Crisis Management in the Age of Citizen Journalism

By Aaron Ellis, Professional Development Committee co-chair

If you attended the National Capital Chapter’s “Crisis Management in the Age of Citizen Journalism” professional development event Nov. 7 at Hager Sharp in downtown Washington, you probably walked away feeling you invested your time wisely.

Brian Ellis - Padilla Executive VP, presents on crisis communications 11-7-2017For most, it was their first interaction with crisis management expert Brian Ellis. A former broadcast journalist who is now executive vice president for Minneapolis-headquartered Padilla public relations and who also teaches crisis management at Virginia Commonwealth University, Ellis’ riveting, rapid-fire lessons about responding to various crises reminded participants that advance preparation is the key to success.

In today’s age of citizen journalists, where anybody with a smart phone can record an event and post it online within minutes, the timeline as to who controls the narrative of a story has collapsed to mere minutes. That means professional communicators and the organizations they represent must anticipate questions in advance to tell their side any story, or risk losing the advantage.

According to Ellis, there are three steps for effectively communicating during a crisis:

Brian Ellis5 - Padilla Executive VP, presents on crisis communications 11-7-2017

  1. Identify what audiences want and need to know by writing out in advance the questions they are most likely to ask.
  2. Based on the anticipated questions, develop three key messages and short, memorable quotes to go with them.
  3. Practice your messages and quote(s) out loud, honing your transitions until they’re seamless.

Ellis said the key messages should focus on: a) showing compassion for those impacted; b) providing information about your organization’s crisis response plan, and c) explaining your organization’s crisis investigation and how to ensure something similar doesn’t happen again.

For his advance crisis preparation exercise, Ellis provided each table with one of three scenarios: a data breach, a criminal activity and an active shooter incident. Each table’s participants were then given a few minutes to develop a list of questions they thought they might be asked, write out three key messages and quotes to use in response, and write out four social media posts and five action steps to take from a communications perspective.

The more questions each group anticipated, the more articulate were their key messages, social posts and action steps.

“In the blame game of a crisis, the CEO will usually get fired if he or she isn’t prepared and then tries to wing it,” said Ellis. “Being unprepared is inexcusable.”

Ellis cited an example of the apology made by BP CEO Tony Hayward during the 2010 Gulf of Mexico Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion that killed 11 workers and caused the worst oil spill in U.S. history. Hayward concluded his apology by saying, “There’s no one who wants this over more than I do. I’d like my life back.”

“Few will remember (Hayward’s) apology, but everyone remembers those infamous last five words,” said Ellis. “They negated everything else he said.”

In a more recent example, United Airlines made the mistake of using the term “re-accommodate” when referring to the action the airline took in dragging a recalcitrant passenger off one its planes. “United lost $1.4 billion over that incident. They transport millions of people a year. They should have foreseen the risk and been prepared to respond appropriately,” said Ellis.

In today’s 24-hour news cycle, Ellis noted that the “media beast” must constantly be fed. To that end, he highly recommends creating a dark website that can be quickly engaged in a crisis, then reviewing and updating its content regularly. He also reminded workshop participants that an organization’s internal audiences can be either their greatest allies or worst enemies in a crisis, depending on how they are treated and kept informed.

“In a crisis, the best strategy is to always play offense and be out there telling a positive story,” he said. “By pointing your audience to what they perceive to be inside information, they’ll pay more attention to your side of the story.”

Advertisements

Celebration, Recognition…and a Little Dancing – PRSA-NCC’s Thoth Awards

By: Kelsey O’Planick, News Generation

The 49th Annual Thoth Awards Gala, PRSA-NCC’s premiere annual event, was a wonderful evening of networking, recognizing the strongest PR campaigns, and celebrating the Egyptian culture.

thoth-2017.jpg

The News Generation and American Psychological Association teams winning the Thoth Award in the Media Relations: Radio Campaign category.

Thoth, which is pronounced “tot,” is the ancient Egyptian god of communication. The Gala was held on Thursday, October 12, at the National Press Club. Some of the big winners include Hager Sharp, which won Best of Show, as well as Padilla, Coster Communications, Environics Communications, McCabe Message Partners, The Reis Group and Crosby Marketing Communications, just to name a few. A list of all of the winning entries can be found here.

The Gala kicked off with a traditional Egyptian dance from Mr. Mohamed Ali from Seven Egyptian Dance Troupe, included multiple videos of King Thoth (aka Danny Selnick) learning about PR in D.C., honored impressive campaigns, provided a wonderful meal, and inducted two Hall of Fame inductees, Carman Marsans and John Seng.

Guests also enjoyed a raffle, where they could enter to win items such as Apple Watches, Washington Redskins tickets, and an overnight stay in Alexandria, VA. Proceeds from the raffle benefitted the DC Alliance of Youth Advocates, PRSA-NCC’s pro bono client.

Do you still have photos or stories to share about your experience at the Gala? Use the hashtag #Thoth2017.

FBI Spotlights STEM

Today on National STEM Day, PRSA-NCC observes the holiday set aside to encourage individuals to follow their passions in Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math. Recently members of PRSA-NCC had the opportunity to interview Raushaunah Muhammad of the Federal Bureau of Investigation National Press Office on the FBI’s efforts to spotlight STEM.

PRSA-NCC: We understand you have a background in STEM and now work in Public Affairs at FBI. Tell us a little about your background and how you transitioned from working in STEM to the National Press Office for the FBI.

RM/FBI: Currently, I am a Supervisory Special Agent (SSA) with the FBI’s National Press Office where I handle most of the science and tech portfolios.  I earned a degree in Electrical Engineering from an HBCU (Historically Black Colleges and Universities) and have a research background in cryptology. Before joining the Press Office, I was assigned to the New York Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF) for nearly 12 years where I worked extraterritorial matters emanating from the continent of Africa.

PrintI learned of the Office of Public Affairs shortly after joining the FBI. Since then, I have always wanted to work in this field. I have been fortunate to have deployed all over the world, and our reputation precedes us. I am grateful to have found a career with the FBI. We do a lot of amazing work, and I am proud to share those successes with the world—when we can. From an operational lens, when my colleagues and I stack up on a door or go interview a subject, I want that individual to think twice about their next move. So yes, I can take down a bad guy with my pinkie finger and one hand tied behind my back and look good in a suit while doing it!

PRSA-NCC: You’re currently doing a campaign at FBI that promotes these fields and the people who work in them. What made you want to put the spotlight on this industry and why now?

RM/FBI: I remember coding for the first time when I was in third grade; STEM has always been an important part of my life. I have experienced firsthand the benefits of a STEM education but have also seen all the amazing work done by the Bureau in the STEM arena. I have always wanted to give back to a community that has given me so much. Obviously I am a big proponent of STEM, especially among women. After being assigned most of the science and tech portfolios, I realized in keeping with the FBI’s vision is to stay ahead of the threat through leadership, agility, and integration, I could contribute through our acknowledgment of the importance of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics in our communities and inspire future generations to consider a career in STEM.

PRSNA-NCC: What skills does one need to have in order to work in these fields and how is it different in the FBI than in private sector?

RM/FBI: STEM professionals at the FBI have opportunities to work with advanced technologies to address unique investigative and intelligence challenges not found in the private sector. STEM skills such as critical thinking, communication, problem solving, creativity, data analysis, and increased science and technical literacy are transferable across numerous job paths within the FBI. The FBI seeks and recruits graduates with degrees in a variety of STEM-related degrees to serve in roles such as Special Agents, Intelligence Analysts, Computer Scientists, Electronics Engineers, Information Technology Specialists, Chemists, Biologists and Physical Scientists. That’s just to name a few. At the FBI, we are about the mission, and our mission is to protect the American people and uphold the Constitution of the United States against all threats foreign and domestic.

PRSA-NCC: What has it been like promoting the STEM campaign in the Press Office? Do most people know what it is? What has been the reaction?

RM/FBI: This is my first nationwide initiative. It has been a labor of love, but I have received overwhelming support from the Office of Public Affairs, the various divisions within the FBI, and FBI executive management. Most people I encountered knew about STEM; however, for those that did not, once I explained what it is and what I wanted to accomplish, they were all in.

PRSA-NCC: How are you reaching out to people to inform them of the STEM opportunities at the FBI from a Public Relations perspective?

RM/FBI: At a HQ level we are issuing a press release, hosting a live Twitter chat, posting a lead story to the FBI.gov website, and doing a podcast. We are also posting a story on our internal website. Most importantly, we are very fortunate that in addition to the Office of Public Affairs at FBIHQ, we have Public Affairs Officers in each of our 56 field offices. The field is our greatest resource. They are promoting our efforts in their markets. Additionally, they are working on their own STEM-related projects and engaging with their offices’ community outreach specialists and human resources departments. The success of this initiative will be mainly as a result of their hard work; they are a force multiplier.

PRSA-NCC: When most people think of the FBI, they might think of agents fighting crimes. How does STEM play a role in solving crimes? 

RM/FBI: We understand when most people talk or think about the FBI, they may not immediately be thinking of how the FBI’s mission relates to STEM or is supported by people who have backgrounds in STEM. However, in today’s world, every investigation is touched by science and technology. The FBI develops cutting-edge technology and uses science to help fulfill its mission. All of these disciplines and the skills that are inherent to them are vital tools within law enforcement. We have STEM professionals in every field office and at Headquarters. They are mostly in divisions such as the Laboratory Division, Operational Technology Division, Weapons of Mass Destruction Directorate and Cyber Division, but they are also in our Criminal Investigative Division. Matter of fact, CID recently reshaped a portion of its organization model to manage hi-tech criminal threats.

PRSA-NCC: How do you think the public’s perception of these fields has changed over time? Do you think shows like “Big Bang Theory” or “Project MC2” have helped make these fields seem cool to get into now?

RM/FBI: I believe STEM has always been cool. However, I think there is more of an awareness now of STEM and how it permeates every part of our daily life. It’s not just science fiction anymore. Television shows and hopefully outreach efforts such as this will make it even cooler to pursue a STEM education. Also, an important underlying theme is diversity and inclusion. Maybe a child will see a character or see an FBI employee that looks like them and see themselves in that world, see themselves in STEM.

PRSA-NCC: How do you recruit people in these fields to work for the FBI? 

RM/FBI: We like to say that everyone is a recruiter. First and foremost, we recruit through word of mouth. The FBI is a great place to work. Bureau personnel regularly visit colleges and universities to speak with prospective job candidates. Matter of fact, I was recruited at my HBCU’s career fair. I had never considered a career with the FBI prior to that. We also have a unit within HRD solely dedicated to the recruitment of STEM personnel. Further, the FBI maintains educational outreach academies. Some of these programs promote STEM in the communities we protect and serve such as the FBI’s Teen/Youth Academies, Future Agents in Training (FAIT), Safe Online Surfing, and Cyber STEM. For a more robust list of our outreach programs visit https://www.fbi.gov/about/community-outreach.

PRSA-NCC: What are some of the challenges and rewards with recruiting for STEM?  

RM/FBI: The market for STEM expertise is highly competitive to say the least. STEM skilled and trained personnel are an integral part of the FBI. We work to recruit and retain top talent from both private and government sectors to maintain an exceptional cadre of diverse professionals. What we offer at the Bureau is an opportunity to make a real and positive difference in the world. We want those individuals that are about service over self, and when you meet someone with the skills and the drive to do just that, it’s exciting to see. Best of all, you know when they join the FBI family—and we are a family, that they will have a unique, inspiring and fulfilling career.

PRSA-NCC: Where can people go to learn more about STEM work at the FBI?

RM/FBI: There are a wide range of STEM careers at the FBI, each with its own advantages and opportunities. For more information about STEM-related career paths in the FBI, please see https://www.fbijobs.gov/career-paths/stem. However, for a look at which positions are currently available, please see www.fbijobs.gov. Also, students majoring in STEM fields in undergraduate, graduate, or Ph.D. programs are encouraged to apply to our Honors Internship Program and Collegiate Hiring Initiative.

