I suspect I’m not alone in occasionally wondering what the world of work was like before the advent of email. It’s strange to think that in the grand scheme of things, it wasn’t that long ago at all that email didn’t exist, so there are likely a lot of people out there who remember first-hand what things were like.
Of course, for those of us in technology PR (or indeed any field of public relations), email has become indispensable as a communications tool. We rely on it to quickly ‘ping’ across information to our journalist counterparts with the minimum of fuss. It’s particularly helpful when it comes to sending out a press release. Gone are the days when our forebears had to stick it in a stamped envelope and hope to God it made it to the right person in time; now it’s just instant.
Oddly enough, I recently met someone who claimed to have been amongst the first PR people to email a press release to a journalist. He said that both parties described it as a revelation. You can see why; but nowadays, email has become so commonplace that it’s become as much a blessing as it is a curse.
While it’s a great means of efficiently sending out information or having a less intrusive chat with someone, email can be very impersonal. This makes it very difficult to engage a journalist in a two-way dialogue, so getting any feedback from them can be pretty tricky. As such, it’s important to treat email as just one tool in the communications arsenal, rather than to rely on it too much. Picking up the phone and having a conversation is just as relevant today as it was in the 70s, and will be in 2020.
I suspect that the same rings true across almost any industry sector, but for those of us working in tech PR, it’s particularly interesting trying to find the right balance.
On the one hand, journalists tell us they receive hundreds of emails every day, so even the most carefully crafted subject line could easily fall by the wayside. From our clients’ perspective, it’s also important that we can provide them with feedback on the response from the journalists that we’ve spoken with on their behalf, which puts email at another disadvantage.
However, at the same time, journalists are often incredibly pressed for time, so many tend to prefer an email over a phone call or suggestion to meet up in person. As a result, there is very clearly a fine line to tread between when it’s best to ping over a quick email or pick-up the phone. So how do you work out when one approach is better than another?
As a rule, I’d say there is no rule to knowing when an email will do, or when a phone call would be better. What’s most important for PR consultants is our knowledge of the media and the people we’re dealing with. This makes it much easier to gauge what their preferences will be, and which approach will work best in any given situation.
It’s the ability to judge each situation and make a call on which approach is most likely to secure the reaction we’re looking for that is so crucial to everything we do in PR. Getting it wrong can be disastrous; damaging the relationships we’ve worked so hard to build and ruining our chances of securing the all-important coverage that our clients need. So let’s not lose sight of the importance of making that judgement call every time we’ve got something to say.