Guest Post by Mike Doman
It’s a familiar phrase to people of my generation.
“You have no new voice messages.”
Working within PR, and particularly in media relations, I’ve found that voice mail is bordering on pointless.
There’s no reason for me to leave a voice mail on somebody’s mobile phone (or landline), not when I can text them, email them, Skype them, tweet them and Facebook them – all far more effective than leaving a voice mail.
Image by ixographic via Flickr, CC BY-NC-ND-2.0
I have one journalist friend who, upon starting a new job, decided to let his voice mailbox fill up so he didn’t have to ever listen to them (it only took two days, so perhaps I’m out on my own here with never leaving them).
Others I know just sit and repeatedly hit delete, never listening to the full message. This, I imagine, allows them to make room for more messages they won’t listen to.
So why don’t I leave voice messages?
It’s rather simple.
There isn’t any point.
When pitching stories to journalist, a voice mail will never work.
If it’s someone that knows me, they will see that they have a missed call from me and call me back (or perhaps not, depending on the relationship).
It’s also blatantly obvious that the more that we grow into Web 2.0, the more opportunities it affords us to get in contact with people.
The more I become immersed in the world of media relations, the more I realize that every journalist is different and each requires different means of communication, and leaving voice mails is rarely asked for.
Case in point: Renai LeMay is a well-known technology journalist and publisher in Australia, known (at least in the circles I inhabit) for his occasional rants against PR people (his rants having somewhat of a cult following, and even their own hashtag – #renairant) and his abhorrence of telephone calls.
He started a Google Group of FAQs, one of which contained a document called “how best to contact me.”
He describes the phone (and I imagine this applies to voice mails) as “a venomous insect and a waste of my time — as indeed it is.”
While I almost always call people to introduce myself unless directed by someone not to, I also see voice mails as a waste of everyone’s time and actively work towards what the journalist wants.
After all, my job is to find solutions that benefit the journalist and the client.
As I said earlier, though, it could just be me.
After all, it took two days before my friend’s inbox was full, so there are clearly a lot of PRs who are still leaving them.
To what end?
Or is this just me overthinking a topic that doesn’t need to be thought on?
Mike Doman is an Account Executive at Mulberry Marketing Communications in Melbourne, Australia. In between media calls and writing press releases, he does the occasional guest lecture for RMIT and has guest-written for Australian publications including The National Timesand Crikey.com.au, along with publishing his own (non-PR) blog, Sporadically Pensive. He has also sat on the admissions panel for RMIT’s Bachelor of Communication (Public Relations) and tweets about everything from Masterchef to media relations.
@mikedoman Ohhh…did I imply I was calling prospective clients by phone? No, not at all. I use email or twitter first. I use the phone first when reaching out to constituents and others while wearing my other hat as an elected city councilor.
@Ari Herzog Okay, but are you getting call backs every time? Some of the time? I can’t imagine that social media strategy is too different to PR in the sense that many of the people you deal with would prefer to be contacted electronically (but I could well be wrong there, due to a lack of working with SM strategists and geographic differences).
@mikedoman If I leave someone a message and the person calls me back, the message was effective. I don’t refer to the PR industry though so it’s different.
@MattLaCasse I’m in the same boat as you , Matt – once I see the missed call, I generally call back without listening to their voicemail (if they leave one). And if I’m on the go, most of the time they have me asking if they can flick it across to me in an email, anyway.
@Sushi God, I hope email isn’t on the way out! If that dies, my communication efforts would fall through the floor!
@Ari Herzog I’m not being argumentative here, but I am genuinely curious: How effective do you find leaving messages to people who you haven’t got a relationship with? And with those you do?
I genuinely didn’t want that to sound like I’m being sarcastic or smart…
Nope. I leave voicemail messages frequently and I listen to them frequently. What technology *has* enabled through tools like Caller ID is to purposefully not answer an incoming call and send that to voicemail.
It’s not just you. I hang up after getting someone’s voice mail unless I really need to emphasize that the person should call me back. If they know me, they’ll recognize my phone number (or name if it’s in my contacts) and see that they need to call me back. Besides that, I don’t like leaving voice mails. What are you supposed to say, “Hello, I’m calling about…” Write an email instead, or is that dying too?
This is a great question Mike. I think voicemail can still be useful in certain situations, but you’re right in that if I have a missed call on my phone from someone I know, I’m calling them back, whether or not they left a voicemail. And I’m probably not listening to the voicemail before I call them back. In a world of so many forms of communication, the voicemail is one that doesn’t lend itself to the modern age. If I’m on the go, and have nothing with which to write down what you’re telling me in a call or voicemail, you’re better off just emailing me most likely. This way I have a permanent record of what you’ve said and can refer back to it if necessary.