In my earlier life, I spent more time waiting tables than most would get for kidnapping – not that it was exactly like doing time but it did have its moments. Jokes aside, I learned a huge amount about working with people from waiting tables and I remember playing that card fairly heavily when interviewing for my first PR role. One thing that always stuck in my head is some advice that a friend and restaurant manager once gave me: the dining experience is largely defined by the beginning of a person’s meal and what happens at the end. I think everyone can identify with this. If you sit down at the table and your waiter appears with water and a wine list, they seem to know what they are doing. Everything is off to a great start and expectations met, possibly even exceeded.
The other critical point in the dining experience is what happens the end. Ask for the bill twice? Find your way to the door without acknowledgement (bill paid = transaction complete!) and it pretty much unravels everything that happened up to this point. The same of course can be said if it happens in reverse when you sit there trying desperately to catch a waiter’s eye.
So, what’s my point with this analogy? I have spent quite a number of hours in media training recently and over the years, one of the light bulb moments for most trainees is how far they get into their practice interviews before they reveal the important information; the interesting stuff that is more likely to cut through marketing waffle and catch the attention of the journalist. By starting off with the background ‘padding’ it does seem a waste not to take the opportunity to build trust and engage from the very start. Trust that the person is worth listening to, that is.
I believe the same rule applies in our industry when meeting with clients or perhaps a client’s customer. The first couple of minutes really establishes the dynamics of the rest of the engagement. If there is one thing I’m keen to impress on members of our team, it’s to be conscious about those first moments and the messages they are sending. This is particularly true as we grow and the business is less centered around me and more about an organisation with great processes, consistently strong engagement with clients and the media, and leadership and energy that stands independently to what I may have brought to the table in the past.
As Espresso evolves, it is critical that my role changes to make room for the others in our organisation to seize those initial moments in all of our interactions, both internally and externally. It is happening and it’s really exciting.
Some food for thought. Pun intended.