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Are we set for a PR winter of discontent?

How to be a PR star this winter

There are many challenges looming this winter, I won't mention Brexit (oh no, too late!), and there are economic, seasonal and career issues to face too... we asked PROs for their top tips on keeping on top of things and staying cheerful no matter what the cold season throws at you, whether it be extra work or snowballs.

Be positive

Simon Turton, owner of agency Opera PR, says:  “The old adage has it that there are no challenges, only opportunities, and I think this is how you have to face everything in life, including a potential winter of discontent. So, bring on a cold winter and the more challenges opportunities, the better.”

Wrap up warm

Turton adds that it is important to be warm and dry: “If we have a cold winter – Arctic conditions have been predicted by many – get a good pair of boots and warm coat, and make arrangements to be able to work from home.”

No amount of worry or anger (about Brexit) is going to change the way our politicians have behaved these last three years

Stay home

And continuing on the staying home theme, Turton says: “With modern technology there is no desperate need to actually be in the office and I think this may become a trend – or indeed should become a trend – where people can work from home at least one day a week (they will get so much more done) and if it’s bad weather then open the laptop and get the coffee on (which is also cheaper than going to Costalotabucks for your daily caffeine fix).”

Forget politics

It may be hard to ignore it, but there is no reason to let Brexit get you down concludes Turton: “If there are on-going dramas with Brexit (after 1 November) then we have to buckle in and get on with things because no amount of worry or anger is going to change the way our politicians have behaved these last three years.”

Plan, plan, plan

You need to prepare says Kara Buffrey, client services and media manager at agency Clearly PR: “In the winter season, if there is one thing that piles up faster than the snow and rain, it’s your workload. Preparing for the busy month of December, when you likely will have a two-week working month is absolutely vital. To do this, my top tip is to take a day to plan out your next two-months’ worth of work and spread it over the remaining weeks before the Christmas break. Ensure you let your clients know of any altering deadlines and reassure them that all work will be delivered before year’s end. This way you are covering your own back – if you fall ill for example, a colleague will know exactly where to pick up. Take the stress away from the festive season by prioritising organisation.”

Preparing for the busy month of December, when you likely will have a two-week working month is absolutely vital.

Ellie Entwistle, senior digital PR manager at search agency The Audit Lab, also emphasises the value of getting ready for December right now: “Winter is a strange time for everyone, it's that one time of year that everything changes. People are changing jobs, taking more time off, most of us are counting down the days and are often distracted, and PR feels the hit of the cold months the most.

“The best advice I can give is plan, plan and plan again, I start planning for December in October so that any surprise that come my way, I'm prepared for.”

Remember, it doesn’t last!

Entwistle also says it is important to think new year, new you! “If December isn't going your way, remember that January is one of the best months, so many people come back to work feeling revitalised and enthusiastic about the new year ahead and are much more open to new ideas.”

Stuff Christmas

Shannon Peerless, managing director of PR agency 10Yetis, says this is a good time to cut through all that Christmas crap, sorry, coverage: “Whilst it’s good to link campaigns to a season, because it makes them more relevant, my tip for getting through winter in PR would be to avoid going overboard with the Christmas hooks unless they are really, really awesome. Journalists get so bogged down with festive fluff that it’s hard to cut through the noise and stand out, so it’s actually quite refreshing when PR teams run campaigns for clients in winter that aren’t too winter or Christmas-focused. You may have better results that way.”

Have a flu jab

Who wants to be ill? No one! Francesca O’Connor, associate partner at agency Milk & Honey PR, says: “I write this at a time when quite literally half the office has caught a sickness bug. A nasty business. So with that front of mind, we are making our winter prep priority a team flu jab.

“Never mind Brexit (ugh), the biggest impact on a business over the winter period can be the illness-relay within the team. It spreads like wildfire and before you know it, you’re doing all your major Christmas campaigns and 2020 planning with a depleted, snotty team, running on empty. The pressure is well and truly on.

“As always, it’s people-first here, so we have a GP and technician taking over one of our (highly sought after!) meeting rooms to carry out flu jabs for those team members opting in. Helping to facilitate resilience at work is something that is extremely important to us an agency – providing practical benefits and solutions, rather than just talking about it all the time.”

Brighten up your office

Think about your environment says Fleur Stamford, comms assistant at agency TopLine Comms: “My top tip for working through the winter is to brighten up your desk. When you’re waking up in the dark and going home in the dark, it can make you miss those warm summer evenings. So instead I try to embrace the cosiness of winter by decorating my desk with candles, flowers and items in a warm colour.

“I also make sure I have a blanket handy and relaxing music playing (I try not to overload on the Christmas music).”

Look after yourself

Nurture yourself says Jenny Mowat, MD of PR firm Babel: “Taking your vitamins and getting fresh air may have been the advice your parents gave you growing up, but there’s a lot of wisdom in those words! Especially when you’re sharing inches of air space with fellow commuters and desk space with your colleagues.

“Straightforward approaches to staying healthy (and avoiding the winter lurgy) are often the best way of surviving the winter.“

Think festive

Mowat also says this is a time to think of ways to have fun: “There are lots of ways you and your team can actually enjoy the winter too. At Babel, we’ve organised an away day for November; our usual festive event in December; and another team outing in January, to maintain team morale even on the bluest of winter days.

“A well-stocked office kitchen cupboard (I’m thinking red wine, seasonal fruit like clementines and pomegranates, and eggnog for the adventurous) will also make for happy, productive, PR pros.”

Have fun at work

It’s fresh out of the oven at PR agency Fourth Day says account executive Laura Thomas: “We hold a Christmas Bake Off Extravaganza in both our Manchester and London offices in the weeks leading up to Christmas. This involves every employee making, from scratch, their own Christmas treat and being judged by their colleagues on categories such as texture, taste, innovation, presentation, and even ‘je ne sais quoi’!

“We find this a fantastic way to keep us going, share a seasonal treat together in the chilly afternoon and bring our social media to life with fantastic images of beautifully crafted deserts.”

Let’s talk Brexit!

Five ways you can Brexit-proof your and your clients’ businesses this winter suggested by Hannah Martin, founder of collective Talented Ladies Club:

  1. Trim the fat – go through your business expenses and remove or reduce what you can to run as lean a business as possible.
  2. Check your profit margins – crunch the numbers and work out where your profit is really coming from and how much you're making. Do you need to increase prices? Or can you focus on particular, more profitable income streams?
  3. Suss out your suppliers – are you getting the best deal for suppliers? And how might they be impacted by Brexit? If you business depends on suppliers, you need to make sure you can still get what you need, at the right quantity and price. It's worth researching alternatives to fall back on if your current suppliers do let you down.
  4. Find your real customers – do you know who is buying from you and why? The more you know about your ideal costumers and what they need, the more you can ensure you're selling the right products and services, with the right messaging to attract them – an advantage that will be even more important with fewer and more nervous customers.
  5. Max up your marketing – in an uncertain market, or a recession, many companies make the mistake of cutting back on marketing. But if there's a smaller market available, you need a larger share of it. So invest time and money in clever marketing, and ensure that whatever money is around comes to your business.

Sorry to end this feature talking about Brexit (again!), but it seems that is all that really anyone cares about these days, on the news anyway, so it can’t be avoided. However, there is also a lot to look forward to this winter, so however you plan to get through it, remember to think positive.

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