PR and Face-to-Face Interaction…or Ear-to-Ear

So, we all know the affect of social media on our professional, and even personal, lives. The ability to immediately “hit” someone on instant messenger with a question, shoot a text message without disrupting whatever the recipient is doing or even submitting a tweet to contact someone.

If you are keeping up on communication today, you’re mastering these skills on a daily basis. However, I’ve noticed that some communications pros are actually NOT accepting these outlets so effortlessly. At first, I assumed it was a generational issue; I was using Facebook at its early stages, chatting on AIM was a great after-school activity in middle school, and I regularly had to pay my parents back for going over my monthly texting limit in high school. Social media is second nature to me and my peers. But, I was very surprised when I realized this lack of social media adoption is not solely a generational dilemma.

The argument I’ve often heard is that tweeting , e-mailing, texting and IMing can’t replace the value of a phone call, or even better, face-to-face interaction. I can’t help but question this – and not as a teenager IMing my friends, but as a public relations professional. How much do you really gain from, say, a phone call? My top four arguments for why social media interaction is equally effective, and maybe more effective in some cases, than phone calls and meetings, especially in today’s business world:

  • We’re busy. So much time is saved without drawn-out phone conversations. Get to the point in writing, and respond to the point in writing- no nonsense.
  • Our audience doesn’t want to be bothered. Give them your message in an outlet that allows them to come back to it when it’s convenient for them. A phone call isn’t always time-appropriate, and voicemails often go unanswered when we get busy.
  • You can efficiently contact more than one person at a time. Of course, we can do this with a conference call, but then everyone has to take turns talking (or just talk over each other), and you always have a few people who just aren’t comfortable speaking up in that group-call situation. One e-mail, CCed with all the people you want involved, is much more efficient. Tweeting a message to one person allows hundreds of others to see it, share it, and spread the word. The same goes for all other social media outlets- share one message with your entire audience instantly.
  • Social Media is Cheaper. Whether you are comparing it to long distance phone call expenses, conference call fees, or the travel costs associated with face-to-face interaction, social media devices allow for quick, cheap communication – typically whatever the built-in cost for Internet services are at your organization. Social media provides an easy way to cut costs for those who are scraping the barrel.

So, the bottom line:

Making your calls less frequent + Making your tweets , e-mails, Facebook messages, LinkedIn updates and IMs more frequent = More efficient communication in an industry that is constantly changing.

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  • While I certainly understand the value of social media in the “new” PR world, I have to say that social alone is not as effective as strategically employing face-to-face plus social. We are latecomers to social PR and find that phone calls and direct mail continue to create awareness and incite interest in our social strategies. Social alone gains only a limited audience of regulars. It is “getting seen in print” that continues to build our brand and gain the most recognition for our name and services. Anyone can publish online, it seems. But being accepted for publication or being featured in a noted industry journal lends credibility you can’t get with a Facebook page or a Twitter feed. Getting that kind of coverage still means in-person networking.

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