J O B ~ D E S C R I P T I O N S

Support Staff

Support staff is both clerical and technical. Some of the administrative work can be handled by clerical staff supporting larger work groups, such as the marketing or PR department, or the whole company. This work mostly involves handling routine inquiries, whether by phone, mail, or e-mail. Technical support staff are the warez dudes and grrrls who build web pages, process bulk e-mail, facilitate discussion group interaction, create graphics, teach senior staff how to use their computers more efficiently, troubleshoot small computing problems, and interface with the IT department.

Boredom is the biggest enemy in managing support staff. A good manager should have a stack of pet research projects ready to keep morale up. For example, you might ask for a database of online newsletters and their corresponding sponsorship rates and contact names. Or you might ask them to inventory everyone's software and make recommendations on upgrades. If you can get a bead on their individual interests, you can usually find tasks that bridge theses interests and the department's goals. One grrrl who worked for me was an experienced webmistress. Shortly after she was hired, I gave her a project I expected to fill her spare hours for a month. She completed it that afternoon. It was always a struggle to find enough quality work for her to do.

With warez dudes and grrrls, another management issue is that they will probably know more about computers than their superiors. One of my staff members knew how to make files invisible to virtually any search--a dangerous skill. All of my warez staff knew how to hide what they were doing online to some degree. They might be spending hours a day at their favorite entertainment sites, especially if they were bored or didn't have enough work to do. While I didn't encourage this behavior, I also gave them a fair amount of license, since their surfing habits frequently benefited the department by revealing cutting-edge web sites, software, and techniques. But you have to be on guard against activities that might bring trouble to the company, such as friendships with hackers or downloading porn.

One tip for monitoring these employees is to view the "recently used documents" lists found in almost all software programs. It's time consuming to erase one's tracks off all these lists, and employees bolting for the door at quitting time will eventually leave an honest trail. I've never had to confront an employee about questionable activities, but I have decided to give them new projects or keep a closer eye on them if a monthly check of recently used documents starts looking decidedly recreational. Warez dudes and grrrls are potentially dangerous if terminated. You should consult IT about protective measures before you pink slip someone. The best defense is to treat them with respect, and insist on respect in return.

Typical activities included in support staff job descriptions are:

* E-Mail News Releases

- sending pitches written by publicists

- setting-up filters and templates for processing replies

- updating results lists with positive replies

- notifying senior staff about complaints/flames

- troubleshooting bounced messages

- updating the media database with new contact information

- finding sources of contact names for database

- database guru assisting publicists who use database

- follow-up e-mail on routine requests

* Discussion Group Postings

- finding lists of online discussion groups

- preparing a postings list for publicist approval

- posting or e-mailing pitches written by publicists

- setting-up filters and templates for processing responses

- forwarding important responses to publicists

- preparing postings reports

* Article Syndication

- HTML for articles, or assisting publicists with HTML

- locating and pitching syndication outlets

- delivering articles to those that respond favorably

- distributing articles to outlets that have a regular schedule for placements

- tracking acceptance of articles and preparing placement reports

* Chat Support

- configuring any software required

- setting up screen names, IDs, and passwords

- may work as a ghost typist if qualified

- cleaning, distributing, and archiving chat transcripts

* Seminar Support

- setting-up listserver or web site for seminars

- processing registrations

- collecting questions for the guest and distributing replies

- cleaning, distributing, and archiving chat transcripts

- closing down the seminar

* Tracking and Documentation

- making screen captures of event promos and placements

- editing screen captures, printing and filing

- preparing results packages

* Administrative Support

- answering phones and handling routine inquiries

- preparing and mailing packets for prospects and customers

- preparing and printing reports and follow-up letters

- monitoring billings and accounts receivable

* Company web site support

- uploading documents to the web site

- deletions and revisions to material on the web site

- collecting and analyzing web site traffic reports

* Technical Support for Department

- installing software and troubleshooting

- graphics work, including scanning and image processing

- assisting senior staff with e-mail, FTP, and surfing skills

- liaison with IT department on larger issues and problems


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