With technology facilitating remote work so seamlessly, it can be easy to think there’s never a reason for a higher ed institution and its outside agency to meet face-to-face. Communication tools such as Slack, Zoom, strategic emails and regularly scheduled phone meetings with clear agendas allow PR professionals to serve their clients effectively. However, the most successful remote relationships are built on the foundation of an intake visit, that in-person meeting at the start of a project. Even just an hour spent in person with a thought leader allows agencies to do their work more informed and more productively. Why?

Communicating Value

By committing to an in-person visit from their PR agency, leadership at a college communicates to their institution stakeholders, including faculty, that the work the agency is doing is highly valued. Everyone is busy. Faculty need their workday hours to focus on research, instruction and supporting students. So when the administration respectfully requests that faculty set aside time to speak in person with consultants about what they do and what their partnership can mean, they are saying that press opportunities and increasing brand awareness are important. And when faculty are made aware that something is a priority to their president and others on the leadership team, they are more likely to virtually connect when the agency reaches out in the future. It’s easier to ignore an email from a faceless entity that your institution didn’t make a point of introducing you to in person.

Instilling Trust

To that end, faculty also develop a level of trust of their agency professionals after starting their relationship in person that can be hard to accomplish solely over the phone and email. Meeting in person is the ideal environment for the agency to communicate they have the best interest of the institution in mind, that they won’t expose the institution or constituents to opportunities that would make them unnecessarily vulnerable and that their aim is to help spread the message of the value of the college. That trust, just like the understanding that leadership values PR, secures stronger buy-in from constituents. And that buy-in leads directly to increased engagement between the agency and the faculty and stakeholders necessary to communicate the institution’s story.

Strengthening Capabilities

An agency’s job is to identify constituents who have value in contributing to the college’s story through media opportunities. And the ability to do that is greatly strengthened by an intake. The agency professionals can get a stronger feel for personalities and nuances in expertise and have the casual conversations that lend to drawing out unique stories. With that baseline established, the agency can more carefully identify the right opportunities, leading to a higher rate of media success.

The ability to work from anywhere with a cell phone and laptop is truly a phenomenal evolution that allows for work to be done flexibly and at high productivity. But it can’t, and shouldn’t, replace all in-person interactions for good.