When’s the last time you enjoyed a traditional PR lunch? Not necessarily the three hour marathons of legend where enough wine was consumed to keep a small vineyard in business, but one where you met with a contact, probably a member of the media, to talk about ideas, share some gossip/intelligence and do that all important, relationship building, which included a meal in a proper restaurant.
If you can’t readily remember – and aren’t suffering the afterglow of such an event – perhaps you’ll answer yes to the question: Is the PR lunch dead?
A combination of four factors suggest this established PR practice is under threat, if not already long buried:
- Return on investment: A need to prove the value of PR activities may not be possible if the lunch doesn’t lead to an immediate payback. Relationship building may deliver longer-term, but sometimes this relates to intangibles rather than obvious media coverage or measurable outcomes.
- Ethical concerns: In the UK, there are various rules and regulations developing that impact on socialising. The latest discussion here regarding controls on lobbying is one reason why contact may be strictly business in future. Then there’s corporate manslaughter which could apply if you’ve been generous with the bubbly and your guest has a car accident. Or the Bribery Act which may affect the desire to offer corporate hospitality.
- Time pressures: Who’s got time for lunch anyway? We’re all super busy, grabbing a snack here or skipping any midday repast. Besides, it really isn’t good for your reputation to be seen enjoying yourself when budgets are cut and clients won’t pick up the tab for such niceties anymore.
- Virtual contacts: We’re all building contacts via social media, so no lunch is required. We spend the time chatting, swapping information or otherwise engaging with relationship building in the online world. A Tweet-lunch doesn’t sound as viable as a Tweet-Up or Tweet-Chat does it?
So is the PR lunch dead? Personally I think there’s still a lot to be said for sharing a relaxed meal with a valued contact as it seems an inherently human way to get to know someone and talk, face-to-face. Not on a huge expenses-account basis, but not simply a rushed sandwich or boring stand up chat over a conference/event buffet either.
Maybe PR has grown up and is all serious meetings with targeted stakeholders, planned to deliver key performance metrics against strategic objectives. Or maybe everyone’s just too boring and we no longer have the social skills that used to be essential in a PR practitioner. Or that ‘Old Boys Network’ approach has been crushed by the feminization of PR? Or perhaps I’m wrong and the PR lunch is alive and well, we’re just not talking about it as a justifiable relationship-building method these days.