I have a simple question for you. If you had to choose which communication device you had to lose between the phone or email what would it be? When I was discussing such a scenario with one of my colleagues I was surprised to see that we both had different answers.
Previously, to me this was a no brainer, because I have always believed that communicating by telephone is by far and away my preferred form of communication. It allows you to build relationships with people, loses the chance of being misunderstood and is obviously conducted in real time whereas email can be fired off and forgotten. At this point I decided to ask a few followers on Twitter who work in the PR industry in the UK “Phone or email. If you had to lose one what would it be?” and was shocked to see how diverse the answers were. Was I wrong to be so pig headed with my response?
Comments like this from my good friend Josie at Phiness PR made me start to think about how this wasn’t as simple an answer as I had first thought “I’d lose the phone. Email provides a written record, so you can always track back through your conversations.” Helen Farrier at Samsung also provided another angle “I’d have to say I could live without my phone for work, email is vital for a global company.”
She wasn’t alone. Eventually I received a few more answers and before I knew it I had 100 responses. Over one third (35) of the PR professionals who replied to the poll said that they would rather lose their phone than email – a lot higher than I thought it would be.
On the anti-email side, one PRO (they asked not to be named) explained “I’d lose email – an evil tool geared towards structuring work so that it’s reactive rather than proactive. Can you arrange it?” Ste Davies continued “I’d lose email purely because I’m not too keen on it as a means of communication. Wastes a lot of time” and Mat Morrison explained his answer “email would go. Am assuming that I can keep Twitter, SMS, Facebook, LinkedIn, IM?”
My colleague Emma Sinclair also made a great point also, “This is really difficult – email is vital for sending documents and confirming details, but I really couldn’t replace the phone in terms of relationship building and honing the art of persuasion, so could I say ‘phone’ but I’ll keep a mobile in my pocket and use it when no one is looking… “
I particularly liked this answer. The art of persuasion or the ability to explain why a story is interesting / why a client should embark on a particular campaign is something that is difficult to do over email as at every stage people inevitably have questions and you are relying on them to have time to write them down articulately and send them over.
Anyway, without meaning to I may have caused a little ripple of debate between PROs around the country, but one thing is for sure, I was amazed by the generosity of the PR professionals who answered so fast and with such enthusiasm. A special thanks goes to @lauraslade who went around her entire team and recruited answers from them all to email back to me.
So what do you think?…email or phone?