How a Stunning Photograph Can Lead to Media Coverage

I often remind my PR clients and CEO friends to create stunning photographs if they want big media attention. A clear photo with great lighting that tells a story can be the difference between starring in the lead of a story, being buried in the last graph or not being mentioned at all.

Therefore, prior to a publicity push, hire a photographer, like Paul Sakuma who is in the Silicon Valley, or take some clear and pro-like photos with a high-end smartphone. Only use your phone as a last resort. Maybe you have bootstrapped, early-stage startup. A quality photographer’s work is priceless and the investment will be well worth it.

Photo credit: Canva

For executive head shots, go to a nearby studio or set up a shoot at a nearby park. (And follow the pro tips for head shots like don’t wear a logo on your shirt and long sleeves look better than short.)

A phenomenal set of images can mean the difference between being featured in several minutes of a TV spot or 10 seconds.  What’s neat is that a set of photos can be run as a video on a TV or online show. CNBC, Cheddar, Bloomberg TV, or the local and national networks like ABC, CBS and NBC all appreciate a nice set of photos.

My neighbors run an IT company that helps Silicon Valley companies set up their new offices, onboard new equipment or workers, and transition employees to work anywhere roles.

Early on they were asked by The Mercury News for an interview about how a husband and wife can work so well together personally and professionally. This was around Valentines’ Day. They asked me for a tip before the interview. The franchise PR team had set it up. I was asked for the special sauce in helping the reporter.

I told my friends, “Own the photo. When the newspaper writer asks if you are free for a photo shoot, say, ‘Yes,’ or proactively invite them to your office for the shoot.” They did and they ended up being featured in a big part of the newspaper section that morning. Their photo was large and it got their brand positive attention. People saw it and their brand name whether they read the story or not. They starred in the lead of the story.

The co-founders of the IT company have been in business about a decade; they just acquired another franchise office so they are doing well. 

A photograph that is clear and tells a story will be welcome by journalists. photo credit: Canva

The other example happened recently. Although I’m known for technology media relations for software as a service or SaaS companies, I also volunteer helping local not for profits, e.g. the Boy Scouts of America council. (The big campaign we conducted recently was telling the world about the first female Eagle Scouts: That got awesome coverage by the way.)

Anyway, a local major broadcast network wanted to cover various summer camps opening up after a lot of people in Northern California got the COVID vaccine. The TV reporter asked for photos of a particular camp, Hi-Sierra for the show. Note that these were photos for a TV spot. Most people think you have to have b-roll. You don’t. Anyway, the BSA team had a stunning collection of high-resolution camp photos all in one place. I was able to scan the group and pick out the top ones to make the journalist’s deadline. They were featured in a slide show on TV along with an interview with the camp director. It was beautiful coverage.

Just yesterday a business reporter asked me if any of my PR agency clients had photos of their cool local work sites I could share. At about the same time a trade reporter asked for photos for a story based on a press release about an award. I was pleased when my clients gave me quality images for them. The writers were quite pleased as well.

In summary, if you want your organization to star in a story or get more time in a TV news spot, hire a photographer to take a set of quality photos for your next public relations campaign. As an aside, a phenomenal image can also make your social media posts pop.

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Michelle McIntyre consults for Aircover Communications. An IBM PR vet, she also runs her own freelance PR practice and is a ranked future of work influencer. @FromMichelle on Twitter.

Want to Garner Positive Press from a Crisis? Think Again, says Beverly Hills PR Pro Howard Bragman

“Companies are under greater scrutiny than ever before,” warns Howard Bragman, founder of La Brea Communications public relations firm in Beverly Hills, Calif. The firm serves celebrities, doctors, CEOs, elected officials, regular folks and others. He lists Monica Lewinsky’s father as a client. An endorsement quote from TMZ’s Harvey Levin graces the home page of the firm’s website.

He was the speaker at this week’s PRSA-SV weekly event. 

Definition.net defines a crisis as “An unstable situation, in political, social, economic or military affairs, especially one involving an impending abrupt change.” 

