Many of us resonate with the overwhelming feeling of comfort that fills us when we receive a phone call from a loved one or friend. During some of our most challenging moments, that call is enough to remind us that we are valued and cared for. Interestingly, as professionals, sometimes we forget that these same feelings can apply to public relations and media relations.
Speaking with someone one-on-one helps foster sincere and personal connections, which individuals desire in any relationship – whether it be with their child’s educators, caregivers looking after loved ones, or more generally with providers of any service.
At AKCG we recognize that it can be easy to fall into a pattern of only relying on written communications because it may feel more clear and efficient; however, sometimes a phone call is the right move to help strengthen relationships with those we serve.
Using Verbal Communication to Build Relationships
Phone calls help build relationships because they offer an opportunity to connect and conversate on a deeper level. Whereas in written communications, we strive to be as succinct and organized as possible, oral communication allows a natural flow of conversation where individuals may feel more comfortable expressing their thoughts and emotions. Cues such as a person’s tone of voice can help us understand how a client is feeling, even when we can’t see their body language or facial expressions. When we recognize that someone is being sincere with us, we feel connected to them, thus helping to build a stronger, more trusting relationship.
When to Make the Call
For most people, firing off an email or text message is second nature, especially when we are pressed for time and want to respond to something quickly. Just as there are moments when sharing a letter is the most appropriate means of communication, there are some moments when a phone call can help diffuse conflict. Oral communication can be especially helpful when you need more details on a situation, when the matter is deeply personal or sensitive, or when a position involves nuances that are too complex to capture well in writing.
For example, in the independent school setting, teachers or administrators who regularly check in with parents via phone will create a space where parents feel more comfortable reporting subtle changes in a student’s behavior before a bigger incident occurs. Similarly, if a parent emails school leadership with a concern, it may be prudent to speak about the issue over the phone. Not only does this signal that you, as an educator and representative of the school, are taking their concerns seriously, but it also demonstrates that leadership is accessible and committed to understanding each family and student as an individual.
Preparing for the Call
Preparing for a phone call can help make way for a productive discussion, especially in the face of adversity. Preparation can help set goals for the conversation, as well as help you organize key points and anticipate questions.
Here are a few steps you can take to prepare for difficult conversations:
- Prepare a script or outline ahead of time and include opportunities for breaks in the conversation.
- Make note of key points and relevant policies that help explain your organization’s position on the issue.
- Have records and any prior documentation of the matter handy and accessible during the conversation.
- Ask for a fresh explanation of the issue to help ensure that you fully understand their concern.
- Prepare open-ended questions so that you can learn as much as possible from the conversation.
- Make the session about listening rather than defending oneself or one’s position.
- Stay calm and utilize active listening skills.
Although a phone call alone may not be enough to resolve an issue fully, it can be a great first step in demonstrating your commitment to building strong, caring relationships with those you serve. The emotional value we gain from speaking with one another cannot always be emulated through written communication.
So, the next time you consider sending an email or text message, ask yourself if picking up the phone might be the right call instead.
The AKCG team is well-equipped to be a partner in crisis preparedness and crisis response. We specialize in working through crises and issues that can lead to long-lasting reputational challenges for organizations. We help organizations and their media spokespersons prepare for these crises, approach any issues that will impact bottom lines, and ultimately respond strategically to restore reputations.
Contact us today to learn how AKCG can be a trusted partner.