I have a confession to make: I hardly ever answer the phone on my desk. It rings and rings all day but I won’t touch it, unless I see that it is an internal number and therefore a call from a colleague, or on the odd chance I happen to recognise the number. But few who know me well would bother to call me on my work number anyway, because they know I won’t pick up.
The reason for my landline-phobia is that most of my incoming calls are pitches from public relations agencies, the vast majority of which are not relevant to this magazine’s coverage. One business contact of mine – from whom I am interested in hearing – asked me once why I was avoiding his calls and I told him that I was afraid he would be a PR exec named Sophie or Sarah following up on a press release that had gone straight to spam. (These names seem popular among London PR classes in particular, anecdotal evidence suggests.) From that point on, this gentleman would call me on my mobile, which I do answer, and greet me by saying: “Hello, this is Sophie.”
I don’t expect all of my contacts to use a code name when they phone me, but I do try to steer them towards emailing me in the first instance, or texting in the second. Due to being a frequent traveller, email via smartphone is almost always the easiest means for me to communicate and thus how I prefer being pitched. But others have a strong aversion to cold-emailing and don’t like their inboxes cluttered with messages from people they don’t know. Famed business columnist on our sister publication the Financial Times, Lucy Kellaway, recently wrote a column about how she rarely answers emails.
This led me to wonder what investment promoters pitching companies are meant to do. Like journalists, some corporate executives are bound to rankle at cold calls (and most of them have good gatekeepers in the form of their personal assistants which lowly journalists do not enjoy). Others would never open an email from an unidentified source. So how to make initial contact?
In thinking about my own ways of communicating with professional contacts, I realise that I generally welcome any means of communication from someone I have already met and have a genuine interest in speaking with. That means that networking events are where I find most of the people I eventually go on to work with, interview or otherwise follow up with. Which means that, as the business events season is in full swing, investment promoters and others looking for new leads are best placed to get out there and rub elbows. But if you encounter me at one of these soirées, now you know: make note of my email address and ignore the landline on my business card.
Courtney Fingar is the editor of fDi Magazine. Email: email@example.com