As a regional communications professional, travel was always on the cards pre-pandemic. Every press conference, every luncheon, every launch, and almost every meeting warranted a trip across the ocean to meet clients, media, and partners face-to-face.
Then comes 2020, and that all changed. We had to make due virtually. Surprisingly, this worked. Over the past couple of years we’ve seen great PR success through the screen, with Zoom interviews generating great stories, virtual roundtables attracting substantial media attendance, and client relationships becoming stronger than ever.
This, of course, begs the question: with great media coverage regardless, will business travel become unnecessary?
With travel now an option again, I’ve recently taken a trip and have re-experienced what it’s like to connect with clients, journalists, and colleagues in person. Here’s what I found:
Culture doesn’t translate through the screen
Many of our clients aren’t based in Southeast Asia, and having them meet our journalists and teams in person has dramatically upgraded their market understanding. While we can furnish our clients with all the information and local insights that we have, conversations with local journalists face-to-face while in Singapore and Malaysia have given our clients a much deeper insight into the local mindset.
From language and food, to even just day-to-day travel around the city, these small nuances can make a big difference when fostering a strong connection to the market and the people, and even short visits can really change their perspective on how to approach communication for these countries.
This, of course, bolsters our counsel in regards to localisation and PR strategies, and helps us simultaneously build more trust within the agency-client relationship as they’ve seen our advice in action, with their own eyes, in real life.
Nothing beats a good lunch meeting
A classic PR strategy is the good ol’ media lunch, and boy have we missed them. While Zoom interviews have served their purpose, my first post-pandemic luncheon with key local media and a client who was visiting from out of town reaffirmed why these sessions are so effective – setting and connection is everything. Though virtual interviews can be effective, they often start off awkward, cold and straight forward.
In comparison, a good media luncheon brings the right setting for insights to be shared and friendships to be built from the get-go. With a great cup of coffee and some delicious food to take the edge off, both the media and our clients are visibly more relaxed and receptive to journalists’ questions.
The journalists, on the other hand, are more comfortable with asking follow-up questions and have more time to think about their story and train of thought as the interview goes on. Plus, there’s no need to fill awkward silences over Zoom with lightning question rounds.
A virtual conference just doesn’t cut it
As far-fetched as it may sound, energy is a real thing. While some people do an excellent job conveying big parts of their energy through a screen, it is almost never as good as the real deal.
Great spokespeople are few and far-between(if you want to be one, do drop us an email at [email protected] for media training inquiries 😉), but having a passionate and energetic client address the media in a real-life press conference is always a treat.
The story usually tells itself with great flow, great passion and some people really do have the ability to hold a room’s attention in a way that will simply never translate through the screen. Having attended in-person press conferences and launches, it’s been refreshing to feel the excitement from the media as they are taken on a journey by our clients – and to see how that energy is brought to life in a great story.
So was all pre-pandemic business travel absolutely necessary? Probably not. Is post-pandemic business travel absolutely necessary? I’d say yes. We have definitely seen the industry evolve with the times, and some journalists and clients are happier utilising digital tools to get the job done. That being said, some moments just can’t be replicated online and are definitely worth the trip.
Ready to jump on a plane and have us host a successful luncheon or killer press conference? Drop us a line at [email protected]