15th June 2020

5 tips to create great content across remote teams

Kelly Court
Managing Director, US & JAPAC

The world of work is hurtling towards a remote working majority, and it didn’t need a pandemic to nudge it that way. In less than 10 years UpWork predicts 73% of all departments will boast remote workers. This means, the way content is created amongst teams will shift too.

It used to be brainstorms in the boardroom with paper and pens that got the juices flowing, conversations across desks that clarified confusion, and conversations around the water cooler where ‘eureka’ moments were shared with the team.

But things have changed and now content collaboration across remote teams needs a strategy of its own.

Get it wrong and you risk fractured workflows and poor content output.

At Branch Road, we’ve been working remotely since inception, spending more days in the offices of our clients than our own, and collaborating daily with colleagues quite literally at the opposite ends of the earth.

And we’ve learnt a few lessons along the way.

So as the world moves closer to a remote working majority, here are five tips on how you can produce your best work with a globally dispersed team.

1. Equip your team with the tools they need

In a piece of research we did with our client Dropbox, we found that 29% of people’s time at work is spent on tasks that don’t add direct value to the business. Teams are distracted, so you need to equip them with the right tools to keep them focused on the project at hand.

For a team to work effectively together, producing the best content possible from the comfort of their own homes, build your working ecosystem around a narrative of effective collaboration.

Consider platforms that allow your employees – wherever they are in the world – to easily communicate, dip into projects, update them, comment and share.

But be careful not to saturate this ecosystem with an abundance of noise. Too many tools means too many distractions. Consider what will enable your teams to work efficiently; a platform to communicate, one to collaborate and somewhere to store and share files.

2. Strategise to streamline 

With every piece of content, you need to first build a strategy of execution. This is split into two stages: how your team will operate and what your content will look like.

Before beginning a project, define the team structure, have a dialogue with your team to assess needs, expectations, and what’s reasonable. Consider the roles and responsibilities of each team member, play to their unique strengths and delegate.

Be sure to set a clear process for collaboration and communication.

Then, when the team strategy is in place, turn your focus to the content. Understand your objectives and what you’re trying to achieve, define your audience and how best to reach them, build an integrated approach to the content with clearly defined next steps and configure how you’ll measure success.

3. Build rigid processes and stick to them 

When creating content across locations it’s crucial to have solid processes in place. This is even more pertinent when working in different time zones. Teams need to understand workflows, how the batons of creation are passed and when and where to save it all.

Start with mapping the timeline of the project. Using a web-based organiser like Trello helps teams stay on track with oversight of who’s responsible for what and when tasks should be completed.

At the same time, map out an internal reviews process – who needs to eyeball which parts of the project and who gives final sign-off on content.

You also need to agree where all the collateral, background information and content files are going to be stored. It needs to be somewhere easily accessible amongst dispersed team members, from any device, and at any time, like Dropbox or Google Docs.

Always include weekly check-ins as part of your processes as well. It’s easy to skip over meetings and catch ups when everyone is out of the office and sitting in different time-zones, but this is vital to keeping on top of workloads, understanding how projects are progressing against timelines and where more focus is needed.

4. Allocate digital champions to drive the engine

One of the biggest challenges for dispersed teams is ensuring projects stay on track and members remain focused. But managing a remote team is a completely different ball-game to running one in-person.

At Branch Road, to drive our content creation engine, we allocate ‘Digital Champions’ to projects.

This person has the responsibility to ensure projects not only stay on-track to meet deadlines, but that team members are full aware of their responsibilities, the objectives of the content they’re creating and the workflow processes they need to follow.

But perhaps most importantly, the Digital Champion’s role is to keep the team talking. Clear and consistent communication is the most important cog in the engine of remote content creation.

Just as a football captain is expected to talk to his team throughout a match, so should your Digital Champion. They are the ones to ensure all members make the weekly check-ins, they touch base with those who might be lacking in Slack involvement, and they chase for answers to questions that might be going unanswered.

This might sound similar to the traditional office ‘Account Manager’ but as office culture can’t be directly replicated in a remote setting, neither can people’s job roles. You might find another member of the team who has more experience with web-based workflow apps is better-suited.

5. Trust in your colleagues

High trust within a team fosters better results – collaboration is streamlined, communication flows easily, it feels supportive and safe to share ideas, and there’s a true sense of team work and commitment.

But how do you get there? How can you trust your colleagues to be productive when they’re working from home?

Part of this is answered by setting a clear strategy at the beginning of a project where everyone understands their individual responsibilities and the team’s overall goal.

But teams also need to re-evaluate how they are measured. In a remote working environment, the focus should be on output rather than the number of hours people work, evaluating what team members have to show.

It’s likely they’ll be walking the dog, scrolling through social media or catching up on the news throughout the day. So don’t get hung up on the thought of how many hours employees are sitting at their desk.

Monitoring teams who work remotely means trusting them to accomplish exactly what was agreed to.

And some of this will be learned through trial and error. If your team is new to remote working, it will take time to see where responsibilities are not being met, whether that’s through lack of communication, procrastination or laziness.

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