Virtually possible: The rise of the virtual PR agency

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A recent survey from the PRCA’s Virtual PR Agency Group shows that 64% of in-house comms leaders would now consider hiring a virtual PR agency. 

With virtual agencies being predominately staffed by freelance experts, perceived benefits included their flexibility to tailor the service depending on the client’s needs (24%) and value for money versus the traditional agency model (20%).

Whilst the survey also uncovered some barriers to adoption, the general interest in this agency model is great news for me: a virtual assistant who specialises in supporting the PR sector and counts a number of virtual agencies amongst my clients.

So what are my take-outs as a freelancer working within a virtual PR team?   What tools and processes do the successful virtual PR agencies I work for deploy to ensure a happy, productive team which in turn ensures fantastic results for their clients?

Creating a sense of team even when you’re hundreds of miles apart is vital.  It makes you look out for each other or willing to jump in and help when someone is struggling with a task. 

One client organises an annual get-away for their team where time is equally spent catching up with colleagues as it is on business.  I love how another client has a watercooler channel on Slack so none of us misses out on the  gossip and chat which helps with team bonding.

Being made to feel like an integral part of the business rather than just outsourced help also pays dividends. 

All of my virtual agency clients hold regular strategy days to discuss the direction of the business where everyone is invited and everyone has a valued opinion.  Others ask their freelancers for views on key operational decisions such as new software or processes. 

For me, this makes the difference between a virtual workforce  merely performing the duties they’re paid to do…and one that is truly engaged with the client’s business where they strive for and high-five their client’s successes as much as their own.  

Remote working doesn’t mean you have to be remote!  Whether it’s Zoom, Skype or FaceTime, make the most of video conferencing to get regular face time with your virtual colleagues and build rapport and relationships.

And finally, respect boundaries. As a freelancer, I can set my own schedule and work outside of ‘normal’ office hours.  But just because I may work at these times, it doesn’t mean my virtual colleagues do.  So make the point of saying you don’t expect a response if you’re emailing someone at 10pm at night or on a Sunday morning. 

And because not everyone works to the same schedule, one of my clients has a What’s App group where team members can flag if they’re not available for a period of time.  Another has a channel on Slack dedicated to team whereabouts.  

With the right processes, the right technology and the right mind-set, then I believe there are virtually no reasons why virtual PR agencies can’t continue to be an increasingly popular option for comms leaders.  

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