Please Pick Up the Phone!

P.R. Stands for Phone Rapport. My office is silent. The only people to call our phone are financial services agents because they know that hearing a voice is the only way to build rapport and make a sale. The office is full of people who are professional communicators,  but there isn’t the babble of banter one would expect to hear in an office of extroverts. Everyone is so busy with emails that the conversations which save time and effort are not taking place. Simple projects which once required everyone to be economical with expensive international calls and the fax  now have tomes written that make ‘War and Peace’ look like a short story. EASTWEST just completed an event which entailed a series of 7 one-to-one media interviews at an industry conference. I created a dedicated inbox and post event counted 656 emails had been sent over a period of 7 weeks ; I was only one of 5 people on the project . We reached up to version 7 of a press release. All of this costs the client and the agency money. Let’s face it, it is a false economy to use email to replace phone calls, let alone face to face meeting, yet it has become the norm and we get clipped calls that end with, "I’ll send an email to tell you want I want.." Email is not a conversation nor a result but rather creates an action for someone else who probably already has enough on their to do list. Responses become a stream of consciousness which quickly stray from the focus on the key deliverables. The best coverage comes from conversations. The best conversations are sequential, the build up of two or more minds connecting and adding value to a specific topic. In preparation for an event regular phone calls allow for the question "is there anything else" which one rarely finds appropriate in email. Who remembers everything first time? On the agency side it is so tempting to tell a client "we sent media advisories and are waiting for responses." Legally we have done our job but it misses the point – the pr consultant must deliver those journalists or analysts to the client; making them cover the client is the responsibility of the spokesperson to be compelling and relevant. Via email the need to find answers to a specific problem are often being answered by people who read the first 300 characters on a blackberry or iPhone – there is no space for context nor scenarios. It has become fashionable for clients to substitute scenario setting and background briefing with instructions to the agency to research the subject on the Internet. While every consultant should be resourceful, the sea of information available is not the same in terms of perspective and therefore briefing materials can be too disconnected from the client paradigm. The same is true for briefing the journalist; a key role of the consultant. In preparation for an interview pitch materials are sent with specific details but the journalist also has limited bandwidth and considerably less interest in a specific client. Publishers tell me unashamedly that emails from agencies are routinely sent to junk folders. The only way to avoid being avoided is to pick up the phone and start the conversation. It is far easier for someone to delete an anonymous email than to hang up the phone on someone. It is precisely because people still need to see people that conferences and trade shows exist, and yet now it is common to see delegates absent as they respond to email and text messages ignoring the potential of the person sitting next to them. The simple act of starting the conversation over lunchat this conference  resulted in an interview for my client with an analyst. It is old school pr but it is still the simplest, and tastiest, way to get clients noticed. The irony then is that all the connectivity that technology brings can make us less efficient at being effective unless we remember that we are in a people to people business. Assume 50 emails per day and estimates are that executives are spending about 800 hours per year on email. Imagine how many quality conversations could be had in that time! Not to mention that as an agency we bill by the hour – we owe it to our clients to have productive, timely conversations. Mother Theresa apparently said that "peace starts with a smile," and in my view PR starts with a conversation. Today, I made 4 phone calls and believe I have a better understanding of what each client needs this week. It was quicker than composing an email and frankly more fun to build a rapport than a correspondence trail. With the time I saved I can get on with some PR!

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *