OPINION: E-kisses reflect perception of frothiness

Is it time for the kissing to stop?

I pose the question because last week I received an email from a PR account manager who festooned her email signature with x's and was sent a similarly effusive one from a potential client I had also never met.

Neither correspondence was untypical of the ­average daily content of the inbox and I do not for a nanosecond kid myself that I am in any way special in being selected as the recipient of such faux-affectionate notes. I do, though, have a feeling that such effusiveness is at least partially confined to the PR industry and that it reflects a perception of frothiness around our business rather than the steely professionalism for which it perhaps should be known.

Lawyer and accountant friends tell me that such effusiveness is rare in their business. Which could, of course, be a reflection on the fact that clients are disinclined to hug and kiss - even electronically - those whose bills tend to be heavier and more insistent than those presented by the PR profession. The retail and finance sectors also tend to be more sparse in their affections and, indeed, their affectations.

Certain client sectors are, of course, historically suffused with the ‘xxx factor' and mentality and it would be churlish and unempathetic of PROs not to reciprocate the warm actual and electronic embraces of our showbiz clients. However, virtual smackers on first email contact with fellow practitioners may be overdoing it.

Equally unnecessary is the electronic kiss sent out as a matter of routine to ­clients when attaching a routine status report or piece of coverage. Incidentally, does that coverage really have to be accompanied by the PR superlatives exhorting the client to read the attached ‘brilliant', ‘fantastic' or ‘sensational' piece secured? It seems to be another symptom of our industry's occasional insecurity and narcissism that we have to PR ourselves by attaching adjectives to our work which would be better applied by clients - with or without an electronic kiss - should the coverage really be ‘fabulous' enough to warrant it.

Email has, of course, revolutionised the way every­one works and is constantly changing social and professional etiquette. Modern manners are being rewritten by the day as cyberspace is jammed with a billion emails from the PR industry alone. Maybe when the little book of email etiquette for business is finally and definitively written, it will contain proper guidelines on how and when to plant the virtual kiss and on whom. Warm regards and best wishes to all in the meantime.

Ian Monk is founder of Ian Monk Associates and was formerly a senior newspaper executive at the Daily Mail and The Sun.

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