How the Gig Economy Will Affect Your PR Team in ’16

BY JOYCE BOSC, CEO, BOSCOBEL MARKETING COMMUNICATIONS INC.

Should 2016 be as unpredictable as 2015, communicators and marketers will be thrown a bevy of assignments with little warning.

While predictions about the economy in 2016 rarely agree, those brands that emerge from the economic morass next year will confront their often understaffed marketing departments with new assignments without providing them new staff. Being asked to create content for a website launch within 60 to 90 days or sooner is the new normal. Get used to it.

Fortunately another trend expected to continue rising in 2016 is the gig economy. “This transition is nothing less than a revolution,” The Atlantic wrote recently, adding, “We haven’t seen a shift in the workforce this significant in almost 100 years when we transitioned from an agricultural to an industrial economy.” By 2020, 40% of American workers will be independent contractors due to the gig economy trend, a study from Intuit predicted.

Organization is Key

The rise of the gig economy means smaller PR teams, at brands or agencies, can supplement themselves, adding considerable talent to their skillset without requiring heavy overhead. As the subhead above says, organization is critical. Making sure phone numbers, email addresses etc. are accurate is drudgery, yet a trade show, product launch, acquisition or even a crisis are examples of times when smaller teams will be glad their freelance rosters is current and that the gig economy exists.

Here’s a checklist to help you take advantage of the power of the gig economy to augment your team:

1. Get Professionals on Board Now: As you build your team, make sure each consultant has signed a W-9 and a current consulting agreement, which should include payment and NDA terms. I find December is a good time to update my roster, which includes name, rate, specialty area, current work samples and bios. It’s also a good idea to send your consultants an updated style guide and SEO keywords for the new year.

2. Building is the Start: Once you’ve found experienced consultants you should frequently update your roster with new talent. It’s one way of avoiding a costly and rushed mis-hire.

3. Specialty Contractors:

  • Video Support: Most small PR teams lack a video staff, so it’s important to have several video support sources when the need arises for video content for YouTube, a website or media training.
  • Web CMS Developers: Many brands want their websites in WordPress and you may have a WordPress developer in-house. But what if they want Drupal, Joomla or ExpressionEngine? You need to have pros who know these resources, too.
  • Event Publicity:Planning ahead is critical. Approaching trade shows usually mean frenzied activity in this area.
  • Social Media Experts:We all have this in-house, but perhaps more bandwidth is needed, so have resources to back up your internal team.
  • Mergers & Acquisitions Communications: December is a very heavy M&A month for many industries. Even though you may have M&A specialists on your team, it’s often a good idea to have consultants ready to add in December.

4. The Rule of Three’s: A good rule of thumb is to have at least three freelance specialists for each service area. One way to build your roster is to ask for referrals from consultants you employ. You can also earn points from them when you refer them to other consultants who might hire them to do overflow work. One of the best places to find new specialists is at industry events and association conventions. In fact, some associations, such as the IABC, has a Special Interest group of Independents, which is extremely useful.

Finally, remember to do a post-project briefing with team members, full-time and gigers, to review what worked and what didn’t. Maintain a lessons learned folder for each project.

Perhaps my best advice is to always be on the lookout for talent. New professionals enter the gig economy daily with differing skill sets. In all communications, people are your assets. You need the best in-house staff and the best consultant roster in your market.

Contact: jbosc@boscobel.com @JoyceBosc

 This article originally appeared in the December 14, 2015 issue of PR News. Read more subscriber-only content by becoming a PR News subscriber today.