How Katharina Plath sees opportunity with virtual events

The pandemic has forced us to innovate and adapt—which provides an opening for enterprising communicators to engage and reach new audiences.

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Spinning in-person events into virtual confabs has been an exciting opportunity for some PR pros.

Katharina Plath, founder and principal for Head & Hand PR, says that adapting to virtual events and embracing teleconferencing has been one of the bright spots for her team during this tumultuous time.

Her team spends quite a bit of time on Zoom, embracing a daily video chat and other remote interactions, such as a group yoga class to help build community when people can’t gather in an office.

Here’s more of her tips about making it through the current “normal,” and what might be next for the PR and communications industry:

1. How much coffee do you drink during a day?

Plath: I don’t like to drink coffee. Rather, I begin my day with a glass of hot water with lemon.

2. Who is the most important person you talk to every day?

Plath: Our executive director, Emily Schneider, is very important to me, as she is the one with whom I map out the goals and daily tasks for our agency, focusing on what is most important to all of our clients as well as our wonderful team that we nurture and are guiding step by step. I touch base with her right after our morning team Zoom calls and we begin to strategize for the day and week(s) ahead.

When my husband is not in town (as he lives between Paris and NYC) then that is another very inspiring and important conversation I have each day; timing is everything here as he is six hours ahead of me in France.

3. How much of your day is spent on Zoom calls?

Plath: I would say approximately a quarter of the day, as each morning we begin with our daily Team Zoom call to touch base on what the day brings and map out responsibilities amongst our team. Then, we have various editor Zoom calls that we schedule in advance to touch base and connect virtually with our press contacts and hear about what they are working on coming up, as well as how our clients may be a fit for their upcoming issues and digital features.

We usually try to schedule 1-2 press calls a week to get ideas rolling and in the works. The rest of the portion is spent on any client Zoom calls scheduled, (although most of those are conducted via phone) and our Zoom team happy hours and team yoga sessions once a week following the workday to recharge.

4. What’s a tool you couldn’t live without right now?

Plath: Although my cell phone used to be my most important tool when I would commute in and out of Larchmont to Grand Central on a daily basis, now it is probably my computer as I use it as the connector to my team, clients and media through email, Zoom and Slack communication platforms each day.

5. What’s been the biggest change you’ve faced since the pandemic started?

Plath: One of the biggest changes is to work with my team very closely—and over Zoom and calls only. Usually I would run (or fly) around like a rabbit between appointments and touch base only sporadically with the entire team. This is the biggest shift and I have come to enjoy being very closely connected to my team, as well as to the clients, and feel we are even closer although we remain socially distant.

Secondly, the ever increasing shift to the new virtual moment has been a new challenge we’ve faced as it’s been very important to adapt to ensure all our clients’ needs and expectations are met in planning virtual events. With digital platforms becoming the sole focus and industry events that were previously planned now having to shift to a virtual platform, we’ve seen many advantages come out of this new virtual reality in event planning.

6. Are you still working from home? If so, what’s been your favorite part of WFH?

Plath: Yes, we are still working from home as an agency.

I think I’ve been surprised to see how well we’ve been able to stay connected and proactive as an agency despite working remotely. Working from home has allowed me to better allocate my time between work and personal life, and has allowed me to be more present when it comes to work meetings and calls, as they are all organized virtually, rather than commuting.

7. What’s your No.1 message to clients, co-workers or employees for the rest of 2020?

Plath: Although we are in the midst of the pandemic, we want to keep stressing that the time is always now! We believe now is the time to communicate, communicate, communicate!

This is not a time to regress into a shell, but rather take the world full-on. Staying connected and helping to connect in these trying times will help all of us to pull through together and come out stronger. It is important to stay proactive and ahead of the game, adapting to new ideas and shifts in the industry, remaining creative and strategic.

8. What makes you hopeful about the future of PR? Any big predictions for 2021?

 Plath: During this time, we’ve been feeling hopeful to see the shift to focus on social change—ranging from the Black Lives Matter movement to various activations for our clients to give back to the community. As an agency, we have taken measures to become actively involved in various organizations and groups to continue to raise awareness and promote change.

Even amid a global pandemic, our industry was able to remain up and running and proactive remotely. It seems as though this will be a big focus now that we see the shift to virtual, and many industry events will change their formats, and telecommuting and working remotely may become the “better” norm.

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