Even in the digital age, nothing beats brain-storming with a client over a cup of coffee or a good info exchange over lunch with a prospect. But in today’s world, email, text messages, voice mails and even Twitter responses often stand in for a sturdy handshake. Seems like a seismic shift huh? But look deeper. Building and improving relationships through networking, authenticity, trust building and consistency is still the key to personal and professional success.
This month, we wanted to share a few tips on improving your on-line relationships through new media releases, evites, e-newsletters and other digital tools.
Business cards aren’t passé yet, but in the new media world you don’t have to bump into someone at an industry event to make a new contact. Blogs, social media sites, forums, on-line dating sites...the list goes on. There are many ways to find people who share your interests or who might be interested in your brand or story. In the on-line world, introducing yourself is as easy as clicking a button and reciprocity is a great way to grow your network.
- Invite dialog by creating topic specific blogs or forums to integrate with your digital assets. For example, if you’re sending a news release about a great new product, marry it with a blog and add a link to your release inviting journalists and bloggers to chat with you about the topic on the blog.
- Offer samples, experts, exclusive interviews, tours, product info or other resources to those you’re reaching out to. Let them know what you can do for them.
- Include a social media footprint on all your digital assets—website, blog, news releases, Facebook etc.—inviting friends and followers.
- Make it easy for people to stay in touch, and pass your information to other interested parties, by including subscribe, forward, and update links as well as social media bookmarks.
- Tell recipients you'd like to follow them, too. For example, include a link in a news release that triggers a simple email that gives journalists the opportunity to let you know how to follow them. What a great way to reciprocate!
As in any relationship, it’s always important to be yourself. This is certainly true as you navigate the web. Whether you're building a blog audience, growing your Twitter followers, or approaching a blogger about a story you think he’ll be interested in, using your own voice and being forthcoming about your objectives will get you further.
- Create and share content that’s likely to be of true value to your followers and subscribers. Don’t go overboard on the sales messaging. Share your unique expertise generously and openly. The ROI will follow.
- Be transparent about who you are and what your objectives are: use identifiable branding, honest from and subject lines in email, and clear and precise calls to action.
- Only you should play the part of you on-line, and anyone who represents your brand should know even more about the brand than the platform. So don’t run out and hire a local college kid to tweet for you just because she understands the medium.
The importance of trust building simply can’t be overstated. As email geeks, we were interested in a recent study suggesting that people lie more in email than they would in a handwritten letter. While comparing these two mediums seems like a stretch—people use email every day whereas handwritten letters have become a special, or formal, medium for most—the researchers argue that email is more like a conversation. And indeed, that’s one of the reasons we believe email is so effective—people have a rather intimate relationship with their inboxes! Don’t buy it? Just think of the pure panic when yours goes down. You miss it when it’s gone, admit it!
But one could stretch that comparison a bit further—most of us treat our on-line lives as an extension of our social lives and many of us know first-hand the chaos lies can create in our personal lives. The same holds true for your digital efforts. Okay, so obviously you would never lie in an email or other digital platform, but there are other ways we build, or lose, trust.
- Never abuse your email list. Don’t send to people who don’t want to hear from you. Don’t send irrelevant or inappropriate emails. Don’t sell, trade, mock or make sly jokes about your subscribers.
- Be aware of changing habits and tweak your assets to meet the needs of your audience. Include PDA-friendly links on all emails so people can easily view on their handheld devices for example. And, when sending news releases, keep in mind that journalists want release via email, loaded with transferable digital content and high resolution photos.
- Be thoughtful about your audience’s time. If you’re sending an evite, send it early enough that recipients have time to plan their schedules accordingly. A friendly reminder just prior to the event helps (and suppress people who shouldn’t get that reminder for some reason).
- Show your audience that you understand them. Use personalization and segmentation to make the information more pertinent. And always treat journalists like journalists—avoid excessive sales and marketing jargon with this audience.
Consistency is key in any effort, whether you’re growing your e-marketing efforts or improving your love life. It takes patience and perseverance but if you stick with it, your efforts will really pay off. Commit in advance to a well thought out plan and stick with it (tweaking to improve as you go, of course). As one of our clients told me recently: “It took some time to grow the campaign, but now our email efforts are really paying off. We send monthly emails through PWR and our response rates have grown dramatically—increasing about ten-fold from when we started one year ago.” (Vince Norton, Norton Norris, Inc.)
- Be consistent with your on-going email campaigns. Quarterly newsletters, monthly media alerts, weekly e-tips...whatever you’re sending, make sure to be on-time and reliable.
- Frequency pays off, so if you’re debating between a long quarterly newsletter or a simpler monthly version, go for the latter. It will increase your brand’s familiarity and let your followers know you’re there.
- Practice good follow through. If you invite followers to come back to your site or landing page at a specific time to see more info, get more access, etc., make sure you have your assets loaded when you say you will.
Networking, authenticity, trust building, and consistency are familiar values right? No doubt that being the good friend, sibling and co-worker you are, you practice them every day. But before you get too comfy, keep in mind that the digital world has also ushered in some big changes. Yes, the oldies are still the goodies, repackaged for today’s new media world. But now, understanding technology and using it wisely matters; it’s important to tack a certain amount of technical knowledge and platform familiarity onto your long held social skills. If you don’t understand the consequences of an action, reach out for help – we’re always happy to field questions. And, informed questions are a great way to make new friends on-line (see “networking” above).
Stay tuned for more info on how the shift to digital is changing how we communicate in upcoming issues of Powerlines.