The personal touch – why face-to-face events are crucial for PR

It is sometimes easy to forget in this fast-paced industry that the “R” in PR stands for “relations”. Building relationships not only with clients, but also journalists and analysts, is the lifeblood of any PR department or consultancy.

Often the main way these relationships are built is at a distance – over the phone, a quick email or even a brief interaction on social media. Yet nothing can take the place of meeting in person. Only by meeting face-to-face with someone is it possible to build a rapport and a truly personal connection upon which trusted relationships are built. For instance, a couple of weeks ago, we ran a pub quiz event to help us deepen existing relationships with our key journalist contacts and to get to know media newcomers (see below for more details).

Seeing is believing

In fact, a study published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology found that meeting in person is 34-times more effective than email at persuading someone of your point of view. This is not only down to the immediate two-way interaction which is, after all, possible via a phone call, but is also down to body language. After all, only seven percent of communication is through what we say, the rest is through body language and tone of voice.

One-to-one meetings are ideal, but these can be difficult to arrange, particularly during office hours when journalists are under pressure to file stories and have no time for leisurely lunches or cosy chats over coffee. So, while they take time and effort to organise, holding events where you get to meet several clients, journalists and/or other stakeholders at once can bring real benefits.

Getting quizzical

At our recent Mind the Gap event, we held a pub quiz to raise money for the mental health charity Mind to which we invited key journalists who write regularly on cyber security topics. By splitting up into mixed teams of journalists and PRs, answering (or attempting to answer) general knowledge questions and just generally chatting, we got to know each other better.

Yes, it did take some organising, but the relationships we built that evening are worth their weight in gold. That’s why we regularly organise these types of events, such as our annual pre-Infosecurity gathering of journalists and clients. We also have our ongoing ‘buddy’ activity programme where we meet up with journalists and try to understand more about how we can work more effectively together. Going forward, the pace of both journalism and PR means that most of our day-to-day communications will once again be via email or phone, but this is now backed up by a personal experience and memories that will prompt a better response to any requests from either party.

The above photos of our pub quiz PR event are courtesy of Abraham Joseph of IoT Insights.

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