“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.”
– George Bernard Shaw
Considering Mr. Shaw died in 1950, I’m going to go ahead and assume this quote wasn’t referring to a misconstrued text he sent his love interest. Yet, years before face-to-face communication became nearly as obsolete as a VHS; he was definitely on to something.
These days it seems to happen all the time – you’re communicating with someone via text or e-mail, and you think a cute little emoticon comprised of a colon and a parenthesis will help drive home the sentiment you’re trying to communicate. [Editor’s Note: While writing this post, my spell check recognized ‘emoticon’ as a word.] However, a lot of the time, it just makes conversations confusing and they’re often misunderstood making 40+ lines of a text “conversation,” well, pointless.
Sure, emoticons might help, but do you know what really works the best? FACE-TO-FACE interaction! I know. This sounds bizarre. And no, Skype and FaceTime do not count as ‘face-to-face’.
Working in PR I deal with several reporters, producers and writers on a daily basis — many of which, admittedly, I’ve never met and don’t even know what they look like. However, for the ones that are in my geographic range, I always make sure to extend an offer to meet in person. And guess what? For most of the people I’ve met, I have much better working relationships with than with those I have not.
Here are a few tips to consider when you ask to introduce yourself in person:
Time is Money. Literally. Offer to meet someone for quick coffee – not a four-course meal at the Ritz. The key word here is ‘quick.’ Always make sure the person you’re meeting with knows you don’t want to take a lot of their time, it will make them more apt to say yes.
Travel a Little, Gain a Lot. Always offer to meet the person at their office or somewhere around them. Working in Center City Philly, there are limited options for transportation: Taxi or walk. It’s not always possible to walk to your destination and cabs can get pricy. But, trust me on this one: it will be worth it. Your $8 cab ride will pay off ten-fold after making a personal connection with someone.
Don’t Be a Used Car Salesman. If you’re a publicist like me, editors and reporters already know why you want to meet with them – so you can convince them to cover your clients. You don’t have to bang them over the head with this (so to speak) when you meet them. Rather, get to know them as a person first, reporter/editor second. They’ll appreciate your interest rather than just talking about what stories they’re working on next.
So, for all of your future communications, make Mr. Shaw proud. Shaking someone’s hand is a sure fire way to know that your communication is no illusion.