Working in communications ensures I keep a close eye on the developments of the online world, with the ability to access information and stories at the click of a button. Technological advances have made sourcing information, expertise or data, far easier with journalists regularly sending email requests across their sector to bring in a number of options to complete a story.
As online communication becomes an ever larger part of our working lives, pitching a new idea for a feature or story via email has also become increasingly common. It allows us to outline the reasoning and interest behind an idea point-by-point and wait for a response to appear in our inbox. But has this created a level of laziness in our work and made it more difficult to maintain useful relationships with journalists?
Before emails became such a large part of our day-to-day job, most communication was done over the phone or in person. Although emails are a useful way of communicating with increasingly time-poor journalists, there are still occasions when using the phone is a much more effective communications tool as long as the timing and content are appropriate and relevant.
Talking to people on the phone gives you that immediate ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer you need to move on with an idea or secure an opportunity. Most journalists’ inboxes get filled up very quickly meaning it is easy for them to miss an email or to ignore it altogether, leaving you waiting for a reply that may never come. Being able to speak to someone over the phone also gives you a chance to build a useful working relationship; it is difficult to be memorable if you are communicating via a wall of text.
So why do many PR consultants say ‘this journalist hasn’t got back to me’ or ‘I’m still waiting for a reply on that one’ when they have only sent an email and haven’t tried giving them a ring? Although emails are easy to hide behind so you can’t so easily be caught out on your lack of expertise or have someone hang up on you, there is still plenty to be said about chatting through an idea rather than adding to the huge number of emails already flying around.
This is not to say we should forgo emails completely; there are times when people ignore the ringing of their phones and let their voicemail filter the worthy calls from what they consider a nuisance, and there are some journalists who will not appreciate being constantly nagged by phone calls. Instead we should be aware of how easy it is to become over-reliant on an often slower form of communication – the email – in an industry that is pinned to proactivity and speed when a simple phone call would be much more appropriate and effective.
So next time you need to contact someone, why not pick up the phone first?