PR isn’t like other forms of journalism, nor does it cleanly fit into a marketing definition. It arguably borrows from both, but often has a much harder goal than either. Oftentimes public opinion is volatile and easily snowballs as people who have never heard of an individual, brand, or business form opinions based purely on those around them.
Are there any edges that PR can gain in an era where people are more choosy, more media-savvy, and more aware of influence than ever before?
The answer may not be to employ more modern approaches, but in fact more traditional ones.
So much communication is predicated on emails and phone calls—arguably the former more than the latter, for several reasons—that pitches, conversations, and requests to get in touch are easier to send in batches and also (or perhaps therefore) easier to ignore.
This has only increased in the wake of lockdowns and a shift to remote working, with some people now working roles in which they rarely, if ever, meet their colleagues and clients.
There’s no replacement for face-to-face meetings
There’s one quality that is integral to many professions, and is of particular importance to PR specialists: trust.
Harvard Business Review conducted a study that found face-to-face communication exponentially more effective than email at having requests fulfilled. In the PR world, where contacts and networks and snippets of stories are all needed to start business relationships and make business itself happen, the need to meet in-person becomes clear.
We trust what we can see. As inherently social creatures hardwired to recognise faces and read the people around us, we therefore trust the people we can see far more than names that pop up in our inboxes.
So much is lost in email communication. Gestures, facial expressions as we speak, the tone and enthusiasm of a person’s voice—these are all things that can persuade somebody to pursue business with another, or else avoid walking into something that feels like a mistake.
And, quite simply, you cannot easily overstate the importance of the personal touch.
PR is rarely one-and-done
The most lucrative connections are those that you’ll be in contact with time and again, either to ask for their help or to provide yours. But does a longstanding relationship ever develop past a certain point if you’ve never met?
Emails can only go so far for establishing real bonds and growing your network through mutual connections. This kind of organic growth that leads to further PR success happens at networking events and over a cup of coffee—not in a cold inbox.