Thursday, May 13, 2010

Manners 2.0

A tweet I saw a couple of days ago from Toronto PR pro Judy Gombita got me thinking about manners.This followed a couple of situations lately that underlined, for me, anyway, how Web 2.0 and mobile communications technologies are eroding our manners:
  • At lunch with someone who checks the BlackBerry multiple times over the course of our conversation, every time we meet.
  • During an awards dinner, as I watched people use iPhones and BlackBerrys rather than listening to the recognition of students who'd produced excellent work.
It seems people feel that because they can check online messages anywhere, they should.

But they shouldn't.

Of course, if you're with someone and you're expecting an urgent email, you can explain that you'll have to keep an eye out for it; people will understand that. But if it's just a question of "I wonder what's going on right now?," whether you intend it to be that way or not, it's an insult to whomever you're with.

What does this rant have to do with PR?

Everything, I think.

PR strategist, author and Help A Reporter Out founder Peter Shankman published a great blog post this week about our overall decline in manners, and called on us all to reverse it. Is this the kind of thing we need to be told? Well, it shouldn't be... but it seems to be. Being polite should be a no-brainer; it's nice to be polite. There's no valid argument to be made for being rude.

And, like many of the lessons your grandmother taught you, manners will help you in PR.

It's simple: public relations is about people, and how they feel. If people feel good when they interact with you (or your organization), they will want to interact with you (or your organization) again.

When you constantly check a mobile device during a conversation, or a presentation, or any event at which you're supposed to be paying attention to someone else, your subliminal message is "what you're saying is less important to me than what someone else might be saying online."

That may be true; but it's not going to make the person you're with feel very important to you, and they'll walk away from the exchange remembering that.

In PR, we build and nurture relationships. With people. Sure, we develop strategies and we use tools and technologies to help us do that, but at the root of effective public relations is the recognition that we have to make others feel good about us and our organizations, if we're going to build healthy relationships.

If you treat other people like they're unimportant, no news release or tweet or Facebook fan page or report or speech or white paper or any other public relations tool will win them over.

So be polite. Show respect. When people are talking, listen.

And say thank you.

Thank you!


  1. Ha ha, reminds me of an episode of "King of the Hill" that I recently saw, the propane company got on Facebook and started prioritizing their Facebook accounts over their face to face customer times.

    I don't even like that show, but I guess they nailed that one on the head!