the time it takes compared to sitting in that pointless meeting you’d have to sit in if you were at work! What people really want to do when they work remotely is multi-task. Do some work. Throw a load into the laundry. Do some more work. Sneak a workout in. Do more work. You get the idea. Amiright?
Productivity hack that’s dead wrong: Set a schedule–and stick to it
This one is downright laughable for us in the PR and social media worlds. Sure, I start my day around 7:45 every day and end around 5 p.m. (with work in the evenings). But that’s about as much of a “schedule” as I have. With client demands–whether they’re external or internal–there’s just no way you could schedule your day and stick to it. Instead, I think the key is to have a keen ability to shift priorities, and schedules, quickly and seamlessly. Now, this isn’t specific to remote workers, but it does fly in the fact of the advice above.
Productivity hack that’s dead wrong: Stay away from social media
I actually say lean in to social media! Here’s my rationale. This makes sense if you’re an engineer or programmer or educator, maybe. Minimize distractions. Stay away from the Insta rabbit hole. I get that. But in PR and social media, a big part our jobs is keeping up with trends and what’s happening in the news each day. Social media is a huge part of how we do that now. Our jobs also involve networking and keeping up with colleagues and media members. Again, social media is a big way we do that (Twitter and LinkedIn, specifically). I don’t know about you, but I spend a lot of time on social media each day. And, I need every second of it. If I “stayed away from social media” during the day, I think I’d be out of a job in just a few short months.
Truth be told, I don’t know Rebecca Lechner all that well. I’ve never worked with her. She’s never been a client. Heck, I only just met with her for the first time a few weeks ago! But, I’m also a big believer in cues. For example, she’s one half of a Minneapolis/St. Paul Power PR couple with Matt Lechner who’s now over at HealthPartners. She’s a former media member. She’s spent time at the largest PR agency in Minneapolis (Weber Shandwick). And, she was recently hired by Amy Bear Smith, someone I’ve long thought was pretty darn smart. So, the cues are all positive. So, I thought, why not feature her here today as a PR Rock Star? Let’s learn more about Rebecca Lechner.
You have a new job! Tell us about your new role and what being an “Employment Brand Manager” means?
I have gotten that question from many people since starting my role! I’m grateful for the opportunity to showcase this unique (and increasingly growing!) role in marketing and communications.
In basic terms, employer brand is the reputation a company has as an employer. As Employment Brand Manager, I’m responsible for Room & Board’s employment brand strategy. I work to position our company as an employer of choice.
Think of it like this: consumer brand works to share the story of why you should spend your money somewhere. As employment brand manager, I work to share the story of why top candidates should want to work at Room & Board – by sharing the story of our people, culture, guiding principles and how we give back through community partnerships.
These days, there are so many ways for a job seeker to research a company when they are considering jobs – LinkedIn and other social media sites, Glassdoor, Indeed, careers websites and more. My goal is to build our unique brand as an employer and showcase what makes Room & Board a great place to work.
This role is connected to many communications avenues – our Room & Board Careers website, our employer-related social media channels, developing employer brand-related content for our blog and social media sites, producing collateral and more. My background in journalism, public relations, communications and advocacy has been a great fit for this work.
Employer Branding is hot topic–and need–in the business world right now. What’s the one thing more companies should be doing when it comes to Employer Branding–but aren’t–in 2020?
I believe Room & Board is truly innovative in having this role in the first place. From a very basic standpoint, I think more companies should be proactive with employer branding and devote resources to this sort of position.
I think back to a decade or so ago when most people might not have known what a Social Media Manager does. Ten years from now, I think an Employment Brand Manager will be a common part of a communications/HR team.
You are being talked about as an employer – and it’s vital to be part of the conversation.
P.S. – I would love to start a network of Twin Cities Employment Brand professionals. So if this is you – send me a message!
What’s front-and-center for you at R&B on the Employer Branding front?
As you can imagine, I have so many items on my priority list, as I’m just a few months into the job. I’m still learning and planning for 2020 – which is extra exciting as it’s Room & Board’s 40th anniversary!
But one thing that ties into so many of my upcoming projects is storytelling. As a former journalist, storytelling is a part of who I am as a communicator and I think hearing directly from staff members is the best way to showcase employer branding.
