Is the phone call dead in PR?

This PR pro asserts its death has been greatly exaggerated. Here’s why.

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Recently, I made a decision about a client of mine: I was going to call her once a week.

As with most clients, I conduct most of my business with her on email. I provide updates via email. I share files. I provide advice. I don’t spend a lot of time on the phone with clients (at least one-on-one; we do lots of status and planning calls).

I decided to change that and give my client a weekly call. Just to check in, or chat, if we didn’t have business to tackle.

And you know what? I think my client likes it.

You know what else? I do, too.

My situation might be different since I’m an independent consultant and don’t see or hear from many people during the day. But this is a trend in our industry (and others): The trend away from voice-to-voice.

Blame smart phones. Blame millennials. Blame email.

Whatever, we’ve been inching away from phone calls for years.

In fact, now reporters prefer email or Twitter. If I had told you email would become the preferred pitch back in 1996 (when I graduated) you would have called me crazy.

Yet, here we are. The phone is dead, according to many in PR. But, I say the death of the phone has been greatly exaggerated. Here’s why:

No one else calls people–you’ll stand out if you do

Because everyone else emails, Twitters, Snapchats and Facebooks, you’ll stick out like a sore thumb with your weekly phone calls. I’ve also taken to doing this with my networking and professional relationships. I look for opportunities (car time) to give colleagues, former clients, and professional friends a quick call. Since very few people do this, it’s remembered.

Eliminate 20 percent of your email with a few phone calls each week

One of the downsides of email and texting is the shorter messages—the inability to explain everything in an email. We’ve all been a part of the 45-email-long chains of messages about a project. Wouldn’t a10-minute phone call work better? My new rule of thumb: If the chain gets longer than five emails, I pick up the phone.

Phone calls: The second-best way to cement all-important relationships

It’s hard to build a meaningful relationship on email. Or Twitter. Or Snapchat. Those tools are great for starting a relationship, but it’s tough to build a deep relationship unless you see that colleague face-to-face. Or talk to them on the phone.

Sure, face-to-face is always the best way. But phone calls are a close second. Because you can have more than a 140-character conversation about what you did last weekend. You can talk about what’s happened on the project and not be limited by character count or length of a note.

Phone calls will help you manage up better

Many managers are Generation X or Baby Boomers (not all, but a lot). Remember, those people didn’t grow up with email. Or Twitter. Or texting. We grew up with fax machines. And word processors. The phone is still a great (and in some cases, preferred) way to communicate with us.

Want to make an impression on your boss? Lay off email, and call him or her once in a while. They may not have a lot of extra time, so you may have to get creative (“Can I call you when you’re in the car?”).

I believe it will make an impression.

A version of this post first appeared on Arik Hanson’s blog, Communications Conversations.

Topics: PR

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