Creative public relations professionals might see a problem as an opportunity to get a quote or an opinion in a media story. But Bragman says very few communications folks can successfully do this. He cautions not trying to benefit from bad things happening. 

Bragman who has been doing image work for a few years says now there are many ways to stir up image trouble. A PR crisis used to involve sex, drugs and rock and roll. But now there is social media and more of an emphasis on political correctness. An interesting side comment he made related to politics is the trend for Republican men to not want to get the COVID vaccine.

Bragman commented on ‘larger than life’ tech industry leaders like Elon Musk. He says they are like celebrities: They tend to hang around celebrities (which is true: Musk did marry a performer) and live “larger than life.” Another example is Ashton Kutcher who is known for backing tech startups and his acting career. Kutcher is both in a sense — a celebrity and entrepreneur — which is not uncommon these days.

In advising people like Steve Jobs, Bragman says, “Be careful about taking their authenticity.”  I agree with his assessment: Advise CEO celebrities to not break the law but generally be themselves. 

He cited the importance of knowing the laws that affect a situation. He commented, “Be sensitive when discussing solutions but bring in an attorney when needed.”

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Michelle McIntyre is a PR freelancer in the Silicon Valley, IBM vet and syndicated blogger with 500,000+ impressions on Quora. @fromMichelle on Twitter @Michelle408 on Clubhouse.

Thank you PRSA-SV board for scheduling this informative Friday Forum event.

3 PR Tips for Pitching Trendy Newsletters like Newcomer

Newcomer Founder Eric Newcomer was in Clubhouse today giving tips on pitching stories to journalists. Newcomer is a subscription based newsletter that covers startups and venture capital.

Newcomer wrote about tech for Bloomberg for six years breaking news on IPOs, fundraising rounds, and mergers and acquisitions. Being the Uber beat reporter got him a lot of attention. His image is boosted by his philosophy degree from Harvard College. (I view philosophy and mathematics as typical “genius majors.” Yeah, my son is a math major and tutor at UC Berkeley so I’m biased: I keep telling him to take a philosophy class because I think he’ll love it.)

Mr. Newcomer gave some tips for public relations professionals on how to work with him. This can apply to working with most journalists.

1)      When asked about how best to set up get-to-know interviews, which means there is no hard news to convey, he said that journalists do like to meet important people. He recommended that first it’s wise for the PR person to brief the writer about the person they want him to meet.

My advice is that sometimes a background chat does result in a story because something interesting is said. And if it doesn’t, be patient. A big news announcement will get more thoughtful attention after the get-to-know.

2)      On sending an email pitch, Newcomer said that it’s not practical to be able to answer everybody. My feedback on this and for new PR people is that if the pitch content is valuable a journalist will answer. What Eric Newcomer means is don’t get offended if he doesn’t have the time to send a reply email.

3)      Consider participating in stories outside the strategic plan. What he means is pitch a media outlet that is not on the typical “founder request list.” For example, it seems most founders want to get into the likes of TechCrunch, Forbes, and VentureBeat. But what if Newcomer.co site is a better target? Would it make sense for you as the PR professional to subscribe or even your founder? Mr. Newcomer did say he was up to 1,000 paid subscribers. Due to his background, the list is probably an influential and savvy bunch.

In summary, consider subscribing to one or more of these trendy newsletters. Many rock star tech journalists are starting them and reporting decent subscription results. Why not be innovative and shake up the standard tech startup target media list strategy? ###

Michelle McIntyre is a Silicon Valley PR consultant, IBM vet and a ranked future of work social media influencer. She has a ½ million Quora impressions and was the 2017 VLAB Volunteer of the Year. Thank you PRSA-SV for scheduling Eric Newcomer as a speaker. @fromMichelle on Twitter & @Michelle408 in Clubhouse

37 Percent of People Polled Stopped Buying from a Brand They Consider Unethical

Company marketers are constantly wondering about consumer sentiment. Without this knowledge it’s hard to determine if business decisions make sense. Attitudes massively affect how freelance workers, startups and large businesses market themselves.

