Enough of virtual communications, let’s get back to real life!
An urgency to return to real life
If there was one lesson that we all learnt during the Covid-19 lockdowns, it was that being in each other’s company is unrivalled by virtual communications. Whilst the likes of Zoom and Skype have served us incredibly well since March 2020, there is now a greater urgency than ever before to where possible, leave these devices behind and return to real, in-person events.
The relationship between tech journalists and the communications industry is symbiotic, meaning that it works in the interests of both parties. But, as we have all seen over the course of the pandemic, real life communications are mainly a preference for both sides of this relationship.
As someone working in PR, but who started their career just after Covid restrictions were lifted, I can see things slowly getting back towards where they would have been two years ago. For instance, in just the two months I have been with Babel, we’ve increasingly been welcoming clients back into the office boardroom for ‘real’ in-person meetings. There is also a thirst for meeting with journalists outside of the office, and rekindling those industry relationships formed before the pandemic, or in my case, developing new ones.
For instance, just a few days ago two of my colleagues went for coffee with Eric Johansson, tech editor at Verdict, in Fleet Street. As well as this, two different colleagues of mine have been lucky enough to travel to Copenhagen to meet with no code automation test company Leapwork. And it doesn’t stop there, at the time of writing this they are heading to Brussels to meet with another of Babel’s clients BICS, a leading communications enabler.
“It’s how you win,”: Insight from Chris Williams
Business editor at The Telegraph, Chris Williams was recently interviewed in a webinar by media database Roxhill and in this he discussed the importance of journalists and PR staff returning to pre-pandemic ways of communications.
When asked whether face-to-face relations were still as relevant as before the pandemic, he said: “It’s more relevant than ever, it’s how you win. If people want to work from home long-term, you’d question whether this is the career for them. There are plenty of jobs that will let you work from home on your own, but we should enjoy being in people’s faces and having personal relationships.”
Many people may feel more comfortable hiding behind the digital habits they have developed since the dawn of the pandemic, and this may well work in some industries. But in the world of PR and the media, this is not sustainable. Chris also criticised the robotic habits some PR professionals adopt, perhaps as a result of working from home; for instance ‘churning out’ response sources. By this, Chris means sending media requests in bulk form, with no form of targeting, meaning that they may not be relevant to many outlets that will receive them. He believes these methods are ‘increasingly less relevant’.
“Being in broadcast mode doesn’t really work. It’s about forming those personal relationships that last for years and are mutually useful. Getting out there and maintaining and rebuilding those relationships is exactly what we need to be doing right now,” he said.
An arrangement that helps both sides
Chris certainly is not the only person in the industry who is feeling this way. Scott Bicheno is the editorial director of Telecoms.com and has experience as a technology journalist in both the IT and telecoms sectors. As well as this, he co-presents the Telecoms.com podcast and at the end of last month released an episode that referenced the role of communications and the relationship between PR and journalism.
As a journalist Scott feels it is crucial that he maintains good relations with PRs, because it means that both sides can get the best out of each other. He also pointed out these good relations can save either party from misinterpreting the other: “If you don’t develop a relationship, you won’t have any continued communication or rapport. You can’t talk a journalist down from doing their job, but if you do have that relationship, you might be able get a heads up, have a word and say, “look you may have misinterpreted this.””
On the same show, co-host Iain Morris, International editor at Light Reading, also adds that by having a quality face-to-face relationship with a journalist, PR people can expect to have much more success in grabbing their clients’ attention when required. He said: “When you can put a face to the name that comes into the inbox, you do actually read it [the email] and respond.”
So, if you’re thinking of improving relationships with either journalists or clients, think about asking them out to a real-life meeting before dropping them that Zoom link! Chris also points out that: “no one will tell you their secrets over email, they’ll tell you in the pub or at a restaurant or over breakfast!”
Getting back out there and reforming relationships, or developing new ones, is exactly what the PR world needs to be doing now. We have been locked away from each other for too long. Whether it is drinks out, a meal, or simply just a quick coffee, I feel that face-to-face relations are not only more enjoyable, they are also a really valuable and productive use of time. As Chris says, it’s how you win in this industry.