When Everything’s Digital, Do Relationships Still Matter?

First impressions are lasting impressions. And for political junkies, it’s hard to forget Admiral James Stockdale’s (V.P. running mate of Ross Perot) unfortunate self-introduction to the American people at the 1992 Vice-Presidential debate:

“ Who am I? …
Why am I here?? ”

It doesn’t matter that Stockdale absolutely crushed his opening remarks in the 60 seconds that followed his rhetorical question icebreaker, because, who the heck remembers that?

This moment of political debate gold came to mind recently when I was describing to a potential new client the capabilities and focus of Push Digital’s Strategic Communications division. My Stockdale moment came when the prospective client asked: “So, tell me again why a digital creative firm partnered with a traditional PR old hand to build out an entirely new division rooted in the analog ways of the Dead Tree Media??

Simple. It’s because – RELATIONSHIPS MATTER!

Digital platforms have without a doubt exponentially increased our networking reach and ability to directly interact with individuals across the globe. However, all innovations come with certain costs and tradeoffs. The main cost here came in the form of impersonalized-personal relationships.

It may seem counterintuitive, but the more digitally dependent our society and our economy has become, the more important real-world connections and institutional knowledge has become.

In survey after survey, employers increasingly report that new job applicants don’t have sufficient communication and interpersonal skills they need for higher-level positions. That’s a huge disconnect considering 98 percent of top sales people identified “relationships” as the most important factor in generating new business.

Where real relationships may matter more … and may get you more:

  • According to the World Economic Forum, the Top 10 Skills Needed in 2020 are almost all interpersonal skills, not technological skills.
  • For state and local elected officials, support staff is limited. By necessity, they must place more trust in the hands of others (fellow elected officials, business leaders, trade organizations, lobbyists, policy allies, etc.).
  • Effective coalitions are formed among familiar faces. Reputations and long-standing professional connections are foundational when creating an influential coalition.
  • Fly-by-night, anonymously-backed organizations are seen as shady, outside, faceless influence peddlers when compared to a properly built coalition of known local influencers.
  • Crisis management. Most crisis communication strategies start by putting a personal face to the issue/entity, personally accepting responsibility and making a genuine connection with those adversely affected
  • You can’t use a fax machine to Facetime, so don’t expect an email to convey the sincerity & seriousness of a high-level sit-down. Many grasstop influencers expect most meaningful engagement to take place face-to-face.
  • Play to the habits of your target audience. A simple text message may be all you need when your audience is a young entrepreneurs society, but for many top-level influencers, that just won’t suffice. As a throwback to when conversational skills were once a common positive social trait, get yourself out of the office and forge interpersonal relationships with those key influencers you absolutely must have in your network.

Outside of the Beltway’s gigantic machine of politics and pressers, local agents of change have to move beyond abrasive rhetoric – transcending the constraints of party, race and gender – and collaborate with others in order to accomplish major feats.

Ultimately, whether it’s for traditional or digital communications, it’s all about getting results for your clients not just “vanity metrics.” That’s why we decided to make a Strategic Communications division a priority for our firm and the value of having these capabilities is something the prospective client then saw and understood.