Content Overload Dilemma – Or – Why Podcast

By Tracy Schario, APR, and Meredyth Jensen

We’ve been talking a lot about podcasts over coffee this summer. Meredyth produces The 10-Minute Mentor, an executive management conversation series for Merryck & Co. Tracy regularly consumes Dear Sugars (one of whom is Cheryl Strayed, best known for her memoir Wild), Dinner Party Download (DPD) and The Splendid Table, among others. We muse about what makes a good podcast. Finding women’s voices in the audio stream. The myriad of marketing podcasts that are somewhat lackluster, yet popular. Creating podcasts that offer distinctly different content rather than merely another distribution channel for content. The challenges of marketing and distributing a podcast. The possibility of creating our own PR/Marketing mavens series.

A few facts that inform the deliberation.

pexels-photo-347700-torsten-dettlaff

Courtesy: Pexels/Torsten Dettlaff

With more than 42 million weekly listeners, according to The Infinite Dial 2017, an annual trends report by Edison Research and Triton Digital, podcasts have proven their staying power. In fact, it is their power of connection that makes the medium so effective. The listener chooses the topic that speaks to his or her need for information, education, entertainment or inspiration. Dear Sugars may bring one to tears but the Icebreaker on DPD most always brings a chuckle.

Podcasts also appeal to a wide range of listeners – nearly equal thirds for Ages 18-34, 35-54 and 55 and older. The Edison Triton researchers conclude, “The audience for podcasts continues to be predominately 18-54, and leans slightly male.” If you are considering launching a podcast, understanding your audience is a critical first step to developing content, length, format and frequency.

With today’s smart phone driven culture, it should be no surprise that 81% of subscribers listen on a mobile device. While many download podcasts and listen immediately, 41% download for later and 27% subscribe. Not only are podcasts convenient for on demand consumption, you can multi-task while listening, while driving or working out, for example. Stop. Start. Rewind or fast forward in 15-second increments. Pause and continue later.

One of the most essential findings from the Edison Triton research is that 48% of monthly podcast consumers follow company brands on social media. That number is sure to increase. Podcasts are an opportunity to build your multi-channel content strategy and utilize social media for promotions.

Why podcast? An ROI case study illustrates the business value.

For Merryck & Co., the catalyst for developing a podcast series was a way to build their brand position as a global leader in executive advisory and leadership development. Their unique value proposition is having a cadre of experienced C-suite executives who provide 1-on-1 mentoring services to Fortune 250 senior leaders. We started with an audio storytelling strategy on a topic Merryck knows best: leadership in the age of disruption. By featuring authentic, pragmatic, and thought-provoking conversations between Merryck’s CEO and top business executives, each episode uncovers crucible moments that defined them as leaders.

Whether the discussion dives deep into managing through crisis, leading through transformation, or dealing with activist investors in the boardroom, Merryck has put a content stake in the ground with subject matter experts that have helped countless listeners accelerate their own leadership impact. And the return on the investment speaks volumes. The series has driven a 10X year-over-year increase in web traffic, while the dedicated podcast page of Merryck’s website is consistently one of the top three most visited pages on the site since it first launched last November. Additionally, two new (six-figure) clients who listened to The 10 Minute Mentor were inspired to hire Merryck based on topics that resonated with their current leadership challenges. Another outcome is the increase in executive visibility – not only for Merryck’s CEO, who has doubled his public speaking engagements this year – but a surge in client inquiries for each Merryck mentor who has been featured on a podcast.

Conclusion?

By now, if you haven’t considered creating a podcast, it’s time to contemplate this compelling distribution channel for content, brand management and as a potential new revenue driver. It requires skill in audio recording and editing, a vision for how you can advance the conversation in an increasingly crowded space and the ability to engage an audience through dialogue. Sounds easy, right?

As you explore the pros and cons of podcasting, here a few good reads to help develop your business case for the investment.

As for our coffee chats, perhaps we’ll soon be podcasting to test out our hypothesis that there is space for more women’s perspective on the happenings in our industry. And you can bet we’ll be scouting for more great podcasts.

