There is no doubt that social media and email have made the life of a PR professional easier and quicker. This is in part because it allows PR agencies to do business with those from other parts of the country (or world), but also because clicking a “tweet” button or writing an email is so quick and convenient.
Email allows us to prioritize our business and get to things at the most opportune time, while social media allows us to interact with customers and clients without having to drive to a meeting place and have an hour long lunch. With the time saved by digital communication, more business can get done.
In fact, I almost always prefer email over a face-to-face meeting because I can take the time to really think about what I want to say, and then review it once I’m finished. After all, it’s quite common for me to stumble over my words when I’m nervous. Emailing also creates a nice log of past conversations, so if I ever need to go back and remember something that was discussed I can look through my organized email inbox instead of my unorganized mind.
This led me to wonder: Is meeting with a client face-to-face as valuable as it used to be? Furthermore, does anyone even really want to meet face-to-face? I am part of the generation that grew up with technology, so I have learned to become comfortable with this sort of communication. I once worked in an office where co-workers who were sitting one or two cubicles away from each other would email in order to communicate. Is this a problem?
I decided that, no matter how much I may value technology, this is a huge problem. The general population has tricked themselves into thinking that face-to-face meetings are overrated. After all, maybe I stumble over my words in person because I am not used to looking someone in the eye when they speak. Our country needs to become more well-rounded, and this goes for the PR workplace just as well.
When Face-to-Face Meetings are Crucial
The most beneficial thing face-to-face interactions can give a PR professional is body language, facial expressions, and tone. This can be extremely important in certain business interactions. Ironically enough, these situations are usually the ones we cower away from the most, and therefore hide behind our computer screens. Nevertheless, if you want to be the best PR employee you can, these are the situations where you’ll need to master face-to-face:
- Negotiating — This is far more effective if done in-person because it is an ongoing conversation. Negotiating is about getting fired up about a topic, bouncing ideas off one another, and coming up with a compromise. With email, two people often lose this passion because they are doing so many other things at the same time. In the end, negotiating would likely be faster in person than through the Internet.
- Thank you — If a company (or even a client) goes out of the way to do something that benefits your agency, a thank you is obviously in order. If something nice was done via the Internet, then it might be appropriate to thank them in the same fashion; however a two week project that has finally come to a close, or a month long deal that was done well deserves something more.
- Apologizing — We all know that in the PR world, apologies are sometimes necessary. If your firm made a mistake, a face to face apology will show that you care enough to go out of your way and be put in an uncomfortable position to make things right. I think you would be surprised by just how much this would mean to the other party. In fact, the other party may not realize the importance of a face-to-face apology until after your meeting, but either way you will make a difference.
- Selling — If you want to pitch an idea to a client, face-to-face is the place to do it. Sometimes people can get so caught up in their thoughts that they start to overthink things. If you send a proposal through email, your clients may analyze it to the brink of destruction. Worse yet, you will not be there to help calm a client’s fears. If you have a face-to-face meeting, your client will be able to see the confidence you bring to the table, and this could make all the difference.
Although these tips may seem obvious, many companies are starting to ignore the obvious. I think every once in a while it is a good idea to go back to the basics and think about why you became a PR employee in the first place. Loving people means more than just loving their typing skills—it always has and it always will. Is the Internet good for many types of communication? Of course, but do not forget that in person meetings have an important place in the PR field.
Photo Credit: visualphotos.com
Amanda DiSilvestro originally wrote and published this article on About Public Relations.