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Monday, August 08, 2011

Out Of Office: Taking vacation in today’s digitally connected world

Heading out of the office and leaving work behind has never been terribly easy, but as our work becomes more digitally interactive, especially on social networks, leaving it behind for a vacation is more cumbersome than simply setting your phone and email to “out of office.”

Today, it’s not possible to get an “out of office” from a tweet, Facebook post, or blog comment. At best, you’ll look as though you’re ignoring your community. At worse, your (or your client’s) reputation could be on the line while you’re sipping margaritas on the beach.

So, in the spirit of Ryan’s vacation from the MNPR Blog, I offer you the following considerations:

Share access.
Vacation or not, no one person should be the keeper of all logins and passwords for your agency or client’s social properties. Keep a spreadsheet of all of the pertinent information, and make sure others in the office know where it is, and how to access it. (This should already be part of your crisis communications plan.)

Set expectations.
We operate in a transparent world. If you’re planning to go on vacation, it’s not unheard of to say so. You don’t need to share pertinent details of your family trip, but a message on your agency accounts that tells people specifically when they can expect to hear from you, and just how "ooo" you are, can work pretty hard for you. Consider something like, “I'm on vacation through the end of the week and will be back on Monday. I am checking email and Twitter DMs daily, but not responding until my return. For immediate needs, please contact Julie in the office.”

Find a backup.
Whether or not you have the luxury of taking time off from your agency’s posts, your clients business are going to keep on running. To fill the void in either location, consider lining up some guest bloggers (like what I’m doing here on MNPR) or pre-writing some posts to go live while you’re gone. Assign a backup community manager to engage on your other properties (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) where you have an active community. (This might be a nice time to encourage more community-generated content, too, to lighten your load.)

Have a plan for monitoring.
You can head out of the office, but that won't stop people from talking about you or your clients online while you are away. You can not afford to take vacation from monitoring these conversations. Crises hit when we least expect them, and you don't want to be caught unaware. In his guest post on the Radian6 blog, Aaron Friedman offers advice for prioritizing mentions and assigning someone to respond in a timely manner. Again, you’re going to need to rely on your team (unless you plan to be tethered to your smartphone), but some realistic planning can go a long way to ensure that things are being covered while you’re away.

MNPR Community Challenge: Add to this list. What has worked for you and your team? How to you manage the “out of office” for online engagement?

Kary Delaria is a digital PR strategist and social media monitoring and measurement specialist for Kane Consulting, a mInneapolis-based social media firm that specializes in cross-channel integration. You can find her on Twitter, @KaryD or reach her via email,