Seven Ways to Form Meaningful Business Relationships

By Susan Matthews Apgood, News Generation

170813-M75_7210

Susan Apgood (middle) at the 2015 Thoth Awards

No matter your industry, the benefits of knowing how to form meaningful relationships with other professionals are exponential. And while maintaining relationships may be as simple as sending an email once in a while, forming those relationships is a whole other story. All meaningful business relationships have one key factor in common: mutual benefits. Being able to give is just as important as getting, and one cannot happen without the other. Each of these seven ways to form relationships rely heavily on mutual assistance:

 

  1. Find a Mentor and/or Mentee: Early in my career, I viewed asking for help as a sign of weakness. As a young business owner, I feared that not knowing how to do something would turn away potential clients and make employees nervous. It wasn’t until I found myself in a position where people came to me for assistance that I realized the true benefits of asking for help. The mentor-mentee relationship is a great way to build a strong business relationship early in your career, and even decades in. But the most important factor of a meaningful mentor-mentee relationship is mutual benefit. The relationship must go two ways. Don’t overlook how much your mentee can teach you, and don’t ask too much of your mentor. If the relationship becomes too much of a “take” on one side, it will not last.
  2. Consider Joining a Peer Group: Peer groups are an easy way to meet other professionals in different industries, that are in the same position as you, and faced with the same challenges. As a member of Vistage for seven years, I came to realize how much others can help you, and how much you can help them in return. Not only have I gained insightful advice from my peers, I’ve also seen first-hand how giving, but not getting in return, can limit business relationships. Like all networking groups, you get back what you give out. And don’t overlook the benefits of joining industry-specific groups, like PRSA. Getting to know peers within your industry in your community is invaluable. My experience with PRSA-NCC here in the D.C. area has allowed me to build some of the best personal and professional relationships I have.
  3. Understand Who You’re Working With: Everyone differs in how they like to be communicated with, and nothing is more beneficial than understanding what type of person you’re trying to form a relationship with. A simple way to read people is by evaluating their personality based on tests. Some people like quick and to–the-point communication, while others prefer more personal sentiments like starting an email with “Hope you had a nice weekend.” Knowing how people want to be communicated with, and showing them how you want to be communicated with in return makes a balanced, meaningful business relationship. For example, if the person I am working with is a “red,” I don’t have to go through the formalities when asking a question of them, but if they are a “green,” I definitely do.
  4. Help Others Get Valuable Experiences: In the business world, few things are more meaningful than helping others get valuable experiences. Connecting one meaningful business relationship with another that will provide mutual benefits for both will not only help out a peer, it will strengthen your relationships with both parties. Similarly, don’t be afraid to ask someone you know professionally to introduce you to other people. If you think a connection would be great to speak on a panel or serve on a board, speak up and ask them if they would like you to nominate them. Many people are too shy to nominate themselves, and if you do, they will not only be grateful to you, but so will the beneficiaries of their talents at the conference or on the board.
  5. Work with Clients with Similar Office Cultures and Thoughts: As a business owner for 20 years now, I’ve learned how I want to represent myself and my business, and how I don’t. Staying true to your office culture by working with clients that hold those same values is a great way to form relationships with both individuals and companies. Working with and trying to form relationships with those who have very different ways of conducting business may make it difficult to form meaningful relationships. It is important to know when a culture is not a fit, and potentially walking away from a client that is not a good match for you and your time.
  6. Be Persistent: Being persistent is important, but there is a huge caveat. Be persistent, but always have a reason. Emailing prospective clients to just ask for work can quickly read as too sales-y. But, when you have a reason such as “I was recently reading about your work” or “I loved your post on LinkedIn,” can make the difference between a read and unread email. One easy “reason” to connect clients is by sending out a newsletter, which involves minimal work on the receiver’s end, but can keep your business in the back of their mind. My goal is never to convince clients and potential clients to use broadcast services in general, because they can come to that conclusion on their own. But, if a client is in the market to buy products that we offer, we want them to choose us over a competitor. Building and maintaining a strong relationship before it comes to decision time is one way to do that.
  7. Know Your Industry: Being a master of your industry will allow you to fully understand how to give and receive in your business relationships, especially when they are with professionals outside of your industry. Even if that means working with competitors, being able to recognize a mutually beneficial opportunity comes from a deep understanding of your industry. This understanding will also help you identify ways that you can give in a professional relationship, thus making the relationship stronger. Let your hard work speak for itself.

