The 24/7, always-on, constant connection due to digital technology has revolutionized the public relations industry (as well as every facet of our culture). It's made communication faster. It's built new ways of engaging publics. It's changed the face of brands and organizations around the globe. And it also means that PR Pros need to be more savvy than ever before in order to expertly orchestrate and manage relationships through technology. It also means that we need to find ways to untether.
The concept of being digitally tethered refers to the constant pull we feel toward technology. We must check our social media sites. We need to connect to email. We have to reply to texts. More and more, we're recognizing that, while connection and technology has helped and changed the PR industry, it's also vital to find ways to step away and refresh our creativity. Time, Forbes, and the Huffington Post are just a few of the of the organizations talking about how healthy it is to unplug.
Most of us probably agree that this is a good thing. But the real question is how it is possible to pull this off in an industry that needs us to be available and connected. Here's a few tips I've used.
Manage Expectations: While it is important to be responsive, most of us do not have to be on call all the time. There is someone else who can be on call when we're unavailable. Purposefully put a plan in place that assures you (and anyone on your staff) can get at least one day away where they aren't on call. I highly recommend two days.
Plan for Success: Even after you've got someone on call for any crisis that comes up, it can be very tempting to just check your email really quickly, or to login to a social network "just to see what's happening." The thing is, once we do that--our "untethering" fails. We swing right back into the cycle of our regular activity. Before you know it, 30 minutes to an hour has gone by on a day when you didn't need to be on call. I suggest turning your computer off, leaving your phone in another room and turning "alerts" off. If there is a real emergency, you can set your phone to allow certain people's call through. Other than that, enjoy your time off.
Have a Plan: It is very difficult to go from being on all the time to doing nothing. The point of untethering isn't to do nothing. It's to enjoy non-digital things. Read a book. Take a hike. Try a new restaurant. Grab coffee with a friend. Whatever you most enjoy, plan to do it. You want to rejuvenate and be about something other than the digital world.
Why it Matters: My friends, students and clients can all attest that I'm a huge advocate for digital technology. I'm wildly optimistic about it's power to build communication and relationships. But I also recognize that with every benefit, new challenges come. To be the best we can at our jobs, to be creative and engaging, to be on top of our game, we all need time away. While a lot of us now take time away from the office--digital technology can tempt us all to be tethered to the office all the time. It wears us down.
So why does untethering matter? It makes you better are your job. And, in my opinion, it helps us remember we're also more than our jobs.