Brandwatch + Cision
By Giles PalmerFeb 26
How connected is your organization to its customers?
Published March 10th 2015
As the sun sets on the Brandwatch Berlin and Stuttgart offices, the sun is rising over the San Francisco office.
As one member of a team leaves for the day, another member is finishing the last meetings of the day in Brighton, another is enjoying some lunch in NYC and another is checking their first emails of the day. We’re spread over four different timezones.
And so, a challenge is born.
As a crew of now almost 300 , we have to navigate this challenge every day. As a marketing team, we are split between the Brighton, Berlin and Manhattan offices – something I’d not encountered in my career up to this point.
At first, I couldn’t get my head around the fact that my co-worker on a content project, James , was 3,475 miles away. I’d been used to spending my time in a five person marketing team based in one tiny office – this was a huge cultural shift. But one that I found could work to my advantage, and to those in other teams, too.
Of course, the simple fact that there’s a 9 hour time difference between two of our offices is going to cause some complications every now and again.
If it were 15 years ago, relying on fax machines and phone calls, we’d probably find it a fair amount tougher, and simply using email is not enough any more. Luckily, we have a host of ways that ensure we all feel connected, as one central team – just scattered across the globe.
There are a variety of different ways we ensure that we’re staying in touch with, and working collaboratively with, those in different offices.
It’s been a journey of trying things out, dropping the tools that haven’t worked out along the way and always, always communicating when things aren’t running smoothly.
Of course, not everyone’s going to love every tool or method of communicating, but we do our best to keep each other happy. Here’s how we do it.
Team comms tool Slack is a godsend for staying close and in the loop with colleagues you don’t get the chance to have face-to-face time with.
By setting up different channels for different teams, subjects and areas, we can dip in and out, or stay online all day – there are no hard and fast rules.
I tend to keep it open all day in a tab and check it periodically to see what’s going on in the #marketing-and-design channel, #client-industry-news and keep up with what’s going on in #foodies and #cats.
I like how the conversations ebb and flow as different offices get in for the day, or go on lunch, or say goodbye as they head home for the night.
Being a multi-timezone organization means if we need to speak face to face in a meeting, the best way to do so without actually being in the same room is to get a Google Hangout going.
Every single week, on a Tuesday, the whole 40-strong Marketing and Design team (or MAD, for short) get on a Hangout to talk numbers, projects, discuss big wins and help wanted.
Using Hangouts means we all get to see everyone’s lovely faces – which is so much more personal than just listening on the end of a conference call.
Plus, you can use the new stickers feature to add tiaras, eye patches and cat masks to your face on-screen. Which we NEVER do, obviously. Never.
Along with Slack, we use Skype to instant message colleagues across the world, as well as those across the room.
Being able to shoot off a quick ‘Are you there?’ to someone you need to get hold of, and send a file, or a link, or arrange a quick call is a really helpful resource when you’re not physically in the same office.
The calling function is also a blessing for having a quick chat with someone in your team overseas.
I might get a blog pitch forwarded from my colleague in NYC, Iris , and need to quickly go through some points before we respond to the potential contributor (interested in submitting a pitch, by the way? Here’s all the info).
Instead of bashing the keyboard, a quick one-minute Skype chat later and we’ve got it covered.
All of the above comms tools are great and help us feel as connected as possible, but of course there is no substitution for real life face-to-face time.
Each team has their own travel budget to make sure that we do get to see one another as often as we can. Of course, being in a large team can have its limitations, and not everyone will get to fly to a different office regularly. That’s why most teams get together as a larger group at least once a year, for planning and personal time.
Every December we have a MAD planning session, usually over the course of two or three days, where all of the marketing team across the world fly over and everyone gets to meet and learn more about each other and hash everything out for the year ahead, usually on massive sheets of white paper – the header image above is one of those very sheets.
Below is the MAD team at the 2014 session, after a brisk post-planning walk on Brighton beach. It’s hard to believe we’re such a big team now.
Days like this are invaluable to team morale, and the benefits far outweigh the cost.
As we continue to grow and evolve as a company we’ll continue to face new challenges.
As we open new offices in different locations, speaking different languages, we’ll have to rethink, re-budget and renew. But it’ll be a fun ride.
If you’re in a multi-timezone company, how do you make it work? What tools do you use? Interested to find out, comment below or Tweet us at @brandwatch !