The key to making it in the business world is to know how to interact with other professionals, and form mutually beneficial relationships with them. Having these meaningful professional relationships will allow you to advance your careers and find opportunities that may not have been presented to you otherwise. But always keep in mind, you will only get out of your relationships what you put in.

Stay tuned…

Communications Can’t Cure the Current Chaos

Reflections on a thought leadership event.

by Samantha Villegas
Samantha Villegas, APR, is President of SaVi PR, and currently serves on the PRSA National Board of Directors. She was the 2013 president of the National Capital Chapter.

I don’t know about you but as a communicator, my optimism is at an all-time low, and my cynicism is at an all-time high. Though fake news (or lies or propaganda or whatever phrase you prefer) is nothing new, it’s now being created and disseminated at rates and volumes beyond what we’ve ever experienced before. And thanks to today’s sharing technology, it proliferates at warp speed. Couple this with the apparent loss of respect for facts and science – scientific method and critical thinking – and what is a professional communicator to do? It seems we can’t win for trying.

art-broken-explosion-glass

Courtesy: Pexels/Stokpic

The science, data, and peer-reviewed study behind such important issues as climate change, vaccinations, and gun violence, for example, is indisputable, and yet, here we are, every day, forced to engage in insidious conversations about whether sea levels have risen or fallen (they’ve risen); whether vaccinations cause autism (they don’t) and whether having more guns and easier access to them makes us safer (they don’t). Each one of those facts, whether someone likes them or not, can be definitively defended, because there is ample data, peer-reviewed studies and science to back them. I know them like I know hot food will burn my tongue and the sun will rise tomorrow morning. Despite that, people are disputing them, with points that are irrelevant, not fact-based or just wrong. And they dig in and stay put.

The scariest part is this behavior is not confined to a small group of naysayers or even only the uneducated. This behavior can be seen in Ivy League graduates, serving in some of our country’s highest leadership positions, who are using it as a tool to push political agendas. It’s used by leaders in business and government to relax regulations that were grounded in science and put in place to protect public health, just so they can pad profit. This adherence to misinformation and disinformation, whether involuntary due to ignorance or purposeful for politics, comes with tremendous consequences. It has me feeling a bit paralyzed, frankly, as if the only firm ground I’ve ever known has suddenly crumbled away.

So I was glad to have the chance, recently, to attend a panel discussion about fake news and its impact on journalism and the public relations profession. A lot of agreement on the state of things, and very sound advice for dealing with our new normal was offered, such as:

  • Use non-confrontational language, even when challenging those who present ideas based on false premises
  • Be advocates for teaching the next generation critical thinking skills, how to interpret, analyze and evaluate information
  • Invest in market research to understand your audience’s wants
  • Speak plainly and in an authentic voice
  • Don’t jump in without first understanding context and having a strategy
  • Keep messages short
  • Build partnerships and alliances rather than challenge misinformation, disinformation, lies and false “facts” alone
  • Be vigilant in advocating for truth in communications

This is all, undeniably great advice. But here’s the thing: all those bullets apply to any communications professional at any time in history. All of this represents some of the very basics of savvy communications. Granted, not all of us can practice all of this all of the time. Budgets get in the way of conducting meaningful research. Deadlines prevent us from building the critical partnerships. And sometimes, the arrogance of a decision-maker stops us from being able to say the exact right thing in the exact right way we should. I get it, we can’t always be on our game. But, if most of us are doing most of this, most of the time, how is this chaos still happening?

SONY DSC

Courtesy: Gratisography/Ryan McGuire

Someone on the panel said truth is now a differentiator. Truth, as a differentiator. Let that sink in for a second. On the one hand, I can’t contain my sheer despondence if that’s the case. And two, at a time when facts don’t matter and he who lies best wins, how does truth set you apart, let alone set you free? Whose truth? Which truth?

