As a belated birthday present for the brother in law Jon, the wife and I arranged for the family to go on a tour of the Houses of Parliament which I have to say is a brilliant trip and well worth the money if you ever get the chance. The reason I mention this is because something struck me during the tour which was particularly true to my working week.
The tour guide explained that when votes are made within the house of commons this has to be done in person and manually rather than take advantage of technology. There are many reasons for this but one of the most important ones is the opportunity it presents to junior or members of the house who are lower down the food chain to actually meet and discuss their ideas with cabinet members. It offers the chance for a lesser known politician to raise the concerns of his constituents to the powers that be, in an attempt to get it on their radar as much as winning the respect of his own constituents by being able to say he has spoken to X politician and they will be looking into it.
In a week where I spent Tuesday on the road visiting a number of journalists, went for drinks in the evening with a new client to get to know the team better, took some journalists to the excellent Don Giovanni at the Royal Opera House and attended a black tie dinner and party for an other client with some journalists I have again seen the value in face to face contact.
I have always been someone who prefers to pick up the phone rather than just send an email as it helps build that relationship. Unless you have spoken to a journalist on the phone or met them how can you answer your clients question of “what is X like then?” It would just be impossible to give a true and honest.
Some of the best journalists I deal with on occasions are particularly aggressive during interviews and take the stance of being argumentative. I always like this as it shows they are being professional, have done their research and are looking for a story which will be more interesting than just writing up the press release. But, this is the sort of thing I can only know from having met with them in the past, or have spoken to them on many occasions. I would not know this just from reading their work….well in most cases anyway.
But meeting face to face is not just important with journalists. Meeting clients to exchange ideas, show them the sort of person you are and to give them faith not only in your ability to generate coverage but also in your ability to represent their company as a whole.
A common moan I hear from PR professionals is X client doesn’t respect me. Well, respect has to be earned and if I was going to be paying a retainer fee I would want to feel comfortable in the abilities of said PR professional to represent my company and manage my relationships with the media in a way that won’t embarrass or hurt my company’s reputation.
Technology is vital when it comes to communicating, but in exactly the same way as at the Houses of Parliament, meeting face to face to exchange ideas, build relationships and win respect for your clients or yourself is also unbelievably important.