Firms discover ways to bring their worlds closer

Having offices around the world is a benefit to PR firms, but keeping staff connected and informed while in different time zones can be a challenge.

Having offices around the world is a benefit to PR firms, but keeping staff connected and informed while in different time zones can be a challenge. Agencies cite face-to-face meetings as the best way for employees to bond, but technology has made inter-office communications easier than ever, with Intranets, blogs, and social networking bridging the gap.

"A lot of our MDs have blogs and rely on them to share all their opinions or points of view," says Rachel Foltz, director of external relations at Ogilvy PR, which has 65-plus offices in more than 45 countries. "It's a great way to say, 'OK, staff, this is an interesting article. This is my perspective. What's yours?'"

Foltz adds that the firm also has its own Facebook group, Flickr gallery, global Twitter channel, and team-specific wikis.

Fleishman-Hillard also offers team-specific Web pages, blogs, and webinars via their Intranet, The Source. Jack Modzelewski, president of client relations for the firm, says it hosts two or three webinars a month about topics such as how to reach a younger audience and how to better use digital tools.

"We try to increase not only the awareness of specific products and capabilities, but also the uptake of them from our people," he adds.

In January, DC-based APCO introduced more personalization to its Intranet, where each of the 28 worldwide offices has its own homepage that can be updated with news and events. The new My Site feature allows individual employees to create their own Web page and share personal information, as well as work-related documents.

Offline, APCO provides beginning to mid-level employees the opportunity to participate in a three-week exchange program to a different office.

"They can come back to their home office and have the benefit of that connectedness, but also cultural understanding," says Margery Kraus, president and CEO of APCO. "It's something people look forward to. It's been extremely popular and successful."

Weber Shandwick, with 80-plus offices worldwide, also has a global exchange program, which includes more long-term options. While located at a different office for up to two years, participants can post blogs about their experiences and what they will bring back to their home office.

The firm's recently launched Intranet, The Hub, hosts these and other blogs and includes more agency information on new clients, media results from past campaigns, podcasts, video blogs focusing on individual offices, and a "Making a Difference" section that highlights pro bono work.

"The Hub was developed over the past nine months based on [staff] feedback from around the world as to what they wanted to see in an Intranet and how we can best share knowledge and best practices," says Andy Polansky, president of WS.

Firms also cite traditional methods of connecting staffers, such as newsletters, monthly meetings with CEOs, and awards programs.

Key points:
Firms are introducing blogs and social networking capabilities into their internal comms efforts

Intranets play a big role in keeping staff informed on news and best practices

Employees can take advantage of global exchange programs and trips abroad to learn about colleagues, as well as different cultures

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