I’m excited to share the voices of Room & Board staff members and why they love what they do and find their purpose with our company. I am also excited to incorporate video into our work in a bigger way in 2020.
You were the communications manager for the Minnesota Ovarian Cancer Alliance for almost eight years after a stint at Weber Shandwick. Can you talk about why you took that role and what kept you at MOCA for seven-plus years?
I first got involved with the Minnesota Ovarian Cancer Alliance (MOCA) after my mom was diagnosed with ovarian cancer more than 10 years ago. I was fortunate that my first steps of volunteering for MOCA eventually turned into a position there. After losing my mother, my work at MOCA gave me an outlet to turn my grief into action.
At MOCA, I grew a one-woman communications shop from the ground-up and had the ability to work on awareness campaigns, marketing efforts and media stories. We were nimble and maximized our resources by teaming up with amazing pro bono partners, like StoneArch, Software for Good and Intercross. After nearly eight years, it was time for a new professional challenge, but MOCA’s work will always be a part of my heart.
Working at a non-profit made a major impact on me. When I was considering my next role, I knew it had to be a socially responsible, progressive company. I found that at Room & Board.
You spent much of your 20s working in media and agency environments. How do you think that prepared you for these leadership roles you’ve assumed recently?
In the past few months, I’ve often thought back to my past roles and how so much of what I learned applies to my position at Room & Board.
Working in media taught me news sense and the basics of a good story. It strengthened my writing skills. My job as a television journalist taught me shooting and editing. I learned how to ask questions and get to the heart of a story. And maybe most importantly – how to meet a deadline!
Working in an agency gives you access to so many opportunities. From media pitching to working on white papers to planning and executing events, you have the ability to work on so many different projects. I think my media and agency experiences made me well-rounded as a communicator and helped me specialize for a role like this.
What’s did you learn from your time at Weber that you carry over into your job today?
It’s cliché, but I truly feel blessed to have landed at Weber Shandwick right out of working in news. I feel like an agency is the best training ground you can have when you’re new in communications and I am so grateful for my time there. I worked with and learned from some of the best in the business.
Weber taught me that strategy and planning is key. I am a total planner when it comes to communications and I know that ties back to my Weber Shandwick days. I also care deeply about metrics and putting a number on the impact a campaign or initiative has.
I recently came across the article in PR Daily that talked about “career regrets.” I wrote about mine last week. Part of what I found interesting in the survey is only 2% of all people surveyed said they had NO career regrets. With that backdrop, assuming you’re one of the 98%, what are your career regrets?
I’m showing my age by saying I started my career in the pre-social media days. With LinkedIn and so many other social media platforms available, these days, there is really no excuse to lose touch with former colleagues and managers.
But that wasn’t always the case – and one regret I have is I wish I had done a better job of keeping in touch with some people from the early stages of my career. Now that I spend a chunk of my time on LinkedIn as part of my job, it seems like I’m making up for it!
If you could go back to your 21/22-year-old self and give yourself one piece of career advice, what would it be?
Oh, wow – this is tough! Well, first – no matter how little you’re getting paid at this stage in the game (I made a whopping $9 an hour as a broadcast journalist in Eau Claire at my first job) start that 401K! We had a seasoned photographer at our TV station who would always share that advice with all of the reporters fresh out of college!
Next, I would say never stop learning. Read articles, listen to podcasts, attend workshops and conferences that interest you. Always be open to learning about new things. I think especially in marketing and communications, it’s vital to be an early adapter and learn new technologies. Full disclosure: That’s why I recently embarrassed my two boys by starting a Tik Tok account!
You have not one, but TWO, King Charles Spaniels. I’m a new dog owner myself (#EddieTheMorkie)–any advice for this newbie?
Well, you’re clearly got down step one of new dog ownership – secure the Instagram tag!
Honestly, when it comes to Louis and Leo, I may not be the best at advice because they pretty much run the show in our house. We believe in lots of naps, laptime and treats. My advice is to get another dog because it’s so much fun to watch them together! My boys are totally spoiled and I’m not even embarrassed about it (and you can follow them at @Life_with_Louis_and_Leo)!
A couple weeks ago, PRWeek and Cision released their Global PR Report full of data points and nuggets ripe for discussion on blogs like this.
The full report is worth a glance, if you work in PR/comms. It’s full of data around topics like: comms single-biggest challenge; influencers sway over consumer spending decisions; and top social media channels used by comms teams.
