How Relevant Is Geography?

For about a week now, I’ve made sure to alert the Twitterati that we’re on the hunt for Social Media savvy PR pros for our Boston & SF offices.

Posted on: September 21, 2007 at 9:15 am By Todd Defren
13 Responses to “How Relevant Is Geography?”


  • Jen White says:


    A little late to the post here, but my .02, for whatever it’s worth…

    I was very fortunate to have been allowed to work from my home (at that time in Chicago)–as I prepared to move. While my work product was fine and I flew in a few times during the interim, I can say without hesitation that I felt more a part of the team and learned more about my coworkers within 2 weeks of being “on location” than I had during the 2 and a half months that I’d worked remotely. In the social media space things move rapidly, and we learn from one another every day, through informal chats that I wasn’t a part of when I was working from a home office.

    If these employees are going to be part of a team, it’s hard to see how that gets fostered without the “normal” day-to-day interaction that allows for social bonds to form. I also feel that a bond needs to form with the company, and again that’s difficult from a distance.

    I think it depends heavily on the position, the person/people being hired, and what your core values are as a company.

    Best of luck to you!


  • Todd Defren says:

    Thank you, all, for your great comments and ideas. Kinda feels like a 50/50 split on this one.

    The reality is probably that remote FTE situations *can* work … sometimes. My guess is that the role needs to be carefully defined and managed on both sides.

    p.s. to Dharmesh – getting current staff to be ever more savvy is a continual work in progress, but, the greater challenge for SHIFT is getting MORE employees in the door to start with, to keep pace with biz oppties.

  • Another option would be to take the folks you *do* have access to (that are either on the team or are local candidates) and help make them social media savvy.

    I think the same things that make someone good at offline social media (PR 1.0) would likely make them good at the newer stuff.

    It may just be a matter of encouraging those on the team to participate — or incenting them to do so.

  • Todd,

    I think for a lot of jobs, working remotely makes a lot of sense, but as you say, the agency world is full of impromptu meetings and idea exchanges, and it would be hard to have a creative or planning person remotely.

    We have a number of people who work remotely, and they often find themselves left out of the loop, unable to REALLY participate in meetings via conference call, and end up having to fly in quite frequently. From my experience, if you have someone whose job is mainly to research, interface with clients or work on very specific tasks in a bit of silo, working remotely can work with the right person.

    Skypecasts can never replace the energy and ideas that can sometimes come out of sitting around an office and chatting about something unrelated.

  • Mike Spataro says:


    I share your pain, but while at Weber Shandwick we abandoned the idea of forcing ourselves to find people in specific locations and went for best talent no matter where they reside. And that included international markets. What makes it work is a strong management leadership game plan (which I’m sure you can provide)to keep everyone communicating and working together no matter where they’re located. Think of it this way, couldn’t you deliver great client service no matter where you are? Those are the types of people you should try to find. We also made sure that at least once or twice a year we brought the team together for team building. Good luck.

  • Todd:

    What about acquisition? Or opening an office in a different city?

    Personally, I am with you. I think satellite direct hires are hard to maintain. I’m not a big fan of financing and someone’s Four Hour Work Week. Know what I’m saying?


  • I think you need to look at it from the client’s perspective. Camraderie is definitely important – is it more important than having someone on the team with a specific skill set the client needs? Maybe yes, maybe no. Does the client want to have the whole team sitting in front of her/him on a regular basis? Maybe yes, maybe no.

    I occupy a unique position in my company, and I’m an FTE that lives 500 miles away from Global HQ. My boss sees value in keeping me employed. I could get a job in Kentucky, but none would be as interesting as the one I have. So it works. Since our clients are spread out, where I happen to sit has no impact on them.

    The other question I’d put to you – having off-site FTE’s is a managerial challenge. Do you have the managerial and administrative capacity to make it work? Not everyone does.

  • Geography is not as relevant as it once was. You can be more productive and get more done if you’re not wasting time with commutes and meetings.

    Though I used to live in San Francisco and work for software companies in the Bay Area — and can certainly appreciate the occasional need for in-person interaction and impromptu discussions over beer — I now live and work for the 15th fastest growing software company in North America from the comfort of my home in upstate New York.

    I get more done in my current job every day than I ever did at previous jobs, where I was constantly distracted by phone calls, unnecessary meetings, and people stopping by my office — not to mention the wasted commute time in Bay Area traffic every day.

    My colleagues are spread across the U.S. and around the world and if we do need to meet, we do so via Skype and GoToMeeting. We still have a strong sense of teamwork, camaraderie, and pride in our work.

    We hire the best people, regardless of where in the world they happen to live.

    I do have a couple local colleagues, so we occasionally get together in person to work with each other at one of our homes or at a local coffee shop.

    Jason Fried, president and founder of 37signals, says it nicely here:


    Gabe Anderson
    Director of Customer Support
    Articulate – Empowering Rapid E-Learning

  • Todd Defren says:

    Wow, 4 comments within an hour or so of the post going live. That must be some kind of record. Have I hit a nerve?

    FWIW I am open to all possibilities; it’s just that my FIRST choice (all things being equal) would probably be to hire the local person – or someone willing to move.

    p.s. to Megan – we’re hiring new grads as quickly as possible. We’re looking for entry-level folks on up to senior managers. (As soon as *you* graduate I hope I’m the first to receive your resume.) :)

  • Megan says:

    I think the ability to telecommute is great, but I don’t think anything can beat daily face-to-face interaction when it comes to working with other full-time team members. It’s likely that moving to accept a job wouldn’t be possible for those with established families or other job, so perhaps telecommuting and video conferencing would work out. Ideally though, I’d like to work with a team that I can interact with in-person.

    Of course, that’s why you should also consider recent graduates who are up on all this because I – I mean, we! – have the freedom and ability to move to where our career takes us. :)


  • Amanda says:

    Why wouldn’t someone want to come to Boston (or SF if they are so inclined)? I would be very “blah” as a coworker if I never got a chance to clink the beers and laugh at each other every day. I’d also worry that my coworkers would think of me as “that remote girl” who wasn’t a real person. And I really enjoy being a real person. I’m sure this system has worked and can work for some people, but if it were me, I wouldn’t choose it for myself.

  • Ronna Porter says:

    Hi Todd. Nothing less than the best will do. But there is always a compromise. If you can’t find the people you need for your future growth in San Fran or Boston, then what are the other options? Look for what you need to do to make it work, not justification for why it can’t!

  • Kipp Bodnar says:


    One of the things I have admired about Shift is your ability to innovate while staying focused on the tasks at hand and sticking with traditional tactics that work. With that being said, I think you have an opportunity to use that same mode of thinking with this issue.

    There are a lot of brilliant social media savvy PR people that are not in Boston or San Fran for a host of different reasons. Please understand that your offices are in markets where the cost of living is high and salaries have to keep up to match that. Conversely if someone from a smaller market is able to do better work at a lower cost, shouldn’t you try to leverage this?

    Maybe you could use the salary difference to fly them out monthly to one of the offices and they would work there for a couple of days and socialize with other members of the team. Perhaps after these visits they will “drink the Kool-Aid” and be ready to make a move because they enjoy the environment and are beginning to love their new city.

    You are trying to solve a problem that not many companies have really solved well yet, but that hasn’t stopped you before.

    I will say that video conferencing, wikis, and web based applications make collaboration easier than ever. However, I believe that members of a team need sometime together face-to-face to build a bond and develop mutual respect.

    These are just some thoughts, but I am interested in hearing how you decide to solve this problem.


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