Trim The Fat From Your Newsfeeds16 years, 11 months ago
If information is controlling you rather than the other way around, it is time to take serious action for the sake of business effectiveness and your personal life. Jim Surguy suggests seven steps to a clearer super highway.
The information super highway was meant to be the answer to our dreams, a way of simplifying our lives, letting us access information instantaneously and organising it seamlessly. However the reality for the time-pushed public relations professional operating for numerous clients across different time zones can be a headache.
The pros of new technologies are strong. The internet and email give you access to millions of news sources. You can keep abreast of relevant information for your clients and there are forums that provide quick ways to deliver your points of view just as quickly – if only you had the time to access, search, sift and action all of these opportunities.
Constantly public relations executives are finding that their time is seeping away with all these sources of news. And then you have to be up to speed with the new social networking phenomenon – websites built on user generated content. Keeping up to speed with the twists and turns of MySpace, flickr and YouTube is practically a full time job in itself!
Trying to handle your information can be addictive, preventing you from switching off and giving quality time to your private life. With the mobile, the BlackBerry, the laptop at your fingertips and your mind plugged in for PR opportunities, consistently you can feel that you need to deal with everything that comes your way. You could even fall into the trap of not taking a proper break when you are on holiday.
But allowing the local and global news feeds, messages boards and blogs that you access to get out of hand can be perilous. You could be in danger of not prioritising what really matters. You could fail your clients and also on a more serious level damage your health under the strain. So now’s the time to get clever with your information overload and stay on top so that it’s a help not a hindrance. Follow these seven steps:
(1) Take Time Out To Plan
First of all realise how important your organisation of information is and take some time out to assess the best way of handling it. Dedicating time to this now will mean that you are time rich at a later stage. If you need help with your planning, a service such as 37signals, an online project management service for team management or personal activity planning may help (http://37signals.com/)
(2) Develop A Personal Information Management Strategy
Think about the options that you could use for handling the situation and decide which would work best for you in your circumstances:
• Is every news source that you are signed up to still essential?
• Is there anyone you can delegate work to?
(3) Take Control Of Your Email
For email, it helps to know how your system works and what you can do with it. You may be missing an extra facility for sorting out your information if you haven’t fully explored its capability.
One essential is to make sure that you have your email inbox sorted and arranged in the best way for you to access what you need immediately. Set it out so that you can see the senders, subject headings and dates easily. Look at emails once and sort them into other folders or delete immediately to keep your inbox as clear as possible.
Also use your filters and organising tools to tackle the urgent emails first. Resist the temptation to keep checking back and forth. Instead have defined times of the day for checking your information and deal with it.
(4) Use A News Reader
A news reader is a browser that allows you to access lots of news from different sources in one place. It can help you to cut down on the number of websites you visit for news and information and help you to trim the number of newsletters and alerts flooding your inbox. Bloglines is a popular, free service that you can use (http://www.bloglines.com/).
Also try to categorise any emails you receive in your email inbox into folders based on priority and theme such as ‘breaking stories’, ‘competitor press releases’, ‘industry news’ and ‘thinking fodder’.
Teamwork can help you manage your information better. If there is someone you can delegate to, use them to monitor specific topic areas or particular newsfeeds. They can then update you instantly on what you need to know.
(6) Use Bookmarks
On the web you can easily be distracted by interesting stories you see that might not be totally essential to your area or you might think that a colleague or contact would find useful. Why not save it for later by using a bookmarking service such as del.iciou.us (http://www.delicious.com/) or notes programme like Evernote (www.evernote.com).
(7) Private Blogs And Wikis
You can also set up your own private blogs and wikis (websites which any designated person can add to or edit) to relay information about a specific topic. That way, new information can be added by your team and shared easily. If you want a password protected creations and hosting site, try Typepad (http://www.typepad.com/). More organisations are using this way to communicate between one another for minimum cost.
The tips outlined here are all about being just that bit more organised and savvy. Take the advice on board and you can be sure that clients will be impressed by your up-to-date knowledge of issues and relevant events as well as your time management abilities. What’s most crucial though is the facility this gives you to react on their behalf to unfolding events and issues in a prompt and informed manner.
As a PR professional you don’t actually have a choice. As the old cliché goes, it’s a 24/7 world out there and if you don’t get yourself in the loop you’ll get left behind by those who are prepared to invest the time and effort to do so. Good luck.
Jim Surguy, senior partner, Results International.mail the author
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