Firstname, lastname, candidate number, job title, organisation, postcode, telephone, email, date of birth – that’s all I know about this year’s CIPR Advanced Certificate and Diploma students.
That’s a lot more than they know about me – but over the next few weeks and months we will get to know each other as people, working towards the common goal of their successful achievement of a professional public relations qualification.
I’m currently entering the students’ data into my Greenbanana educational site to enable the guys to learn more about what is involved in their studies, begin their recommended reading and download the first workbook and notes for Session 1.
At present, I have no faces to go with the names – although I could imagine what someone will look like on the basis of a few facts. But, that would mean drawing on stereotypes, prejudging rather than being open minded.
I heard from a group at Cambridge the other year, that before they met me, they thought I would have long nails and wear bright red lipstick. Was it my name, my address or something in my emails that gave that impression.
We increasingly make connections only by email, online or telephone rather than coming face to face. Undoubtedly that means making assumptions from limited information. We look for things we have in common – do we like the sound of their voice, the way they express themselves in writing? Do they seem friendly or fierce?
Perhaps I should undertake some online research into this year’s students – see what I can find via Google, Myspace, Facebook etc. As we are looking at the impact of new media on PR in our first sessions – that would be an interesting exercise.
If you only know someone from a mailing list, how can you build a relationship? In PR, the least you should do is to read a journalist’s work. But there is nothing quite like being able to meet face to face.
I always found relationships with journalists developed much better when you’d had a chance to meet at a launch, a Motorshow or other event.
Once you meet someone, I find the communication via virtual means improves. I’ve never had the reverse experience – of liking someone online and feeling disappointed when you meet.
I believe we really do need to meet people face to face in PR – that’s why it’s called public relations, not press release distribution – or marketing.