Kyle Drop, president and cofounder of Morning Consult says his company frequently reviews citizen sentiment, often daily. The good news he says is, “The future is going to be positive.” (And I don’t think he was referring to positive COVID tests.) He meant we’re moving to a happier more hopeful era. “How does the saying go? The night is always darkest before the dawn,” he added.

“Trust in institutions was in the dumps before the inauguration…but now Spring is coming,” added Dropp. Morning Consult gained some notoriety as being a more accurate election pollster.

It was refreshing to hear the upbeat attitude in his tone.

He elaborated. The details about what people are thinking will help CEOs, human resources and communications folks better figure out what to say or do during times of Civil unrest. Keep quiet, or say or do something?

The answer is do or say the right thing. And don’t do the wrong thing. One example of acting ethically is when corporate political action committees or PACs stopped donating to politicians that voted to overturn the recent valid election.

Institutional trust affects the bottom line: He said that 37 percent of people polled recently have stopped buying from a brand they consider to be unethical.

Lastly Dropp added that young adults do expect and like when CEOs take an ethical stand on societal issues. Therefore, if you are trying to hire, retain or sell to Generation Z and the like, do and say ethical things.

My key takeaway from his comments given during a Silicon Valley Public Relations Society of America event is that a quality public relations professional  or team and data are both important to a company’s bottom line.

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Michelle McIntyre is an award winning Silicon Valley PR consultant and IBM vet. @FromMichelle on Twitter

Make Boosting Your Self Confidence A New Year’s Resolution

Confidence can be the difference between a startup’s or let’s face it any company’s success. Coming off a year of pandemic-related marketing woes like on my end, the cancellation of key conferences and the inability to schmooze over fancy dinners or coffee, how does a founder keep a winning attitude?

And is confidence the key to making it in 2021?

Experts say, yes, confidence is a key factor.

Confidence means security which leads to positive emotion: This results in better performance, says Tony Schwartz, the CEO of The Energy Project and the author of Be Excellent at Anything: The Four Keys to Transforming the Way We Work and Live. 

Schwartz, as quoted in a Harvard Business Review story, concludes that “insecurity plagues consciously or subconsciously every human being I’ve met.”

When I Googled the topic, “How to boost self-confidence” I uncovered a multitude of examples of admired well-known people who overcame their self-doubt.

Notable ones are John Steinbeck who sometimes thought his writing stank, Michelangelo who at first refused the Pope’s job offer to paint the Sistine Chapel due to not believing in himself and Abraham Lincoln who suffered bouts of depression. (Who knew?)

Michelangelo originally turned down the Pope’s job offer to paint the Sistine Chapel due to not believing in his own painting skills. Credit: Wikipedia Commons

They each ended up throwing themselves into their work to counteract these negative thoughts. And look where that landed them in history. On several “top of their game” lists, like favorite U.S. president.

We as entrepreneurs and business people can learn from these examples.

I’ve been taking note of solid advice from others involved in entrepreneurship to accommodate my entry into 2021 as a strong self-employed public relations consultant.

The first tip I latched onto as a new year mantra was from Thomas Ahn, founder and CEO of MAD Ventures of Victoria, British Columbia. MAD backs startups like artificial intelligence darling Layer 6.

At a founder round table discussion, when asked about his vision for the new year Mr. Ahn said his firm excelled at remote work before the pandemic. He said they’ll keep doing what they already do well, which I see as attracting and backing hot startups remotely, and do it with confidence.

For some reason the confidence part of his comment stuck with me in a big way.

I’ll add the tip to do more of something that you do well in 2021. Like if you are great at garnering attention via content marketing – like blogging to get your name out there – publish more blogs. That’s not to say spend more time on the task. Instead work smarter and not harder, like switch from 1,000 to 300-word stories.

C.J. Lipe, founder of Adminologist of Fremont, Calif., adds jump into 2021 with a positive attitude and set smart, measurable time-bound goals. Ms. Lipe says she finds her inspiration in affirmations and lectures found on YouTube.

Lastly, many news articles, for example, in Inc. said improving your style through a hair cut or a new outfit is a confidence booster, as is helping others.

