PRs: spend less time in cyberspace, more on the phone

Forget faddy diets and vows to make January dry; if you want a New Year’s resolution that’s really going to pack a punch in 2022, learn how to have a natter on the phone.

PRs: spend less time in cyberspace, more on the phone

You don’t need to be Sherlock to work out that conversation is a key part of PR, but a whole generation don’t seem to have got the memo. Or if they did, they’re choosing to ignore it.

In recent weeks I’ve been ghosted, not once but hundreds of times, by twenty and thirtysomethings who would clearly rather suck Donald Trump’s toe than answer their phone or perish the thought, call me back.

Are young people so used to hiding behind social media platforms, emails and texts that they’ve developed a phone phobia, endemic across all industry, and killing conversation for good?

Looking for a social media assistant would, I thought, be an easy enough task.

The CVs flooded in, full of glossy pictures and slick layouts. I was rather smug. This was going to be a piece of cake.

Or not as it turned out.

Putting on my happy, smiley, yes, you’ve been short-listed voice, I was prepared for a quick get to know you chat. But each call I made was greeted with panic, anger – ‘why are you calling me’ – or a few seconds of embarrassed mumbling followed by the end call button.

I’ve always considered myself rather charming and easy to talk to. Had the pandemic and work from home isolation somehow changed my usual friendly patter?

No. It seems that while three-quarters of all UK adults have smartphones, 25 per cent of them don’t use them to make calls.

Honestly, I shouldn’t have been surprised. In recent years I’ve observed with growing alarm the number of PR companies who refuse to talk on the phone.

While looking after an A-lister performing at the O2, the record company PR insisted that we couldn’t have any verbal communication, not even to introduce ourselves.

Alarm bells started going off when I kept getting emails about dogs being used in another artist’s pop video. The result: my Hollywood star was expecting champagne in their dressing room but ended up with dog biscuits and novelty costumes. Exit one red-faced in-house record PR.

Similarly, organising a shoot for a super-model, her US team refused point-blank to speak to me. Amongst the hundreds of emails that followed I was fortunate to intercept one between the American publicist and the UK stylist, otherwise said supermodel would have been modelling knickers instead of the ‘pants’ (trousers) she was meant to be wearing.

All mildly amusing now, but incidents like this could’ve been easily averted if only someone would pick up the phone.

I fear a key element of our business is being eroded and leading to a lowering of professional standards within our industry.

Are the younger generation afraid that if they are seen chatting on their phone then it won’t look like they’re working? How can they possibly feel comfortable talking to a well-known celebrity or captain of Industry if they are constantly stuck in cyberspace in both their work and home life?

And more importantly, how can you get to know a client if you don’t actually speak to them?

I’d like to see public speaking and interpersonal skills become an integral part of our children’s schooling. Good old-fashioned chatting on the phone can’t be allowed to become a forgotten art, and long-term it mustn’t end up being collateral damage for our technologically advancing world.

Ben Douglas is founder of Fusion Communications

Have you registered with us yet?

Register now to enjoy more articles and free email bulletins

Already registered?
Sign in