Most professionals would like to think a year of remote working has taught them a little about themselves and how they perform under strange (and difficult) circumstances.
For many, being able to roll out of bed and straight to their desk (pajamas included) has been a blessing in disguise, while others have found it difficult to concentrate without the buzz and healthy pressure of an office environment. Working remotely has taught us a lot about what we get out of work and what we’d love to change about it, given the chance.
Some of the most common challenges of remote working have been:
- Managing employees and their workloads
- Collaborating on creative projects without typical freedoms
- Retaining company culture through virtual events
- Developing the business and enticing new clients
What specifically of the marketing industry though? What lessons has it learned about both its own practices and the attitudes of the people it hopes to target? Marketing demands being of the moment and taking key lessons from the present day to put back into your work. How can marketing companies do just that and improve both their internal attitudes and external approach?
Most companies can operate remotely
Pre-pandemic, most companies would frown at the idea they could let their staff work remotely full-time.
While remote working had already been normalized to a certain extent across digital professions before COVID (for example, flexi-work and freelancing) there still existed a cautious desire throughout the industry to keep teams together under one roof as much as possible.
However, attitudes have changed dramatically. While not universal, more and more marketing agencies have discovered the industry is very well placed to let their staff manage campaigns, schedule posts, and develop content from the comfort of their own homes.
Much of this has been down to digital tools and the power they offer even blossoming teams. These include:
- Project management tools that keep team leaders across timelines and progress
- Comms tools that allow for the delegation of tasks and the continuation of company culture
- Video chat facilities such as Zoom to replace meetings and presentations
For many professionals across marketing, being able to cross off some more tasks while watching a Google Hangouts presentation is better than being forced away from their desk for an hour.
There have been suggestions that this improves productivity, and while we’ll have to wait on those results, it’s hard to deny that cutting out commutes, office distractions, and negative cultures has allowed people to focus on their work and offered clearer insight into how to maximize skill sets.
Visibility and communication is key
No one in the marketing industry needs to be told twice how important communication is.
It’s the lifeblood of the industry and marketing professionals worldwide pride themselves on being able to communicate complicated messages in simple, effective, and memorable fashion. What they’ve learned while working remotely, however, is that these same communication skills are key for keeping a team working to its full potential.
On top of the essential digital tools remote working has highlighted, the pandemic has shown marketing professionals that you don’t need long meetings, personal demonstrations or even to be in the same room as someone to effectively communicate what you want from them. Hashing out the details of everything from a social campaign to a new logo can be done remotely and possibly more effectively through the use of screen sharing and collaborative documents. What we’ve shown over the past few months is that marketers are effective multi-taskers who don’t need to be pulled away from their desks as often as they are.
It’s not just intra-team communication that’s developed either, but communication between brands and their customers. After a year of working alone, video chatting in home offices, the average consumer is much more online-savvy and adept with a computer. Brands have leaned into this, integrating versatile customer service tools such as Crisp into their websites, giving visitors the option of communicating with assistants through video or finding the answer themselves on a knowledge base. Offering comprehensive options is now an important part of robust marketer/consumer communications.
Marketers have learned how important it is to stay continuously visible. If your team isn’t logging in in the morning and alerting you to their progress, it’s hard to know how close to completion a project is. Even when we can’t sit together, communication continues to be everything.
Long-standing facts have changed
In the space of a few months, the world has changed dramatically, and it may never be the same again.
Coronavirus and the remote working situations it has forced upon us have changed everything from peoples’ relationship with technology to ingrained everyday habits. What marketers thought they knew about consumer habits has likely changed, and that is something the industry will have to quickly adapt to.
Something as simple as people not having to commute to work has thrown long-standing rules about digital marketing into chaos. People are spending less time on public transport, so they’re spending less time mindlessly scrolling through social media. However, they are consuming more media.
Browsing habits have changed, with people regularly going to the news for updates on a specific event and having less cash to search for consumer goods. Flexi remote working means people are ending the day at different times, and not necessarily heading straight to their devices for a quick Twitter or Instagram check like they used to.
Whether or not people want to be communicated with or advertised to by brands is entirely up in the air. We mentioned the financial rationale for this claim, but there is also the issue of timing. Is it too soon for marketing to return to where it was pre-pandemic? Corona-tinged sentimental advertising has been effective, but it can’t become the long-term norm?
Equally, fun approaches to our present situation, such as dating app Bumble’s Get Close, From Afar campaign, have helped brands connect in a remote world. Are we all tired of hearing about pandemics and lockdowns though, especially as the vaccine puts us on track to normality?
Marketers have (hopefully) learned they need to change the language, tone and timing of how they communicate. Things are going to be different for a while and society has a collective sore spot raised by the concerns of the virus. Marketing must once again research and adapt.
Make decisions that play to your strengths
Some of the most rigid companies in the world have taken the pandemic as an opportunity to open up.
Rather than forcing their square peg workforce into traditional round holes, they’ve allowed their team to flourish with creative ideas and personalized methods without the breath of their manager on the back of their neck.
This goes beyond being able to start at 7 am or work with Friends on in the background. The dash to replicate the office at home highlighted that this wasn’t actually possible and that remote working is a chance for company feedback that can actually be acted upon.
If you have staff that prefer working on Macs, don’t force old Windows machines on them. If the perfect candidate lives abroad, give them a chance and work around the time zones. If your team looks burned out, let them play a few rounds of QuizBreaker to lighten the mood.
Without the chains of an office to hold them back, marketing industries can become flexi-working, internationally based powerhouses full of unique campaign ideas and modern workflow structures. Companies should look back on the last year and recognize when they were able to make start decisions they never could previously.
Digitally minded industries such as marketing haven’t fared too badly from the coronavirus pandemic, but that does not mean there won’t be sweeping changes coming in. Rather than being financially motivated though, we expect them to be based on changing employee attitudes and new methods of communication, along with a much more relaxed approach to work that will help creativity and positivity blossom.