In summary utilize a new confidence boosting tactic in 2021 and enjoy the business rewards that will result. Don’t fall into the sadness trap that has plagued many during these trying times.

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Michelle McIntyre is an award-winning freelance PR consultant, social media influencer and IBM vet based in the Silicon Valley. She enjoys sharing advice, from how to get your small business media coverage to gaining admission to elite colleges via social media. She boasts 485,000 views on Quora as of early January 2021. She’s @FromMichelle on Twitter.

85% of Jobs are Secured Via Networking: Here’s How to Do it Right

As a public relations professional I am often asked about how to best network. Building relationships is part of my job so this is a sensible inquiry.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics concludes that 85 percent of jobs are filled by networking. This can apply to landing a consulting gig as well. If you are looking for work or have a spot on the client roster, remember the tip that many jobs are filled before or right when they are posted. That’s because of networking.

Today I attended a talk hosted by a group of PR professionals: Smart networking tips were discussed. The speaker was Robin Beaman, a PR agency owner who worked for the likes of Oprah Winfrey.

Here are a few networking tips from the talk:

Networking is true relationship-building. It’s making and maintaining a friendship. Think about how to treat a friend. Buddies are nice and supportive to one another through good times and bad.

Giving the other person what they want is part of networking. Yes, this says help someone else. Not all networking is about what the other person can do for you. It’s a two-way street.

Call and follow up. This is definitely true when setting up a job interview or PR agency introduction meeting. However, it can also be applied to networking. Ms. Beaman said that it was not a smooth one step process securing her PR advisor opportunity with Oprah Winfrey. She followed up several times.

Perseverance works. Have a can-do attitude when pursuing opportunities. Robin Beaman said she didn’t just get in touch and immediately get hired to work her PR magic at B.E.T and Oprah Winfrey’s company. It took the right mindset, accompanying hard work and a massive amount of follow up.

In summary, my advice is that attitude plays the biggest role in landing a work opportunity. When you set your mind to doing something and hyper focus on that goal you have a higher likelihood of achieving it.

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Michelle McIntyre is a self-proclaimed Silicon Valley PR Diva, IBM PR vet, and syndicated blogger. She’s achieved 11 awards for outstanding media relations results. Follow her on Twitter @FromMichelle. @PRSASV hosted the event featuring Robin Beaman.

3 Premium Tips to Perfecting the Popular But Perplexing Press Release

How to best write and finalize a stunning press release has challenged a plethora of marketing and media relations folks since the early days of formal public relations. Setting aside things like  the Common Sense pamphlet which stirred up anti-British sentiment before the Boston Tea Party, modern PR actually started in the early 1900s. This is when companies first hired PR practitioners to properly publicize their products and services.

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[Photo credit: Musicians and singers pose at the opening of the Operatic Liberty Loan Offices at Aeolian Hall, New York City on June 5, 1917. Edward Bernays, the mustached man on the left originated the first press release. Photo is from Stefan Scheufelen’s blog. ] 

Sigmund Freud’s nephew, Edward Bernays is often called the father of PR.

According to PR textbooks, he said that audiences had to be thoughtfully understood and persuaded to see things from the “client’s perspective.” Well yes, and also, no.

What’s happened in the technology business at both startups and big brand names is the client’s perspective has gone too far. If the media’s perspective was more deeply considered results would improve in a profound fashion.

In tech, the biggest problem seems to be product managers who push the team to publish me too technology updates. A company mentions it has cloud computing solutions but then years later announces its first cloud-based product. This is the type of thing that turns off reporters. Someone who hears this confusing message will roll their eyes and ignore your email pitch. Yes, mention the link to cloud. But maybe the focus should be a problem it can solve, cool analogy, link to a more mainstream trend or a neat beta case study.

Reporters are humans like anyone else. If PR practitioners can make their press releases appeal more to the average person by talking about something truly interesting and timely while linking the theme to hard company news, like a significant new product update or acquisition, there would be way better results.

Here are three other tips to consider:

1) Keep it brief. There are two advantages: there is a higher chance that a writer who receives hundreds press releases a day will actually read it. The second advantage is cost. If you use a service like Cision PR Newswire you can cut the cost in half with a shortened release. eReleases is another cost-effective option by the way.

