Greg Simpson, founder of Press for Attention PR and the PR and Communications Ambassador for the IoD in Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire, talks about flexible working and the PR benefits.
I’ve just got back from my first fortnight off in four years. My word I needed it!
Now, I’m fortunate in that I get to work where I like (to an extent) but that does come with a cost – it is TOO easy for me to work, even on holiday. This time, however, I did not read ONE email.
Of course, right now, I know that lots of readers will be weighing up the pros and cons of flexible working and the ‘back to the office’ debate. The ‘4 Day Week’ concept is HUGELY popular in the media and I’ve had tonnes of requests for case studies from reporters on the subject over the last 3 months, so let’s address this debate from a PR and perception perspective.
Think PR is all glamour? Think again. At approximately 7.30am today I was mid-swim after my Monday guilt-assuaging workout when I noticed two strange black bags floating towards me. Small, black bags. My instant reaction was disgust, why wasn’t the pool cleaned first thing? Then slowly it dawned on me, they were MY bags. Or to be more accurate, my dog’s. I think we all know what I mean by that.
Mercifully they were empty and had fallen out of my shorts after being stowed there yesterday. I bring this up not to make YOU bring anything up (sorry to any queasy folk), but because I’ve just got back from walking said hound and my phone went mid-walk. It was a client and in my line of work this is often urgent.
I didn’t want to ignore it but I didn’t want to sound distracted either, let alone breathless. So I went for the honest approach: “Morning. I’m not going to lie, I’m in the park with the dog but if I can help you right now I will. I’ll just find a bench.”
Now, my client also LOVES dogs and we spent the next 5 minutes or so chatting about his hounds until we got back to the point in hand. Cue the irony music (no Alanis, cutlery problems are not ironic), my client wanted to talk about flexible working.
They are doing some great things around supporting their employees with the ‘new normal’ and he wanted to discuss how we might leverage it in terms of attracting and retaining new talent and also new business partners.
Of course, we will be shouting loudly in the press about this and using this angle when we enter awards this year. We chatted for a good 15 minutes, came up with a plan and now I am back in the office about to work it up for them once I finish this column. The dog is asleep on my feet.
This didn’t take place in a trendy PR office, replete with ping-pong tables, beer fridges and uni-cycling creatives. Nor did it take place in their boardroom, during the token hour-long meeting most folk seem wedded to. It came in the park, at no notice, with a dog in one hand, a phone in the other, and of course some small black bags in my pocket.
I have a new angle for my client, they have a great opportunity to position themselves as a forward-thinking firm with a great organisational culture, and, crucially, Bear got his walkies even though I was ‘busy’.
Take a look at how flexible your working culture is. If you embrace it, shout about it. It conveys great messages about your brand. If you don’t, consider whether it is holding you back from attracting clients and top talent.
Take care, my flexible friends, and happy headlines.
A former business journalist, Greg Simpson is the author of The Small Business Guide to PR and has been recognised as one of the UK’s top 5 PR consultants, having set up Press for Attention PR in 2008.
He has worked for FTSE 100 firms, charities and start-ups and conducted press conferences with Sir Richard Branson and James Caan. His background ensures a deep understanding of every facet of a successful PR campaign – from a journalist’s, client’s, and consultant’s perspective.