PR Insider: Face Time Matters

Torri Leeds
Torri Leeds

This past year, I found myself increasingly uninspired by time spent in front of my laptop screen, compulsively checking in with my smart phone or sitting on the other end of a conference call. These days, face time has been replaced with email, instant messaging and texts. While we’re constantly in touch with one another, the balance of communication has drastically shifted from in-person connections to remote communication.

With this shared sense of being virtually ‘connected’ leaving us feeling disconnected, and the freeing feeling of summer – warm weather, light filled days, playing hooky – on our minds, our DeVries Global team was motivated to shake up the typical client and agency collaboration dynamic by unplugging from emails, Outlook and conference calls and bringing a creative disruption to our clients, face-to-face.

This wasn’t about embedding staff at a client office. The idea was to bring our DeVries Global culture to another city, introducing activities and discussions strategically crafted to escape the traditional work environment while still fostering creativity and productivity through good old-fashioned human touch. What resulted was bringing our DeVries Global culture to a pop-up office in our clients’ backyard, downtown Cincinnati, this past July 2014.

The environment that we created was inspired by retail pop-up experiences, collective workspaces and ‘salon’ gatherings of thought-leaders – creative, intimate, collegial and imaginative. With minimal distraction from the myriad of tech tools at our disposal for business, something interesting happened: the creative juices started to flow.

Here are a few ways we learned to make the most of the face-to-face interaction:

  1. Bring the outside in: When tackling a creative challenge, consider bringing in an external catalyst to promote creativity and big thinking. At our pop up, we hosted a series of ‘Dialogue’ sessions - informal, small-group conversations - led by inspiring speakers from organizations such as Paper magazine, Rent-the-Runway, Being Latino and Fatherly. These gatherings inspired discussions around hot topics bubbling up in culture like the Share Economy, Millennial Dads and ‘Otherhood’ (women without children by chance or choice – a topic further explored by our agency via primary research).
  2. Get moving:  Instead of sitting around a conference table, conduct your meeting on the go. Research shows that moving around and increasing blood flow actually fuels our creativity levels and brains. One of our pop-up series topics was focused on the power of visual storytelling via Instagram. To bring the topic to life, we hosted an Instagram walk through downtown Cincinnati. Walking, talking, photographing and posting provided a practical and innovative backdrop for learning how to take an engaging Instagram photograph and tips for increasing followers.
  3. Be flexible: When you’re asking people to get together in-person, be proactively considerate of their schedules. We found that it was difficult, particularly for senior leaders, to leave the office during the day. Therefore, to maximize attendance, we scheduled the speaker series sessions in the morning and evening, so that they could pop by on their way to or from work.

Would we host a pop-up again? Yes! Moreover, the experience compelled us to look at all the different ways we communicate, not just with clients, but also with internal colleagues, prompting us to schedule ‘Dialogues’ sessions at our NYC office. Despite the ease of our hi-tech culture, this experience reinforced that nothing replaces face-to-face interaction with colleagues and clients.

Learn more about DeVries Global and our pop-up experience by visiting our newly redesigned website.

Torri Leeds is Managing Director at DeVries Global. Follow her @TorriNYC