Join the Discussion: Building your Network vs. Enhancing Current Relationships

Photo cred: D. Sharon Pruitt

One year ago, I was just graduating college.  I had only really been networking for a few months, so it was still very new to me.

Every day, I’d meet someone new, who would introduce me to someone else, and so on…  Before I knew it, I had a healthy sized network of trusted professionals that I could turn to.  Many of them have became close friends over time.  Others not so much.

The problem is that all connections, even those connections that you have become so close with, can fall out of touch over time.  There are a number of reasons for this happening…

  1. We all have jobs to do which means less time to “catch up”.
  2. As our networks grow, we can’t commit as much time to keeping up with current connections.
  3. The worst reason but one that needs to be addressed: You just don’t need those people as much as you used to.
  4. Sometimes you just go different ways.  It happens with friends too.

It happens, but I don’t like it.  I feel terrible some days when I see someone cross my twitter feed and realize how long it’s been since I’ve spoken to them.

I understand that it happens…but I also feel like I can do more to enhance my current connections, instead of focusing only on expanding my network.

Have you faced this dilemna?  Please, share your thoughts in a comment.

You can also join us for a full discussion on this topic at the #u30pro chat on Thursday (May 27th) at 8pm est on twitter.

Stop Begging for Favors

Photo cred: GreyBlueSkies

If you find yourself constantly asking for favors in business, you’re doing something wrong.

This spark came  when I was watching Alpha Dog the other day.  Yes, my inspiration for posts come from some really weird places…

The one guy was pitching a drug deal to Emile Hirsch’s character.  When Emile started questioning him, the guy said “I’m not looking for any favors… if it makes sense, then do it.  If not, fuck it.”

Whether you’re pitching bloggers, seeking partnerships, looking for funding or seeking any other kind of business arrangement, you can’t go into it with the mentality that you need them, and that they’d be doing you a favor by helping you.

I see it all the time.  I’ve even done it myself.  You reach out to others to see if they’ll be kind enough to promote your blog post, or your projects.  You want them to help you.  You need them to help you.  How else can you succeed?  This causes a few problems:

  • You come across as needy. It makes you look bad and degrades your image as a confident professional.
  • You become reliant on others. Always relying on others to help you succeed, you’ll quickly fail as soon as that option is no longer there.
  • You use up your resources.  People aren’t going to help you all the time.  You cash in on a favor, and you may not get many more.  In fact…
  • You’re indebted. Asking everyone else for help means that you would now be expected to help them whenever they call.

Instead of looking for favors, look for opportunities to help them.  If you can propose a deal that benefits both parties, you’re not doing each other favors, you’re doing business.

When reaching out to bloggers, don’t ask them to review your website.  Explain to them exactly why your website will be valuable to their readers, how else you can provide value to them and explain what you would expect in return.

When you’re creating partnerships, make sure you’re identifying value for both parties.  They need you just as much as you need them.

I’m not saying you should never turn to others for help.  It’s important to know when you can use someone else’s help and be big enough to ask for it.  Business can be personal, but it’s still business.  It’s exchanging value for value.

Are you focused on asking for favors or doing business?

I’m Not Here to Be Your Friend

The other day I read a great post by Carlos Miceli titled “The Media Attention Whores“. The post brought up the issue of media professionals that put more value in talking about what they’re doing, than actually doing it.

The post was spot on and the phenomenal (and heated) discussion in the comments provided even more insight.  It got me thinking about a common misconception that has been brewing.

I think perhaps we’re forgetting why we’re all here..so let me tell you why I’m here, why I blog, why I tweet, and why I engage in this community.

I am a business person first.

My activities and interactions in this “social media community” have the primary goal to succeed as a professional. If my time spent here doesn’t help me to perform my job better, and to benefit my career, then I am wasting my time.

Does that mean I can’t make friends during the process? Of course not.  I have made amazing friendships along the way. I consider people like Lauren Fernandez, Arik Hanson, Keith Burtis, Gloria Bell and Stuart Foster to be some of my closest and most trusted friends.  I didn’t engage with them to become friends though.  I engaged with them to benefit my career, and the friendship resulted from the process.

