I attended a media roundup a couple of years ago and brought along a colleague. At the roundup, the scene followed a speed dating format and we were given nine minutes (don't ask how they came up with that time) with a local reporter. Then, at the ringing of a bell, you switch to the next table. Having this time with a reporter was invaluable! For anyone who has worked in media relations, you know how hard it is to get one-on-one time with a reporter, that is unless you have some bad news.
During the roundup, I watched my colleague interact with the reporters, or rather not interact. She was new to media relations and instead of even listening as others at the table asked questions, she was flipping through her smart phone. A few things bothered me: our company had paid for the roundup tickets, she was comfortable doing this right in front of me, and she was MISSING AN OPPORTUNITY in the most egregious way.
I love smart phones. We are all more efficient because of them and I'm sure they've helped to save lives, but they also make us very rude and inconsiderate. My colleague will never be able to undo her reputation with the reporters she ignored. And believe me, I know this because I watched their reactions to her. But this isn't the end of the story; there is a happy ending.
When we returned to the office, I felt compelled to talk with her about this. In the most gentle way, I brought it to her attention and she agreed that she had missed out on the opportunity to build relationships with the reporters. In fact, she didn't even realize what she was doing. After this, she kind of became an over zealous “put down your smart phone advocate”. She was out to help everyone not miss opportunities. Her primary target was her sister-in-law, who was someone who NEVER had two empty hands; one always had her phone in it.
A few weeks after our roundup, my colleague stopped in my office and said, “You helped my sister-in-law land a $100,000 client.”
She went on to explain that she told her sister-in-law about her experience at the roundup, and how she didn't even realize how dependent on her smart phone she had become, and the impression she made on the reporters. Apparently, a light popped on for her sister-in-law and for the first time ever, she attended a sales appointment and left her smart phone in her car.
She won the bid for this new client and when she asked why they selected her firm, the client said, “You were the only person who listened to us for the entire meeting. You weren't on your cell phone, and we felt we had your attention.”
We all want to be memorable and make a good impression. It might be considered “old school” in today's high-tech world, but good old fashioned courtesy is a great start.