But, today, I wanted to highlight just three data points and talk a bit about the bigger story behind those nuggets because I thought these three, in particular, really jumped off the proverbial page.
Data point #1: 49% of respondents feel they can always effectively identify the right influencers to target on all initiatives. That is down from 54% last year.
What’s frightening about this data point is the 51% who do NOT feel like they can identify the right influencers to target for their PR/comms initiatives! That’s a lot of people flying blind! But, it’s not surprising. A whole slew of vendors have entered this space the last five years making all sorts of outlandish promises about helping PRs find the right influencers. In many cases, I have to believe those promises are being broken. Because the tools can’t solve this problem. They can help, when used the right way. But, they’re not the solution. The real solution, and what I assume the other 49% are doing, is the good, old-fashioned hard work for searching for these influencers themselves online. Starting with Google! Twitter lists. Going down the Insta rabbit hole. It’s not easy finding your ideal influencers. It’s time-consuming work. And, it can’t be done solely by a tool. Until people start realizing that, I think we’ll see these numbers go down even more.
Data point #2: 54% make a concerted effort to stay in touch with media/influencers, even when there is no current story to be covered. That is well down from 68% last year.
This is very surprising considering one of the central tenets of any sound media relations strategy is to develop relationships with journalists and stay in front of them regularly–whether you have a client pitch at the moment or not! It’s great to hear 54% of PRs are doing this–but that also means almost half of all PR are NOT doing this! Which means these people are essentially spamming editors and reporters each week. And, we wonder why PR, as an industry, has a bad reputation!
Data point #3: 69% of respondents said mainstream journalists had the most sway over consumer decisions; only 34% said employees and 28% said executives.
Not surprising to hear that 69% of PRs think journalists still hold all the cards when it comes to impacting purchase decisions. For people focused on media relations, what do you think they would say? But it is kinda surprising to hear that only 34% believe employees have that power. After all, isn’t that what we’ve been hearing the last few years? Employees, when activated, can be outstanding ambassadors for your brand! That’s what they told us. That’s why Employee Social Advocacy Programs are such a big deal right now. Yet, only 34% of PRs think they hold any sway over purchase decisions? That seems off to me.
If you spent a few minutes on social media last week, you undoubtedly heard about South Dakota’s new anti-meth ad campaign (here’s the link to one story–I share an AdWeek link below).
This sparked all kinds of conversation–mostly around why the campaign was a failure. But, one side conversation that I found particularly interesting revolved around metrics. Specifically–vanity metrics.
You know, impressions, followers, page views. Vanity metrics. They are usually easily manipulated and don’t tie back to numbers that really matter like new customers or leads. In this case, people were lamenting that South Dakota may be measuring the success of the campaign on vanity metrics like impressions and “reach”–after all, it did get people talking! So, from that perspective, big win, right? Possibly. But, there’s much more to this puzzle than just impressions.
What South Dakota really wants is to smoke out (no pun intended) its meth problem. A quick visit to onmeth.com and you can see the two big CTAs are “I need help” and “I want to help”. So, I think it would reasonable to say that two big metrics from them are going to be how many people click on those two buttons on the web site, and ultimately, how many people seek treatment and how many people seek to volunteer.
So, in this case, I would say South Dakota is probably looking at both vanity metrics (early on) and actionable metrics (long term). But, is South Dakota in the minority? Are we, as an industry, still hung up on these vanity metrics?
I’d say “yes.”
I still see companies measuring follower counts for Pete’s sake! In 2019! Impressions are always a metric we track (especially in PR). And, despite Gini Dietrich’s efforts, the PESO model isn’t talked about nearly as much as it should be.
No, folks, if we’re honest with ourselves, we are still hooked on vanity metrics. Now, some of that is not our fault. The leaders we work for are often pushing these metrics because they’re easy to understand. They’re easy to “see.” But, it’s our job to push back on that thinking. It’s our job to educate these leaders. It’s our job to push for more actionable results. Sure, it might be harder. It’s going to be tougher work. But, in the end, it’ll mean better results for the businesses we serve, and more credibility for our industry.
Your thoughts? Do you think we’re still hooked on vanity metrics?
Question: Should I try to network through organizations like MIMA, IABC, and MN PRSA? If so, where should I start?
