Instant messaging offers quick, fluid communication

Love it or hate it, instant messaging has become a necessary tool for PR pros. When waiting 20 minutes for an e-mail response just won't do, IM is there.

Love it or hate it, instant messaging has become a necessary tool for PR pros. When waiting 20 minutes for an e-mail response just won't do, IM is there.

Jason Mandell, principal at San Francisco agency LaunchSquad, says his Mac-centric office uses the AIM/iChat software and Skype to communicate with some clients.

"We are primarily using it with briefings with analysts and reporters," Mandell says. "We can give [clients] ideas on how to answer a question, or guidance."

Chris Blake, account director at MSR Communications, works in the LA area, while the rest of his firm is in San Francisco. He says IM allows the team to work together better, as well as bond. "We couldn't live without it," he adds.

Like Mandell, his chief use of IM with clients is during briefings. Blake says it's easy for spokespeople to get caught up in a pleasant conversation with a reporter, and they may forget some of the points they're trying to communicate. IM allows him to advise clients to stay on message without disrupting the flow of conversation, he says.

"Like slipping them a note in class," Blake says with a laugh.

At Text 100, account manager Jessica Troskosky says she uses IM with clients in various ways.

First, the IM indicator saves time by showing if team members are available at their desks.

Also, on conference calls, Text 100 staff can shoot clients an IM to clarify details or to ask a question on something they are working on.

And while Text 100 staff are monitoring an interview with a journalist, "we can have an IM conversation and direct the call," Troskosky says. "We can remind them without interrupting the conversation. It makes for a nice fluid situation."

There are also personal benefits to IM's more casual method of communication. The Text 100 team might feel more comfortable shooting a client an IM at the end of the day asking, "How did your son's game go?" rather than making a call just to ask.

"IM was traditionally used as a friend-basis of communication, and while it still stays professional, it has made us friends, as well," Troskosky adds.

Key points:

IM saves time by showing when you are available

IM can be a silent coaching method during media interviews

IM cuts down on unnecessary phone calls, voicemails, and e-mails for quick questions

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