With so much B2B communication taking place on digital channels, let’s not forget the unique value of face-to-face conversations in building business relationships.

Author: Ellie Martin

In a time when so many of our conversations take place on digital channels, there’s a lot to be said for ‘traditional’ media relations and the value of face-to-face communication when building and maintaining a B2B brand.

While regular communication with the media today is vital for getting an organisation’s message out, it’s usually handled by email or phone. But face-to-face interaction is key to building genuine two-way relationships and provides significant benefits as part of an integrated communications approach.

As the media and marketing landscape has changed over the years and people are becoming busier and less accessible, it’s sometimes hard to make time for the basics that were once a staple of any communications campaign.

While communicating by email and phone provides the basis of regular contact between agency or client and editor, there’s potentially so much more to be gained for sitting down in person and having an open discussion. The reality is that, in our sectors, this type of meeting is usually saved for exhibitions where – let’s face it – both companies and press are stretched for time, trying to get in the pertinent questions before their next appointment reminder pings on their phone.

Earlier this year we orchestrated a European media tour for our long-standing client FESPA, with a view to nurturing and building relationships with industry editors in key geographies ahead of FESPA Global Print Expo 2019 in Munich. The aim was to meet with some key editors to provide an update on the upcoming event, to discuss potential editorial opportunities and to look at how FESPA can work even more closely with the media, while building individual relationships with the editors in question.

The tour took place in Germany, the Netherlands, France, Belgium and Spain, and included in-depth briefings with 14 editors, all of whom were already well acquainted with FESPA. The quality time spent with each editor individually was hugely valuable, even for a client that benefits from many opportunities to interact with the press.

For starters, there wasn’t one editor that didn’t comment on how much they appreciated a member of FESPA’s management team taking the time to travel to them in person. It’s easy to forget that trade publications today sometimes rely on just one or two journalists, so taking time from their day-to-day editorial responsibilities can be difficult. Going to them meant less time out of their busy schedules, resulting in more in-depth, longer and more productive conversations. These open-ended discussions also nurtured new ideas and opportunities that wouldn’t necessarily have arisen from a quick email or phone call to follow-up on a particular editorial feature or news item.

There is also the personal connection. The press got to have a fruitful and wide-ranging conversation, rather than a fleeting chat. This helped to build the relationships directly between the client and press and gave FESPA a more approachable feel, enabling both parties to have an open discussion about a range of topics and also to air any queries.

The result? Substantial event preview coverage was achieved in all the publications we met with in the lead-up to the FESPA 2019 event. But, much more than that, the existing relationships between client, media and agency have deepened, with many more exclusive opportunities for all parties involved.

While there is still undoubtedly value in the speed and efficiency of digital communications, it’s important that we keep sight of the many benefits of nurturing interpersonal relationships in business. Media relations must not be reduced to transactional exchanges of news and functional ‘press office’ services. The true essence of our work as communications professionals must be to cultivate strong and lasting relationships between clients and media that respect the needs of both parties and deliver mutual value.

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