Our use of Instant Messaging now seems to be maturing. It’s much less used to chat and much more used for its intent – the swift communication of detail. This is a good thing from a management perspective. IM is a hard technology to oversee – and potentially a huge waste of time. It’s easy to get into a conversation over IM which takes far longer than a simple catch up call. There will always be those who abuse communications tools like email and IM through extended personal use at work. Believe it or not, I’ve seen personal email account for about half of an individual’s sent items. This person was great at PR, just lacked self-discipline. And IM is even more tempting than email.

One of the most powerful benefits of IM is its ability to show ‘presence’. You can see who is online, at their desk – and so know whether you will get a swift response. As this presence gets integrated into VoIP and email systems, I think our ability to communicate will be greatly enhanced. At the moment, these packages are disparate – email, IM, VoIP, PIM – but during 2005/06 we’ll see them becoming integrated into a communications flightdeck.

I think this will help agencies work much more closely with their clients. The concept of presence will show the client when we’re available (and vice versa), so it will be simple to call, book in interviews, IM updates. Access and availability are so important to a client relationship. Once we have this communications flightdeck not just on the desktop but also in a portable device, then PR consultancy really will be ‘on demand and in real time’.