PR: Unplugged and Untethered

Welcome to autumn: A time when public relations professionals and their clients return to their work-a-day worlds and business-not-so-casual apparel, all lamenting the return to “cube-ville” and the noticeable lack of sand beneath their collective flip flops.

But what if the flip-flops became career-chic? What if client meetings at the beach – or at least in a setting absent stuffy corporate culture – was the norm? What if you never went back to the office again?

It’s not that outlandish of a theory. Mobile technology has empowered employees with the ability to hold meetings and prepare documents using little more than a smartphone. Today’s technology increasingly promises to reduce or eliminate tomorrow’s commute.

Some PR agencies gather only a few times per week in the office for meetings while working from home for the rest of the time. Future generations in the communications field might not even set foot in a physical office if they can complete all work virtually.

Think about it. The virtual workplace would save on time, gas, coffee — and the priceless frustration of traffic or crowded subways.

Moreover, working remotely could actually increase employee engagement. That’s what Edinger Consulting Group founder, Scott Edinger, recently discovered. In his blog, Edinger wrote of feedback from an investment firm with which his firm worked that said employees were actually more engaged and committed while working outside their workplace than when they spent eight or more hours per day in the office.

While office employees are just doorways apart, remote employees who are motivated must work harder to reach out to and connect with their co-workers. This typically yields better results in terms of efficiency and focus. The email and phone encounters of remote workers tend to be more brief and direct, maximizing their time spent together.

Although working remotely might look good on paper as a time and money saver, there can be downsides. Entrepreneur Magazine points out in an article that a business’ valuable information, literally held in employees’ hands, can be hacked, stolen or lost in a moment.

However, as both personal and business matters increasingly move into the cloud, it’s reasonable to conclude employees working remotely will not significantly tip the scales of data security for businesses already operating in this space. Technical issues aside, the social aspect of office environments must not be overlooked. Beyond just getting out of the house (and your pajamas), it’s also about the interaction with co-workers and collaboration that can sometimes only result from face-to-face meetings and hallway conversations.

All that being said, if there is a sector of the workforce best positioned to lead the charge of remote workspaces it is public relations. Our work is defined by relationships, and we’ve been trained to overcome a wide range of barriers to forming those relationships. Whether we work to bridge the distance between cultures, generations, work environments or geography, public relations professionals are always striving to build relationships untethered from the barriers that might separate many others.

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Twitter Gets a Facelift, Focuses on More Visuals

You’ve no doubt heard a lot of the buzz about the new changes to Twitter. Whether on your desktop, iPad, Android or iPhone, the first thing you’ll notice is Twitter has taken its cue from Facebook with its cool new timeline-like feature called the header photo. Entrepreneurs and businesses will appreciate the near-instant recognition this offers their brands.

So what do you need to know to ensure your Twitter account doesn’t look outdated? The recommended dimensions for the header photo are 1200×600 and the maximum file size is 5MB. The photo will stay consistent on mobile Apps including iPhone, iPad, Android and Twitter.com.

Your photo or logo will appear on your header image once you’ve uploaded a new image under “Change Header.” Your Twitter handle, bio and website will also appear on your new header image. Remember, your background image will not change and will still appear as is once you’ve uploaded your new header image. Photos that you tweet will be moved up and appear more prominent on the photo stream. Photos will now be available full-screen via the Twitter App on the iPad, iPhone and Android. With these visual changes, brands need to be aware it’s vital to provide exceptional visual content in order to engage their audiences.

Here are a few tips to make the most out of the new header photo:

  • Use a photo that enhances your brand.
  • Let your personality shine through.
  • Remember, that unlike the old Twitter, your header image will appear the same on iPhone, Android, etc. and it will be the first thing others see when viewing your account.
  • Keep your header photo simple, you don’t want to overwhelm everyone.
  • Follow the correct dimensions.
  • Have fun with it!

Read more about the changes to Twitter here and view examples of a few accounts already using the new header photo: http://blog.twitter.com/2012/09/because-you-have-more-to-show.html

The Picture – or Rich Media – Is Worth 1,000 Words

For the public relations practitioners out there, let’s take a poll: How important do you think visual elements are to journalists?

A) Very important.

B) Not important at all.

If you answered A) Very important, then your views align with 80 percent of the journalists polled in a recent PRESSfeed survey who said it is important or very important to “have access to photographs and visual images.”

While your answer might have matched up to journalists, nearly half of the PR practitioners polled said visuals in news stories are not important at all to journalists.

Of the surveyed PR professionals, 45 percent said visuals were unnecessary in news stories. Another 39 percent said the same for press releases. Even considering the wording of the survey and how answers might have been perceived, these results demonstrate a stark divide between journalists and PR practitioners regarding the value and need for visual content.

As social media trends continue to embrace highly visual platforms, such as Instagram, Pinterest and Twitter, I ask: how could the polled PR practitioners not answer in favor of visuals paired with news content?

Although journalists have controlled the media straps for decades with article placements, PR professionals have their hands firmly on the reigns regarding social media content and engagement. The polled PR practitioners should have considered the volume of pictures and video populating all social media pages as they were clicking in answers to the PRESSfeed survey.

PR Newswire also conducted a study demonstrating the increasing number of press release views where visual content is added. In that study, press releases with photos, video and other media receive 77 percent more views than text-only releases – a lesson PR practitioners know – or should know – instinctively, and need to consider when filling out future surveys on the subject. Get the picture?