Take the Hybrid

This week on a Zoom call, a prospect said, “I’m going to go on mute, because I have to get ready. I’m rushing to the airport.”

“Music to my ears,” said one of my colleagues.  He was right.

After 15 months of the pandemic, it was another sign we are returning to normal.

The media have reported extensively about so-called “road warriors” and their adjustment to post-pandemic life.  I’ll leave it to the travel experts and commentators to talk about airline traffic and hotel occupancy.  What I’d like to offer is this—the “hybrid model” will and should be a constant.

Public relations is very much a people business.  It’s about far more than just being a strong media tactician or a capable writer. It’s about being a multi-faceted professional with emotional intelligence, who can assess a situation quickly and then act to provide counsel accordingly.

For years, I – like many others – thought much of our work could only be done in person.  No, you can’t get to “know” somebody over a screen. No, you can’t text a client and build a strategic relationship. And no, you can’t get to understand a company without visiting its corporate headquarters.

It turns out, of course, that PR ended up being like many professions.  You can do great work and even win more business with just a laptop and cell phone.  You can get to know someone and offer high-level counsel without ever being in the same room.

But what I also realize after talking with so many other professionals over these past months, is that those of us who started our careers years before the pandemic have built and refined skills that are developed and shaped by being in person.

We had mentors—people who would meet for coffee or lunch and give their best advice.  We sat with executives on the way to meetings and got to learn about them as individuals, which helped give us confidence and overcome some of our shortcomings as newer professionals.  That couldn’t and wouldn’t have happened on Zoom.

I’m not saying this as a way to pine for “the good old days.”  Today’s technology presents amazing possibilities.  Today’s PR executive can live just about anywhere, be just as productive and connect instantaneously all over the globe.  Just 15 months ago, we were calling London and Bangalore on faulty conference lines.  Now, we meet via a clear video connection within seconds.

So, here’s the simple advice – take the hybrid model.

Make time for your family, make time for yourself; and with a few exceptions, you generally don’t need to fly to Los Angeles from New York and back in one day to conduct a client meeting that might last just a few hours. However, you do need to meet the people you work with—and understand their feelings, values and culture.  A quarterly visit to a client will do wonders—especially if you don’t need to travel far.  A weekly or twice a week visit to your own office might be inspiring. If you live far away, try for quarterly visits.

With hybrid, you’ll build your confidence, understand your client and organization better, and learn new skills along the way—and you’ll come to know yourself better, too.

With some days spent at home and other days on the road, you too might find the noise and bustle of rushing to the airport to be musical.

By Seth Linden, President of Dukas Linden Public Relations


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