Between email, texting and social media, communicating with our fellow humans has never been easier. The exchange of information can now be facilitated with the mere push of a button, and given the busy life of a Public Relations professional, fully embracing that convenience can be tempting to say the least. It’s quick, easy and you can cover a substantial amount of ground on the media landscape with just a few minutes in front of a computer. However, it should be the sworn duty of every publicist to resist that temptation, and to make actual, real-life, human contact with our media friends whenever possible.
As renowned psychologist and New York Times best-selling author Daniel Goleman tells us: “The social brain is in its natural habitat when we’re talking with someone face-to-face in real time.” Though Goleman refers to life in general, this sentiment holds especially true in the relationship-driven world of PR.
Face-to-face communication is when we do our best work, and it fosters solid, long-term relationships that technology simply cannot duplicate.
Why is this so important in PR?
Staying Top of Mind
This may sting a little bit to hear, but you’re not the only publicist pitching your clients to the media. Journalists are bombarded with pitches, press releases, event invitations and weird game requests on Facebook. Just like everyone, they have a finite amount of time and mental bandwidth, and it is therefore beyond important to remember that you’re one of many PR professionals jockeying for position.
The question then becomes – how are you going to stand out? You can continue to rely on emails and calls, but then you might stand out for the wrong reasons…or not at all. Meeting in person presents a host of benefits, not the least of which is making a good and lasting impression.
Clarity, Efficiency & Building Trust
Face-to-face interaction facilitates a level of clarity in conversation that the digital world generally does not offer. More times than I care to remember, the nuance of what I wrote in an email or a text message was lost in digital translation, and if you’re a naturally sarcastic individual this can be especially problematic (or so I’ve been told). Maybe the journalist perked up when you mentioned a certain piece of news? Maybe they didn’t blink when you shared something else? Sitting down with someone in person affords us the unique opportunity to gauge tone of voice and to read body language, two essential tactics for clear and productive communication.
Obviously, it’s not always possible to meet in person for a variety of reasons. With that being said, it is of the utmost importance that you make the most of your time. Try to think about what it is that you hope to accomplish by meeting this person. That brings us to the cardinal rule media meetings– do your homework.
If you show up to a media meeting unprepared, it’s basically the end of the world. Well, not really, but it’s unproductive, unprofessional and a flat out waste of (everybody’s) time. It’s simply not a good look, and publicists who disregard this mantra lose all credibility. By contrast, showing up prepared with a goal in mind will earn you the trust of the media, and they’ll look to you as a resource in the future.
If you take the time to research the writer, his or her outlet(s), and what it is they write about, you can then determine what might pique their interest and voila…a highly productive meeting is born. It’s an incredible waste of time not to do so, and there have even been unsubstantiated reports that an angel loses its wings every time a publicist crosses over into this dark world of unspeakable inefficiency and disrespect.
Establishing a Rapport
For reasons far too numerous to list here, this is a much smoother operation in person than via email or even over the phone. When thinking about a media relationship, it’s reasonable to expect that because you both work in the same industry, the possibility exists that you’re like-minded people. Have you both traveled to the same destinations? Been to the same restaurants? Both like sports? Puppies?! It can be as simple as a three or four-sentence exchange, but the impact is long lasting and will yield positive results. There really are so many avenues one can take when establishing a rapport, and our friends in the media will be far more likely to listen in the future if you’ve established a common ground. Please though, just don’t make things weird.
**Disclaimer** By no means will every journalist want to make a personal connection. Some journalists have as little as 15 minutes to spare and will want to keep the meeting strictly business. No problem. Use that understanding as your common ground. The media will appreciate it and you’ll have created the foundation for a prosperous long-term relationship.
The Bottom Line
There’s no substitute for face-to-face interaction when it comes to establishing new relationships or simply nurturing an existing one. It allows you to most effectively deliver the right message, and to service your clients in the best manner possible. So, make yourself available. Go meet for coffee with your media contacts, take them to lunch, grab a drink or resist the urge to go home after a long day and get yourself to that networking event.
Taking a few hours out of your day to meet in person and enhance your media relationships will pay dividends for years to come, and it’s the strength of those relationships that will ultimately lead to meaningful coverage for your clients.