Fellow communicators, we’re facing the challenge of our careers right now. I don’t have any easy answers for you. Of course we must follow the panelists’ advice, as I hope you always have been. We shall endeavor to seek first to understand before being understood. We shall strategize first and write truthful pithy copy in snack sized bites, and we shall seek common ground and partnership with different minded but similarly missioned (or is it similarly minded but different missioned?) groups. We shall continue to do as I think we have all been endeavoring to do, with added vigor and purpose.

But please forgive me if I tell you that I don’t believe these approaches will cure what ails us.  So while I am grateful for the sage reminders, I don’t think these issues – this lack of critical thinking, self-control, or basic understanding of science, can be fixed by upping our communications game. We need to stay focused and bring our best every day, but I think we just need to let this stink bomb dissipate.

As one colleague put it so well, “The flames of emotion are being fanned at such an alarming rate that I have no sense of how to encourage critical thinking in so many people who form opinions about policy and events from tweets.”

Another I spoke to about this said she “fear[s] for what happens when too many among our citizens fail to reason rationally and logically, and fail to think independently,” and I couldn’t agree more.

So, we must do all these things the panel said. Do your best work. And bide your time, because we can’t change crazy but we can outlast it. I predict that in a few years, after another election cycle or two, we will look back at this and shake our heads. We may even get a chuckle. We will have volumes of remember whens and memes and footnotes and stories. And we will snap back to reality, where facts are facts, truth is truth, lies are lies, and love is love. At least I hope that’s what will happen. See you on the other side.

The Value of In-Person Meetings in the Digital Age: A PRSA-NCC Event

by Jillian Cameron

Panel (1)

Photo courtesy of Danielle Bilotta

Whether you are a reporter, a PR professional, or anyone in the communications world, you probably rely heavily on email to connect with others throughout the day. Many prefer the comfort and the anonymity of online interactions compared to the riskiness of an in-person meeting.

On Wednesday, June 21, the Public Relations Society of America’s National Capital Chapter (PRSA-NCC) hosted a panel of experts to discuss why so many professionals are reluctant to have in-person meetings and how those meetings can be beneficial to not only yourself, but to your work.

Panel2

Photo courtesy of Danielle Bilotta

Alex Gangitano, panelist and reporter for CQ Roll Call, discussed how in-person meetings are vital to maintaining relationships with her contacts and are “always worth the time.” Gangitano says that being able to put a face to the name not only creates relationships between reporters and their sources, but can also build trust that may prove to be invaluable in times of need.

But is the Internet to blame for the lack of in-person meetings? Panelist Dr. Mary Alvord of Alvord, Baker & Associates and former president of the American Psychological Association’s Society for Media Psychology and Technology , says that a lot of people have some degree of social anxiety that can be avoided through sticking with online interactions. Most of the anxiety related to in-person interactions is anticipatory, Alvord says, and will ease as the conversation begins.

Panel3

Photo courtesy of Danielle Bilotta

Alvord outlined three dimensions of interactions: texting and email, phone and video chatting, and in-person. Texting and email can be useful for an initial contact, while video chatting provides the comfort of online communication with some of the benefits of in-person interactions. Yet, neither emailing nor video chatting create the same effects as in-person meetings.

While in-person meetings can create meaningful professional relationships, they’re not always necessary, according to Washington Post reporter and panelist, Michael Laris. Laris says that it’s not necessary to schedule in-person meetings with organizations that make information widely accessible and understandable on multiple platforms.

In order to prepare for those nerve-wracking in-person meetings, Seth Turner of the Congressional Management Foundation, says to remember your ABCs: acknowledge, bridge, and communicate. Practicing your talking points and doing your homework will set your in-person meeting up for success.

As moderator, Aaron Ellis, says it’s all about balancing online interactions with face-to-face communication. Finding a happy medium between sending out emails and grabbing coffee or lunch is the key to success and building strong professional relationships.