Is it even 2021 if we don’t talk about the time constraints we face on the daily?
In the new normal, time has become our most valuable resource. As work and home continue to blend into one, we wanted to take a deep dive into how to overcome time constraints facing comms professionals and their teams.
We were lucky enough to catch up with Damian Testa, Head of Policy and Communications at a registered charity in the health, safety and environment sector.
In this short guide to conquering time constraints in comms, Damian chats with us about the most time-consuming elements of his role, how his team manages time and how the pandemic has impacted the day to day running of his department.
What are the top time constraints facing comms?
Damian confirms that time is, most definitely, his team’s most valuable resource. He says that “there never seems to be enough time in a day to cover everything the team needs to despite best intentions”, an issue faced by comms professionals across the board.
He continues that this lack of time is due, in part, to “the nature of media work where new, and news stories, come in that day and need a response. Sometimes, it is chasing articles for our industry magazine where contributors have not submitted their articles when expected or researching and commissioning articles for future editions”.
Outside of the length of time committed to chasing, researching and commissioning, there are other key issues facing comms teams’ time management. These include:
- Inefficient internal communications (we’ve all wailed when a Zoom could have been an email).
- Increased workloads relating to pressures from the need to respond to the pandemic.
- Negotiating tighter budgets, leaving less wiggle room to maximise resources and save time.
- Manually collecting feedback, data and other analysis that could be automated.
For Damian, the most time-consuming element of his role is “media monitoring of coverage and reach, as the system we use requires each piece of coverage to be tagged against an organisational function, e.g. policy and campaigns, events or membership, to enable more granular analysis of the data”. Lack of efficiency, then, could be the number one barrier for comms teams to overcome.
Since the COVID crisis, Damian’s team has transformed his organisation’s industry magazine to digital only, a process which has presented its own challenges. He informs us that “the biggest change has been to make the magazine digital only, whereas pre-COVID it was print only, which meant very limited flexibility on timescales for external articles in order for the magazine to be produced and issued on time”. As a result of the pandemic, comms teams are facing reduced flexibility to perform their function. Reduced flexibility, then, is another uphill climb for comms.
How to overcome time constraints in comms
Damian continues that sometimes his analysis work “can mean tagging well over 1000 articles while in others several hundred. Having a bespoke service that provided this analysis would save considerable time. As a senior manager, it is not the best use of my time to perform this analysis and reduces capacity to drive forward campaign work”
Battling the beast of time-consuming analysis, as well as lack of efficiency and reduced flexibility, is crucial for time-constrained comms teams to succeed and demonstrate their strategic value. We’ve pulled together some crucial insights into conquering time constraints to increase comms’ capacity to serve the public and their organisation to the highest possible standard.
1) Employ time saving tools
Automating as many manual tasks as possible is a brilliant way to save time in your overflowing working day. Automating content promotion, social posts and your calendar can all work wonders. Also, employing tools to streamline feedback and data collection, such as React & Share, can help your team to quickly identify gaps in their work.
Damian uses “providers for media monitoring and for issuing media (with a contact database that can be interrogated, and news lists created)” and a “a political monitoring service to keep up to date with Parliamentary business and Government legislation”. However, he also stresses the importance of balancing functionality with a “clear cost-benefit ratio”. If you can see value in using tools, and they feel right for you, we would always encourage usage.
2) Recognise (and overcome) burnout
It’s one thing to recognise burnout, but to identify it early could be a huge time saver in the long run. Comms teams that are burnt out and working at half capacity due to demanding workloads are likely to be underperforming, forgetful and losing energy in their role. Physical and mental exhaustion in the workplace can ultimately cost comms teams more than time in the long run.
By recognising burnout in yourself or your team members, you can begin to take steps to carve out some breathing room for the individual, either by relieving stress, reallocating resources and providing the support needed to have a happy and productive team.
3) Allocate resources carefully
Effective resource allocation will ensure no time or money is wasted. To run a comms department efficiently, it’s imperative to have a clear idea of the resources required at each stage of a project or campaign. Careful resource allocation can also allow you to identify which members of the team are swamped and which could be an extra pair of hands to get you to the finish line.
Keeping a time log may help to know just how long it takes to complete tasks and allow you to create an accurate overview of the true time needed to unlock comms success.
4) Trust your team
Damian has “three journalists in my team that between them produce our industry magazine, both UK and India editions, and produce website news content”. Building a team around you that you trust is crucial to navigating tight turnarounds. Without a team you can rely on there would be no room for time-saving delegation or an extra pair of hands to help meet deadlines.
Make sure that you not only trust your team fully, but that all of you are united behind your comms strategy, sharing the vision for what your function should be fulfilling.
5) Take on feedback
This may sound out of place, as on the surface collecting and implementing feedback may sound like more work. However, without collecting feedback it’s likely that resources, including time, are being ploughed into work that may not be serving either your team or your audiences.
By asking audiences what they need ahead of time, feedback can become a key arm of your comms strategy. There are many tools that allow you to do this, from Google Forms, to Hotjar and React & Share. Essentially, feedback allows you to take the guesswork out of comms.
6) Set a clear direction
Robust leadership could be a key contributor to cutting through the chaos and saving time. Damian notes that since joining the British Safety Council, he has taken a new strategic and agile approach to working – “my team has welcomed having more ‘structure’ and leadership and having a clear direction”.
In carving out a clear strategic roadmap, comms leaders and their teams will have a more direct route to success that avoids costly detours and benefits both the individual and the organisation as a whole.
We hope that we’ve presented some valuable insights into the importance of careful time management in the time-constrained comms arena to stand up against heavy workloads and the limitations of the working day.
Getting started is the first step; implementing tools, anticipating burnout before it takes hold, auditing resource allocation, putting more trust in your team, paying attention to feedback and setting the strategy to save your future self some precious time.
Thank you to Damian Testa for your invaluable contribution to this piece, it was great to check in with you and hear your thoughts.
If you’d like to find out more about how React & Share can save you and your team time, book a free content consultation today.