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We wrote yesterday about an interesting article in PR Week written by Richard Houghton called ‘The virtual agency model leads to concrete benefits’.

Of course it stood out to all of us at Elephant because we are indeed a virtual marketing agency, and we are particularly proud of the way in which this modern business model works. Read our early article on the subject (link)

But I was particularly interested to read the piece, because I felt I was one of the people Houghton was musing about – odd but true.

One particular paragraph in the article stood out:

“The virtual agency model may also be the answer to one of the biggest issues the PR agency sector faces: the loss of highly experienced and talented females in their late twenties and early thirties. We have been slow to find ways of bringing these valuable fee earners back into the workplace and have lost out as a result.”

Yes, yes, yes….this hits the nail on the head. You see I am a late twenties PR consultant, who is expecting her first child in June next year. I am one of those women Richard is talking about. A woman who has reached a point in their career where they have senior expertise – likely to be an account manager at the very least – who could well be lost from the industry for many years, if not indefinitely, because they have chosen (gasp) to have a family.

Claire Marshall, PR associate at Elephant Creative

And why? Well, because the traditional PR agency is still in the 9-5 office world, part-time isn’t a widespread term in the industry, neither is flexible working hours. It’s fast-paced (as it should be in many ways) and long hours.

However, who is to say that someone who carries out their work between the hours of 7am – 12pm, then 5pm-8pm will achieve any different results to those typing and calling away between 9am and 5pm?

The virtual approach is extremely flexible. I feel confident that after a maternity break I can phase work back in that fits around my life – but still deliver what my agency needs from me. I am judged not on what time I arrive in an office – but the quality of work I produce and the hours I put in – whenever those hours that may be and wherever I do them (incidentally from my home office).

Of course there needs to be excellent lines of communication, clever use of technology and rigorous systems for time-keeping for the model to work, but this isn’t a barrier, it’s actually something every business should embrace – virtual or not.

There are already several marketing consultants within Elephant Creative who have achieved this holy grail of ‘work life balance’ – having children, but also managing major contracts with clients, using their expertise at a level they expect, not starting back at the bottom after leaving to bring up children.

Technology is moving quickly – why not businesses too? If we want to keep talented and skilled females in the PR and marketing sector then for me the only answer is to move to a more flexible virtual approach.

By Claire Marshall, PR associate of Elephant Creative

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