2) Make your headline direct. Tell the news plainly. If you have to dress it up too much, hide the real news, or it’s taking too long to edit properly maybe the message you want to tell would make a better blog story or letter to customers and prospects.

3) Know your ultimate goal. It’s probably not to have the press release reproduced on 100 random websites, although that is a nice SEO boost. Marketing loves exposure even if it’s not the perfect feature story saying your product is the best and your company’s future looks bright. Your goal is to convince a reporter to call you with questions for a story.

Good luck with your next press release and remember, journalists are humans. They like thought-provoking words and storytelling just like anyone else.

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Michelle McIntyre, founder of Michelle McIntyre Communications LLC is an award-winning Silicon Valley PR diva and IBM vet known for making B2B tech solutions sexy. @FromMichelle on Twitter

PR Advice for Tech Startup Founders With One of A Kind Products

by Michelle McIntyre

As a seasoned public relations professional, I’ve enjoyed many productive and passionate discussions with genius technologists who want their “one of a kind” startup product covered by the media.

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Here’s a tip for inventors. Quality feature stories are written because something is societally relevant, interesting cocktail conversation fodder or a unique problem solver. Journalists do want to know, how will this change the world?

During an initial consultation with a founder usually I start out by asking what is different about their new product or service.  Sadly 75 percent of the time the answer is, “There is no other product like ours.” And it’s hard to respond without objection because  99 percent of the time that’s not true. Usually I can find an example of several similar products via a simple internet search.

The secret to a company getting coverage is simple. Leave the ego at the door. Quit thinking a product is the only one of its kind and ask others like an experienced PR professional what is really interesting about your story.

One founder I met with was finalizing an app that tracked a child’s to-do list. I searched and found another app that made the exact same claim. They in turn switched to a communications plan that made more sense having to do with showcasing their expertise in productivity instead of touting its uniqueness. It had a beautiful interface by the way.

Another tip is when you share information with the person you have assigned PR to don’t hold back on the good stuff. One founder I worked with waited a few weeks to disclose he was born with a serious medical problem and had several surgeries to correct it. Through diet and exercise he overcame it. His online fitness community he created was partly born because of this rough start in life. As soon as he told me, I told a Business Insider writer. She liked this angle about the founder and wrote a feature about him and his co-founder.

This app was also quite unique though. It weeded out bully comments automatically. That in fact was an impressive feature and resulted in nice coverage in TIME. But when you start with a claim, that a new product is super unique, unless you have a third party expert saying it, it’s usually a turn-off to writers.

To quote Journalist Dean Takahashi via a story he filed on PR tips in Venturebeat a few years ago, “What I love is finding something unique and interesting to write about. I want to find something magical, and I think most journalists, even the most cynical of the bunch, share the joy of discovering something really cool. Sometimes the real story isn’t the game itself. It’s the person who made it.”

I don’t mean to call out a founder who is a hard working, award-winning and an obviously smart inventor. The point is be very careful about telling someone your product is one of a kind. It probably is not.

I worked with a brilliant technologist with an artificial intelligence startup who wrote a celebrated technical paper years before the formation of the company. The technological phenomenon discussed in the paper was “in” iPhone’s Siri. When I pitched a writer I started with that detail, its impact on technology that tens of millions of people use. (Last I checked around 41 million people used the Siri voice assistant.)

This business reporter filed a story soon after. And that story focused on the startup solution, the funding and its venture capitalist. But the hook was the impact of what was in that paper.

In summary, journalists get pummeled with hundreds of pitches and press releases a day. Make sure you leave your ego at the door when talking to them: test your story line or pitch on a friend or family member to see if they say, “That’s interesting.”

Let others decide what’s interesting about your startup story, trust their feedback and go with it. Be careful going down the path of saying it’s a one of a kind product. It likely is not.

Photo: Shutterstock

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Michelle McIntyre is the president of Michelle McIntyre Communications LLC, a seven year old tech PR consulting firm. She’s the recipient of 11 awards for outstanding results mostly from IBM. She’s held numerous nonprofit executive board positions focused on enhancing the lives of children. @frommichelle on Twitter

 

3 Ways to Stink at PR And How To Improve

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Some people just stink at PR for example by offering boring spokespersons. As background, PR stands for “public relations” which typically means getting press coverage. It’s coming up with messages and then passing those on to the press. If you went to PR school like me you learn that what PR really means is changing someone’s mind about something. But the modern definition is media relations.

Great PR is about knowing journalists’ wants, needs and deadlines and actually doing what they ask. It’s so simple: learn what they want and give it to them. For example the IDG media will tell you they value CIO/chief information officer viewpoints on timely trends as well as customer case studies that are interesting and relevant. Henry Norr, formerly with the San Francisco Chronicle said something that stuck with me: “Your client is the media. It’s not the company that pays you. Make the media happy and you will do well in PR.”

Back to not giving reporters what they want. How many times have I seen a PR manager or director try to put a triangular peg into a round hole? The journalist wants a story: they want to discuss a problem and a solution relating to something timely. They want eyeballs on their story. Make sure what you pitch them falls within their beat. If they need to interview a venture capitalist by 4 pm about hot collaboration startups then by golly, get them that exact thing or keep quiet.

What is too common is bad PR people announce a third generation me-too beta product via long press release just to get some news out. It fills up journalists’ inboxes. It gets ignored. It makes it far less likely that they will open an email from that PR person again.

I watch some people crash and burn in their PR jobs by never innovating on what the marketing lead wants which is typically product advertising and churning out press release after press release of garbage.

What are the three main problems contributing to bad PR, and how can you avoid them?

1) Spokespersons cannot tell a story. I have 30 years of PR experience and a boat load of awards for results mostly from IBM. I can lead a horse to water but brothers and sisters, I cannot make them drink. If you are insisting on a boring spokesperson who cannot story-tell or your only key message is boring, you will not get a story. I repeat. An interview does not mean a story. A spokesperson can easily kill a story. I’m very good at securing interviews. If you blow it, I can’t save you. How to fix it: do better media training or use a different spokesperson. When I was working with a large company often I’d “hand pick” my own spokesperson even if they were the non obvious choice. Once in a while the obvious choice was the best one though. (I love when that happens. There was a sales VP in a software division who could story-tell like Burl Ives. He was my favorite.)

2) A boring press release. Issuing a news release with boring non-news will get you blacklisted by some writers. They will open one blah press release and probably ignore your next email. Another route to take: If you need to get something out there so your company gets attention, try a feature press release instead of saying you are on your fourth product version, or “Here’s our beta product.”  Make it an interesting story: tie to something happening in the world that is conversation-worthy. Test the story on a family member. Teens will give you candid advice. I can make a commodity technology product interesting by discussing something interesting related to it. The writer then has a real headline and angle. Did you really expect them to write a story saying, “So and so company announces a second generation beta product with no new technology that is not shipping yet”? If they wrote the truth you’d probably be pretty angry. Unfortunately those types of details are often hidden in press releases. The writer finds this out in an interview and then they drop the idea of doing a story.

3) Re-announcing something. Years ago as a consultant I was asked to pitch a story about a new division of a large Asian company opening  up in the Silicon Valley. I placed a nice story within 30 minutes which made everyone happy. However, I found out a little while later that this was the second time they announced this exact news. Now I did  place that story, a win, but the reporter took my word for it and filed fast. After she found out it had been issued previously she was a bit put off. No one else filed a story. Now I know to do an internet search for that news before I pitch it. If I see an old press release on the same news, I change up the way I talk about it. Perhaps it’s a news pitch, “A look at where this new division is six months later.” The way to prevent this: search the news online before taking someone’s word for it that it is news. If  it’s not change your pitch strategy and tactic.

 

 

So if you aren’t getting press coverage, ask yourself, am I giving journalists what they really want? And review your press release schedule and choice of spokesmen. Tell an interesting story or discuss a trend. Pick the non obvious person to tell it if necessary.

Making a simple change might save your PR program and your job.

