Yesterday I managed to find the time to lunch one of my old journalist pals. Now retired, the wizened old hack knew how to harvest my leads because he cut his teeth in an age when press releases were walked into the newspapers and news desks and journalists needed copious amounts of TLC.
In an age of time-compressed newsrooms and the ten-minute news cycle, opportunities for the old school long lunch are pretty much all encased in the British Museum, alongside a sorry-looking stuffed Dodo. This is a shame, as there were valuable lessons to be learned at the long lunch coalface back in the day.
One of the most valuable lessons that I learned from these Bacchanalian skirmishes was the precious skill of face reading. But now we live in a world where nearly all communication is done by email or text and a network of contacts can be built up with a few clicks on a keyboard.
It is a little worrying at times that this is so – not because I have a problem with social networking and the onrush of technology, but more because there is a generation of people who are not gaining the emotional intelligence necessary to function fully as a good PR. Social media is a wonderful and useful tool, but if you don’t have the opportunity to meet people face to face as well how are you to develop meaningful relationships with them?
Things have changed in 20 years – not only on a grander scale, but in the minutiae too. My journalist friend stared sadly at the expensive bottle of water I’d ordered and said “Can you imagine ordering that in 1985? You’d have been locked up!”
We’ve lost as well as gained a lot since the 1980s but after this meeting I am looking with concern at the future, wondering what will happen to the art of communication and PR if the art of the long lunch and all the necessary emotional intelligence and understanding of people and their body language, which one needs if one is to communicate with them fully, is consigned to the museums.