PR Fish Bowl

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TGIF: Left to Our Own Devices

Well, we are, aren’t we?

A new book, “Alone Together: Why We Expect More of Technology and Less of Each Other” by MIT Technology Professor Sherry Turkle, posits the following. Although we have wondrous new ways of connecting, via smartphones and computers, texting and emailing, social networking sites where we update our “stati” several times a day, in many ways, the age of digital saturation has caused us to sacrifice conversation for mere connection.

I see this every day in our busy and buzzing PR office. It used to be that our phones would ring off the hook and you couldn’t hear yourself talk over the din of animated phone conversations with reporters and clients. Now, when I ask my co-workers, “did you talk to Joe at the Times?” the answer is something like, “Yes I tweeted him and he emailed me right away requesting more information,” or “He just texted me with a date for an interview.”

Speaking of interviews, these crucial opportunities to spread a client’s message used to be much more formal affairs, in person, over lunch or drinks, only occasionally as “phoners.” Now, more often than not, a reporter will email questions to the PR contact who will email them to the client and discuss responses via email memo or phone. Kind of takes the spontaneity and spark out of the whole process, producing a sanitized, message-controlled interview, — maybe just what a client wants, but lacking color!

As much as new technology and multiple devices have eased and sped up our ability to communicate, I advocate for face-to-face conversation when you can get it. Sherry Turkle fears that kids growing up “digitized” won’t learn the basics of social conversation. Yikes!

Therefore, I urge you to chat more with your co-workers, make time to see your clients in person on a regular basis and take a media contact out for drinks or coffee. Nothing can replace face-to-face!

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