Don’t forget why others are here.  YES, most people are participating in this community for the sake of “conversation and networking”.  But conversation and networking aren’t a result, they’re tactics.  The purpose of building these relationships is to drive more traffic, build more opportunities etc…we’re building relationships for business purposes.

Maybe I’m the one being naive.  Maybe I’m selfish, and I should stop being so “self-promotional”.  If I don’t promote my work to the network that I’ve built, however, then why am I here?

Remember…a community manager is still a manager.

Benchmarking is Critical…No Matter the Program

ChuckThis is a guest post by Chuck Hemann, the research manager for Dix & Eaton, a communications consulting firm, where he helps lead measurement, monitoring (social and traditional) and competitive intelligence efforts for the agency’s clients. You can connect with Chuck on Twitter and at his blog on PR measurement. The views in this post belong to Chuck Hemann and do not necessarily represent the viewpoints of his employer...
Photo cred: "HeyThereSpaceman"
Photo cred: "HeyThereSpaceman"

The measurement geeks among us (I’d count myself in that category) are often fond of talking about the importance of setting measurable goals and objectives, and benchmarking. I’m of the opinion that these two steps are 1a and 1b (or reversed if you’d like) of ANY communications program, not just public relations.

The importance of setting measurable goals and objectives will be left for another day. If you want to learn more about that you can visit the blogs of Katie Paine and Don Bartholomew.

Rather, David thought it would be helpful if I spent a little time on benchmarking. Benchmarking can help you leverage your communications program by providing insights and ensuing recommendations that ensure your messages respond to actual differences in perception between you and your peer group. We recommend to clients all the time that they benchmark to start social media, advertising, marketing, even internal communications programs. As critical as it is to set measurable goals and objectives, it might be even more critical that those measurable goals and objectives be grounded in some basis of fact. Benchmarking can help you do that.

So what are the two most common ways that we benchmark?

1. Content analysis – this method really applies to social and traditional media relations. What are the media saying about you? Is it positive? Is it negative? Where are they talking about you? What messages are they picking up? Are they reacting to an experience they had with your company or product (particularly applicable to social media)? Why are they talking about you? Is the coverage surrounding a major corporate event? These are just some of the questions you would try to answer by benchmarking before the start of a communications program. The good news for you is that there are a plethora of tools available to you that can help gather the relevant data and then analyze it. However, if you prefer a low-tech approach, many of these questions/thoughts can be answered by even the most math averse among us.

2. Surveys – content analysis tends to be limited to social and traditional media campaigns, while surveys can help you answer many more questions, and aren’t just limited to those two types of efforts. You can utilize surveys at the start of internal communications, marketing, advertising, even traditional and social media programs. We often survey journalists at the start of media relations programs in order to gauge awareness (there’s that dirty word again) of the company or its products.

There are obviously others, these are just two of the more popular methods.

TWO WORDS OF CAUTION

1. Do not skip this step. Far too often, we are in a hurry to begin the program without any basis for where we are now/what we’ve already done. You don’t want to be in the position where someone asks you about the performance of a campaign and you have nothing to compare it against.

2. Be sure to allocate enough budget for this process. Why is research often neglected in communications? Because it has the perception (however misguided) that it’s expensive to conduct. Here’s what some won’t tell you…it is sometimes. Depending upon the scope of the project, a survey or content analysis can be pricey. However, in most instances you can decipher enough actionable insight by using approximately 8-10% of your overall budget. I know it seems high, but I think you’d prefer to be achieving what you said you’d achieve, right?

Anyway, are there things that I haven’t mentioned here that you are doing? If so, what have you experienced? Are clients resistant? Are we as professionals resistant? I’m looking forward to learning from you!

