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Public Media: Relationships & Communication-Remote and In Person

Lori Zoss Kraska (underwriting expert, nonprofit consultant, and owner of Growth Owl, LLC) and Barry Nelson (public media consultant) were discussing fundraising challenges for FY ’21, and took the organizational drone up to the 40,000 foot level and came to the conclusion that relationships and communication are the first things to address as many plan how iterations of ‘the workplace’ will look like in the near future, and how we’ll navigate external relationships.

Lori: On the side of corporate support, underwriting teams have a great opportunity to engage with clients in a spirit of collaboration. For instance, account executives in conjunction with their managers can host Zoom meetings bringing together like underwriters to talk about their challenges, resource management, and how they’re dealing with working within remote teams. This bringing together of like organizations by the underwriting team parallels the station’s commitment to community and demonstrates its positioning as strategic partners with underwriters.

For instance, an account executive can host a Zoom meeting with various arts organizations who continue to struggle in this COVID 19 challenged environment. Besides issues with funding, encouraging a discussion around day to day operations, strategic planning, and general business fosters a spirit comradery and connects like organizations that in the past may not have connected.

Barry: No matter how time-consuming all of those meetings used to be, it’s the hallway conversations and casual chat that really made going to a workplace fulfilling and fun. You get to know your workmates more holistically by working with them in person. Managers have the opportunity to guide staff and conduct professional development informally. Staff has the opportunity to vent about one thing or another, and act as a sounding board for others.

Lori: That same spirit of comradery I mentioned earlier can also continue within the underwriting team itself. Managers, encourage a sporadic Zoom meeting meet up with your underwriting teams to talk about anything but business! With working remotely becoming the norm longer than expected, be sure your teams continue healthy social interactions. Just knowing team members are there experiencing the same challenges and opportunities helps with day to day focus.

Barry: And with remote work proliferating, the meetings haven’t stopped. Meetings and business are essential, of course. I argue that the social aspect is just as essential to a healthy, productive workplace.

There are colleagues who began their work anew in January and barely had enough time to learn the names and duties of staff members before they were sent home to work remotely.

There are others who’ve served in public media for decades and planned to retire, but the pandemic has hampered their ability to spend quality hours passing along wisdom to the next generation of leaders.

We sometimes have a minute or two before a video meeting to catch up with colleagues before the business gets underway. That’s not enough. But it’s also important that we preserve each other’s time and use meetings to move issues forward.

So what to do? For many of us, it means more zooming---but these meetings will be different.

1. Set up small groups of colleagues inside and outside of your department to talk about what’s going on in your area. Don’t try to brainstorm. Just listen. Share what you can, and keep the conversation lively and factual. (45 mins once a week)

2. Form clusters of ‘work friends’ with whom you can occasionally share, ok, we’ll call it ‘gossip,’ to help you and them get things off your chest. Maybe it’s a virtual ‘cocktail hour’ or lunchtime chat. (30-40 mins every few weeks)

3. Managers need to be in touch with staff and evaluating performance/state of mind to help them utilizing empathy

4. Staff need to be in touch with managers to update them on progress, but also to express challenges or impediments that the manager or a colleague can help mitigate through intervention or other support

Keeping yourself open to colleagues and clients will ultimately result in better and stronger relationships.

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