Organizations like these are great places to network and learn new skills. It’s really where I started honing my PR chops 20 years ago! But, it’s not a 2-3-month commitment. It’s not something you just jump into and then leave once you find that new job. It’s a LONG-TERM commitment. I would encourage any job seeker to join any of these organizations and to volunteer. Because that’s the key. Signing up and plunking down money is the easy part–anyone can do that. It’s the volunteering where you meet people, form relationships and really start to see the benefits. But, those benefits don’t show up for a while. It’s a long-tail approach and not something that will really benefit your immediate job-seeking strategies. That said, I definitely recommend it.
Question: When I’m looking for jobs, I notice some jobs that require a wide variety of skills, some of which I’m qualified for and some of which would be a bit of a stretch. Is there any reason why I should NOT apply for these types of jobs?
Absolutely not. Companies and hiring managers typically develop job descriptions fully knowing they’re not going to get everything they’re asking for. The social media unicorn debate immediately comes to mind. But, they post it anyway because they want to see what it will turn up. I like to think about the famous Wayne Gretzky quote, which I think is highly relevant in this case: “You’ll miss 100% of the shots you do not take.” Take the shots. All of them. What’s the worst thing that will happen?
Question: What skills are in highest demand right now?
Let me preface this one with the following disclaimer: I am not a professional recruiter, nor have I ever claimed to be one. But, the big skills I hear the most need for right now include: audio production (everyone is asking about podcasts right now); video production (seems like companies are always outsourcing this); influencer marketing (growing and not a ton of people who do this well right now); and social media ad management (still really hard to find people who are really good at this).
Question: Where’s the best place(s) to look for new jobs?
The hidden job market! If I were searching for a job, I would definitely have alerts set up on LinkedIn and Indeed. But, I wouldn’t expect that to turn up a whole lot. Instead, I would focus on putting much more time and energy into my networking. I would schedule 3-5 coffees a week (if you are not currently working), and 1-2 (if you are currently working). You do that for 6-8 weeks and I can almost guarantee you something will turn up.
Question: Who do you know that would be good for me to connect with? Not necessarily because they might have an opening. But because of what I can learn from them about the sector on which I’ve set my career sights.
Question: For those with senior-level experience, what are the most successful approaches you’ve seen to overcoming the “you’re overqualified” barrier when we are intentionally choosing a different direction?
This is a great question and one I’m hearing more of from friends in that 45-and-over bucket. Mostly because I think a lot of people are burned out and they want something different. I’d love to hear a recruiter’s or HR manager’s take on this question! My advice would be two-fold: 1) Hone your WHY story. You’re going to have to address why you’re taking a step back, or why you’re changing career trajectories. So, make sure that story is air-tight. And, make sure it’s a STORY! Use dramatic details. Pull in specific examples. Make it a compelling story your Mom would want to hear! 2) Focus on your network. If you’re making a drastic career move, my guess is you’ll need people who are going to “vouch” for you. I think about someone like David McCoy. He recently made a big move leaving his media gig at WCCO-TV for a comms position at US Bank. Now, David has all the skills to do this job. But, my guess is what sealed the deal for him was all the great networking he did (I know this because he bought me coffee a while back, and talked about some of the other people he was talking to; he was also one of the few people in recent memory who sent me a hand-written thank you note after he got the job!).
Question: What actually matters when looking for a job at your company? Is it hard skills? Fit? Experience?
Question: How do you explain working for yourself as a positive when integrating back into the “corporate world”?
A recruiter once told me: “After you work for yourself for five years, you’re ruined. No company will touch you.” Now, personally, I think this is bogus. But, after talking to a few solos-turned-job-seekers, I’m beginning to think it might have a hint of truth to it. Yes, companies want people with an entrepreneurial spirit. What they don’t want are entrepreneurs. See the difference? People who have worked for themselves for 5+ years are entrepreneurs. There’s no way around that. And, when those people re-integrate into FT jobs, there are bumps. They’re used to doing things their way. They’re not used to working with teams. And they’re definitely not used to being told what to do. So, right off the bat, this is a big challenge. What I would suggest would be to focus on results. Because, after all, isn’t that what we solos do best? We deliver. I’d stress the results I drove for clients. Ditch the entrepreneurial stuff altogether.