In 1994, BT launched the “it’s good to talk” campaign. You remember - a jolly Bob Hoskins, an elderly lady celebrating her birthday, and a dog.
But what happened? These days, you’re more likely to hear the ping of your email or the incessant beep of a text message rather than a person’s voice.
In the digital age, the use of the telephone is clearly a dying skill – let alone the ability to conduct an articulate conversation. This is particularly true in the realms of PR, where email has, quite literally, swallowed us whole.
Recent research has shown that employees admit to checking their emails between 30 and 40 times per day, while the average number of emails sent by workers each day was 37 in 2006, predicted to rise to 47 in 2008 (which all seems a little low to me!).
Whatever happened to picking up the receiver, dialling a number and having a good old chat? Instead, we spend considerable amounts of time chasing emails round our inboxes, gagging for someone (please, anyone!) to make a final decision.
There’s no denying that email is a wonderful thing – but there is a limit. Yes, it enables companies to leave a documented trail of evidence; to transcend time differences; and for all of us to be involved in correspondence. But at the same time, it’s also given us the curse of the “cc” box, not to mention the deluge of spam.
The telephone, on the other hand, is (usually!) a direct line to a living, breathing human being. And in PR terms, that means you can get a sense of your clients and journalists, and they, in turn, can get a sense of you – as opposed to a string of impersonal emails.
Good communication really is the crux of our job. A client and its brand must be understood and expressed to the relevant people in the correct manner, therefore the communications we engage in must be crystal clear (or pretty darn close) and based on dialogue where possible.
If we don’t get the balance right, all that lies ahead is a future of crossed wires and a murky quagmire of emails – and that’s not a pleasant thought for any of us.