The great pandemic lockdown and technology were made to go together, whether you’re watching streaming video, downloading another app or seeing your weekly screen time go through the roof. This is even more the case when it comes to COVID-19-driven remote working. It’s as if the cloud-based work environment had been waiting for a pandemic to come along.
All of us are tapping into one version or another of what one might call the “social distancing stack,” the collection of apps, tools and platforms that help us negotiate the day’s tasks when the rest of our teams are out of sight.
For a closer look at the range of services available to help those working from home, I turned to CabinetM, the Boston-based platform that provides a workspace for auditing and evaluating real or virtual tech stacks, geared primarily to marketing teams. The company recently put together its own version of an interactive social distancing stack, with a selection of tools for each essential work function. It’s interactive because users can click through and find out more about each solution.
Some of the categories are applicable to any business type, from marketing to PR to journalism. Teleconferencing and video conferences, file sharing and team chat -- Slack, anyone? -- can be used by any team, but there are also categories that should be of particular interest to PR and communications professionals.
I checked in with CabinetM cofounders Anita Brearton, CEO, and president and COO Sheryl Schultz to see if they agree.
One category that jumps out is video for email, which just seems to be a much more current way of engaging an audience in some circumstances than issuing a conventional press release.
“I think it is something people have not really tapped into yet,” said Brearton. “If it takes off, we’ll probably be bombarded with video emails.”
Even more interesting from the perspective of brand communications are virtual customer communities.
“The real goal,” said Brearton, “is to get users interacting with each other, so they’re sharing tips and tricks. In this environment, these are even more important, because a lot of people are lonely. People are looking for people to talk to. This is important technology for this time.”
It’s an opportunity, then, not just for brands to talk to customers – although it’s at least that – but for customers to form communities and talk to each other? “Yes. And help each other,” she said.
The last and smallest category represented in CabinetM’s stack should really call out to PR professionals. It comprises services for mass notifications and is only represented by Stericycle, a niche solution for the healthcare industry, and One Call Now. The latter offers the possibility of sending communications to defined audiences through a range of channels, including in an emergency or crisis.
“Universities were natural users of this,” said Brearton, “but yes, if you’re running a large corporation, this is a way you could reach all of your employees, and it’s more personal than an email. There’s lots of functionality.”
The social distancing stack, Brearton explained, isn’t just something of temporary interest.
“In this environment, when we think about moving to permanent work-from-home, which a lot of companies are talking about, once the external environment is closer to normal, you are going to want to have ways to know that people are being productive,” she says.
In other words, expect another category to be added to the stack: remote workforce-productivity tracking.