Blog For Your Audience, Not Your Product

Photo cred: Felipe Trucco
Photo cred: Felipe Trucco

Should all businesses start a blog? Will they all benefit from starting a blog? This has been a big question that many businesses are asking as social media develops into a relevant business tool. There are a range of views on this matter, as this question fueled a great discussion on this week’s #blogchat. Here are my thoughts on the issue…

Whether or not you should start a blog has less to do with your product, and more to do with your customers and your audience. During #blogchat, someone described a company that sells pools as a company that shouldn’t blog…because who wants to read a blog about pools right? This person was basing their decision on the product without looking at the big picture.

You have to figure out what is valuable to your audience. For the pool company, they could start a blog about anything pertaining to pools that will help their audience and provide value. Blog about pool deck designs, cool new pool toys and tools, how to throw pool parties, pool care tips etc. You don’t have to blog about your product and what you have to offer; in fact you’re better off not blogging all about your product.

Take my blog as an example. I am looking for a job and so my product is myself. If I blogged only about myself, and what I have to offer companies, I would have absolutely no readers. I blog about things that (I think) are valuable to my audience. By doing this, I prove my knowledge in the industry, create awareness of my product, build trust with my customers, and ultimately sell my product (get a job)…hopefully.

A great example of a company creating a community around their product’s “big picture” is Dell.  They have a few different blogs that provide info for small businesses, education, and other areas of their audience’s interest.  Many of the topics that Dell discusses have very little to do with their products.  After providing content of value however, their customers are more receptive when Dell also posts information about the company and it’s products.

Look at the big picture, blog for your audience.

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Don’t Pass the Torch, Just Share the Light

Photo cred: Mark "the trial"
Photo cred: Mark "the trial"

I really appreciated and related to Patrick Evans‘ latest blog post on his mentor program titled Why You Should Be a Mentor.

He writes, “I hear so many generational experts and business professionals criticize millennials. We don’t work as hard as Gen X folks, we expect things that past generations didn’t and overall, we could be the opposite of the greatest generation. We need your help! He goes on to provide 5 reasons why professionals should consider acting as a mentor for our generation.

I’ve seen many Millenials / Gen Y bloggers that are proud and confident in their belief that they will succeed.  I have also seen seasoned professionals respond by describing the overconfidence and inevitable disappointment of our generation. A good example of this is Teresa Wu’s guest post on Chris Brogans blog and her follow up response on her own blog.

I really enjoyed Teresa’s post and felt that her intentions, to shed some light on the mindset and views of the future Gen Y professionals, was accurate and useful.  The discussions afterward, ehhh not so much.  Whether either viewpoint is right or wrong, I feel is irrelevant and I am always disappointed to find such unproductive discussions taking place.

The important thing is that we all have something to contribute to the community as Patrick described very well.  Seasoned experts and professionals have learned a great deal from their experiences.  They understand what works and what doesn’t. They have been put in real situations that have required them to use critical thinking and problem solving to perform their jobs efficiently given unfamiliar situations.  With such talents, they can truly be great mentors to younger generations who strive to find the same experience and hopefully, success.

In a time of great change, especially in terms of technology and communications, the millenials have a great deal to contribute in return.  While the great amount of experience that many seasoned professionals have developed provides them with knowledge and understanding in their field, it also instills in them a sense of routine to the traditional methods of practice. Of course, these professionals are still very capable of innovation and creativity but they must also acknowledge and incorporate the millenials’ young, FRESH set of eyes and ideas on an evolving industry.  Technologically savvy, communicating on the internet as early as elementary school, they are able and willing to contribute to the future of what the experienced professionals have worked so hard to build.

Instead of arguing about which generation is better, and why the millennial mindset is unreasonable, we should all be working together.  Through collaboration we will find true growth and success as a community, young and old.

If you’d like to mentor a young PR pro, send Patrick an e-mail at patrickevans@gmx.com. He is setting up an e-mail mentoring program to connect young pros with seasoned public relations and social media professionals.

Edit: There’s a very lengthy but good example of the view of Millenials on the WSJ here.

-David Spinks

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