Pershing Square

I hate doing lunch. I’ll do almost anything to get out of it. Doing lunch interrupts the day, is book-ended by office stress, and is ultimately unsatisfying both to palate and intellect.

I hate doing lunch. I’ll do almost anything to get out of it. Doing lunch interrupts the day, is book-ended by office stress, and is ultimately unsatisfying both to palate and intellect.

What I hate most of all is the palaver of eating lunch. Or not eating. Who eats and talks? You can’t do both. I’ve tried every possible lunchtime foodstuff on the planet to better allow dialogue. But from soup to steak, you invariably end up with one person barely getting a mouthful while the other is cleaning his or her plate.

Usually I’m in the latter camp, as most of my lunch companions are busy telling me about their company or firm, issue, or opportunity. They might be complaining or pitching, but they rarely get to ingest much. Often I have sat in agony as my contact holds half a sandwich for a solid 18 minutes without taking a single bite while explaining to me their process for selecting agencies around the world.

Thus, lunch stress is just too much. Breakfast or cocktails are the way to go, with breakfast being the much preferred option. Get the day started with a high-level discussion of what makes you get up in the first place. Information retention is better, the conversation is livelier, and the food is altogether easier to squeeze in around the bullet points.

If my tone seems facetious, I assure you that my underlying point is serious indeed. Many of my most important interactions take place in one-on-one settings with the industry leadership. So to professionals of all kinds who want to spend much of this time engaged in the business-dining ritual, I ask, "What is the ROI on that?"

In PR, particularly, there is often an expectation that the investment of this time will result in immediate editorial returns. Sadly, that is just not always the case. Ideas are certainly generated, tips passed, and gossip traded. But, in some ways, the connection has to be its own reward, the focus on ideas to drive the industry, and individual brands, forward.

This column is designed as a platform to report on these conversations with the industry. Much of the time I will mention companies and people by name. But, as we are all more interested in truth than profile, I will not hesitate to protect my sources, or disguise the identity of a representative example of bad industry practices, when the underlying lesson is edifying to the readers as a whole.

The column is called Pershing Square after a restaurant located directly across the street from Grand Central Station in New York. While it is not the location of every encounter, Pershing Square has a symbolic and literal connection to many in the PR industry. During the downturn, it was fairly quiet. But now it is fairly teeming with communicators and others, sharing ideas and making their pitches.

I look forward to hearing many of both over the following months. But preferably not over lunch, please.

Pershing Square is a bi-monthly online column by Julia Hood, PRWeek editor-in-chief

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