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Getting to grips with remote collaboration to develop and launch a research report

1 June 2021

Coordination and collaboration are at the centre of most communications teams. However, when working remotely, researching, designing and launching a big project can be challenging. So how can we make sure we are coordinating effectively?

In April 2021, the LGBTQ+ youth homelessness charity akt launched The LGBTQ+ Youth Homelessness Report. The report required ten months of preparation and was quite a feat to deliver for a relatively small communications team. Here is what we learnt…

Overcoming challenges

When pulling together any big project it’s important to ask what you want to get out of it? What is the story you want to tell from the findings? This will help map out your next steps i.e., the key themes you’ll want to visually communicate, or the data you want to highlight when creating social media assets, as well as helping you to co-ordinate your team around a common goal.

In our case, The LGBTQ+ Youth Homelessness Report was a means of putting the marginalised voices of LGBTQ+ young people on the map. The report consists of surveys and interviews with young people who’d experienced homelessness in the last five years whilst aged 16 – 25. Going into it, our focus was highlighting the impact of homelessness, family and partner abuse and discrimination experienced by queer young people – and what action needs to be taken.

To be able to use our findings to tell this important story we had to painstakingly sift through the qualitative and quantitative data we were collecting, and this was only possible with a lot of internal collaboration. Specifically, Matt, our Director of Campaigns and Communications and Jo, our Campaigns, Research and Policy Lead, undertook a lot of back and forth and many prolonged phone calls to analyse the data in the research, determine trends, and write the report together.

Clearly, analysing data together can be challenging when colleagues aren’t in the same space as you. One way to navigate this is by having shared documents open during a phone call, so you can work on live copy together and see each other’s edits as they happen in real-time. Another is to clearly divide areas of focus between yourself and your colleagues. If you are managing a team, platforms like Facebook messenger chat are a great way to regularly check-in to make sure each team member is across their work, and to provide important regular interaction to counteract the isolation of remote-working.

Co-creating when physically apart

It’s important that visually your project stands out but it can be difficult to present data-rich copy in a way that is easy to take in at-a-glance. For us, there was also the added challenge of producing a nationally significant piece of work, involving feedback from a wider team, who are spread across the country.

Collaboration and feedback were essential here. Grahame, our Design and Production Coordinator, designed the report and regularly used video conference tools that enabled the team to give easy feedback and prompt sign-off during the process. Meanwhile, Charlie, our Digital Officer, navigated the challenge of proofreading the ever-changing report in tandem with the design process.

She was also designing infographics for social media at the same time as the report was being tweaked and found it a challenge to keep up to date with its most recent version. This was overcome by centralizing the location of the report to sit in Adobe Assets – a great tool for collaboration that enables you to see real-time edits by the rest of your team, which means you don’t need to worry about duplication – making the process more time efficient.

Having an open and honest dialogue between the communications team and wider team meant a representative, impactful piece of work was created. And for akt ensuring we had good collaboration meant our project was a digital success with the launch tweet seen 209, 549 times and downloaded 400 times.

Collaboration success

There is always a lot of anticipation in the run-up to launching a report or project to press. Will there be enough cut through? Will it appeal to the national outlets?

For the last year, the media landscape has been saturated with news of COVID. This can make cut through challenging as many mainstream outlets are preoccupied with issues surrounding the pandemic and its’ connecting themes. So, plan with this in mind – as the person leading the launch of the report that’s what I did.

Identify stories from your clients that coincide with key themes within the conversation around COVID. Incorporate these stories into those of your report and let this be the angle you pitch to journalists with. Many journalists will appreciate ready-made pitches since you’ve done most of the leg work.

The biggest challenge we faced in launching the report to the press was a lack of suitable case studies. However, having given regular updates to the wider team throughout the project, two caseworkers stepped in last minute to provide me with case studies for media, and collectively we supported them. This highlights the importance of not forgetting your own internal PR with colleagues either via email’s or even presenting the findings of your project at an all-staff meeting. It’s easy to forget that the massive project you’re working on might still feel abstract or vague to them but bring them along with you and they might be able to help.

Similarly, if you’re thin on case studies to support your project, consider your wider network. There may be other charities in your sector with service users that have had a similar experience to your client base and can speak to the themes you’re wanting to highlight. Collaboration is a great way for charities to reach a common goal.

When it comes to coordinating and collaborating on an upcoming project – it’s never easy. However, the challenges outlined above and the learnings gleaned from them should prove helpful. So, whether you’ve a big annual report coming up, or a longer piece of research, hopefully these suggestions  will help you make the process a little bit smoother. 

If you enjoyed this you may also like Pivoting a team to working agile in lockdown: tips from experience.

Image: Daniele Levis Pelusi on Unsplash

Bex Shorunke

PR and media engagement manager, Mermaids

Bex Shorunke (she/her) is the PR and media engagement manager at Mermaids, a leading LGBTQ+ charity supporting trans, non-binary and gender diverse children, young people and families. Previously Bex worked at LGBTQ+ homeless charity akt. Outside of work, she is undertaking an MA looking into ethnicity, culture and intersectionality and does occasional freelance journalism.