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Michelle McIntyre gets attention for companies mostly in the technology space through creative press relations and content marketing. An IBM vet, she’s a micro-influencer on Twitter in the area of future of work and recipient of more than 10 awards for outstanding results. Follow her @FromMichelle

I’ve Been A Remote Worker for 20 Years: Here’s A Prediction

It’s interesting to hear everyone go ga ga over doing a Zoom business meeting or cocktail party. To me online meetings are no big deal and after many meetings from my home office for the past 20 years, I’d rather just make a phone call. People are inviting me to meet via Zoom as if it’s super special or a game or something. I appreciate it but it’s not special or fun to me. It’s business as usual. I’m not going to glamorize it. And be careful what you talk about using the free services. Your security may not be so good unless you pay for a pro version.

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However, regarding birthday celebrations, yes, it is a nice gesture to see everyone’s faces on the screen. That’s different and is nice if you live in different countries or states. I would rather see the “drive by parades” instead if your buddies are close enough to do that.

I’ve been a remote worker both for IBM and for myself for the most part since 2000 when my son was born. He is finishing up his freshman year at University of California Berkeley right now. He turns 20 this year. He’s been around as long as I’ve been a remote worker!

I say I worked from home “for the most part” because when I was West region PR manager for  IBM I had a sweet office in Mountain View, which I think is now owned by Google, as well as a guest office at IBM Almaden Research Center. But I mainly worked at home. And by the way my son went to daycare while I did that. It would have been a bit dangerous for him to wander around the house as a baby or toddler during my super busy IBM days.  (Remote work parents of toddlers: be careful.)

Here’s my prediction about what’s going to happen: in the next 18 months we will all need to be able to turn on and off remote work. I don’t believe everyone will “turn remote” permanently though. I think schools will still be around. Offices and work buildings will still be around. So don’t get rid of your printer-copiers, desks or chairs.

After listening to numerous interviews with medical doctors and data scientists from places including Columbia and UC Berkeley, I have a strong opinion about what might happen.  I believe that almost all businesses will have both an in person and remote work option.

During the next year people will go back to school and to the office. But at some point, they will told to go back home. For example, they could go back to school and work in August but be called back home for a few months in December or February. These are made up months: the exact day will depend on what happens with the COVID-19 curve. But a UC Berkeley PhD said today during an online teleconference that COVID cases could very well start to increase again during flu season: that’s when people may be called home again.

Whether students and workers go out or go home will depend on if people are getting sick from something that isn’t very treatable. So if the COVID-19 numbers go up we go home. They go down, we go to the office. Therefore my prediction is that we’ll have this back and forth lifestyle for at least one and a half years. Then maybe there will be a vaccine and things might go back to normal again.

What problems will occur? This will put more stress on college students who go to schools far away from their parents’ homes. They have to decide, will they stay at their college apartment when they get called back to online school or move out and go to mom and dad’s? Will landlords give students a break if they move out back home for three months? One of more vocal parents from the UC Berkeley Cal Parents Discussion Group Facebook page suggested simply asking landlords to put a special clause into the leases. If you move out, maybe you can get a break that month.

Regarding K-12, poorer kids will need to get laptops and WiFi supplied to them. One school district representative from New York said just this week that around 20% of their K-12 school children don’t have technology or bandwidth at home for online learning. And they have figured out how to solve about 10 percent of this problem but are working on the rest of it. Business, schools and communities: let’s work on solving this digital divide problem as a team.

My advice is simple: go with the flow and stay flexible. Flexibility is the name of the game moving forward. But wait, there’s more.

Help someone and you will get a favor back at some point: I’ve already experienced that. I bought hand sanitizer for a stranger and got a much needed essential item literally gifted to me soon after.

Try to stay healthy because if you get sick you will recover faster.

Good luck and happy online meetings everyone. I wish you all long lives with much toilet paper. And sorry if I missed your fun Zoom party. It reminds me too much of work.

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Michelle McIntyre is the founder of Michelle McIntyre Communications LLC, a tech PR consulting firm in Saratoga, Calif. She’s an IBM vet and also a future of work influencer. Follow her @FromMichelle on Twitter.