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The Art of Storytelling: Why This Tactic is so Valuable for Your Business

storytelling

The influence of storytelling can be found in all aspects of our lives. First, think of how we are entertained. We watch television and movies, read books and surf social media. All of these components include storytelling in one way or another. Now think about how we mentally and emotionally connect with the world around us. We share our day’s events with our friends by recounting them through a story. We read news stories in print and on the web. And we reminisce about old memories through stories that evoke every emotion imaginable.

Do you now see why storytelling is such an essential – and powerful – means to communicating a message? It’s important to remember that storytelling is anything but new. Before civilization knew how to write, we told stories as our only way of learning and passing along knowledge to one another. In fact, a good story teller was among the most respected and revered people in a community!

Before I turn this into a history lesson, I’ll finish with one thought. While our label for the modern day “storyteller” has many names, the gifted storytellers among us still rise to the top as charismatic and effective communicators. They are deemed likeable, influential and wise. There are several things we can all learn from these storytellers and apply toward our own business communications. Here are 5 ways to incorporate storytelling into your public relations and marketing efforts:

  1. Give the sweet and condensed version

People don’t want to read the next great American novel when learning about your business. They would much prefer the Reader’s Digest version that highlights the most interesting, impressive and important details, while skimming over the things that are basic and obvious. Say what you need to say in the fewest words possible and carefully select those words to have the greatest impact. The “less is more” theory absolutely holds true to your marketing content. Rarely will people spend more than 7 seconds trying to understand your message if it is not clear. Keep it simple and keep their attention!

  1. Call upon personal experiences

Bring the characters of your story to life by sharing their personal experiences – both triumphs and failures. This adds that “human element” that allows your audience to connect with your story on a deeper level. Another strategy is to write the story in first person, allowing people to hear your voice and associate you as the storyteller – not some anonymous third party. Not only does this add credibility, but it shows you are involved with your business on a very personal level and your customers can expect this same level of personal attention.

  1. Focus on evoking one emotion

So often business owners want to describe their services with numbers, statistics and cold, hard facts. People don’t connect with – or remember – this approach. Instead, people remember only how you made them feel. Take control of the emotions you evoke with your storytelling by thinking strategically and planning your content appropriately. Most importantly, select just one emotion and focus the details of your story on this emotion. For some industries, humor is the most effective. For other industries it’s pity or fear. And the list goes on and on. Do your market research to see what your target audience receives well and use this as the theme that brings your entire story together.

  1. Don’t make yourself the hero

In many cases, you as the business owner will play a role in your story. You can certainly be a character, but avoid making yourself the hero. Instead, focus on the people or the lesson. Speak directly to your target audience with your story by making it conversational and asking rhetorical questions. Or focus on teaching them a valuable life lesson by sharing your struggles as well as your successes as inspiration for what they might achieve. While you might very well be the hero of your story, take a backstage role and let your audience bask in the lime light.

  1. Remember your audience

Finally and most importantly, remember to whom you are telling your story. Sure, you are speaking to people, but what kind of people? Get inside their minds and figure out what makes them tick. Maybe they are tech-minded, science geeks. Speak their language! Don’t try to appeal to them with romantic, flowery language. It won’t work. For any type of marketing, you need to understand your target audience. Apply this knowledge toward how you shape your story.

Now that you have 5 strategies to keep in mind when crafting your own business’s story – take it and run with it! Tell a story that sets you apart from your competition. Tell a story that makes you relatable and likeable. Tell a story that inspires people that they can also achieve success against all odds. Let’s continue this beautiful tradition of storytelling and respect it with stories that are worth remembering for a lifetime!

How have you benefitted from the art of storytelling in your own business or personal life? Share your experiences by commenting below!

 
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Posted by on September 29, 2014 in Business & Success, Life

 

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5 Reasons Why Having Connections Isn’t Enough for Successful Public Relations

connection fail

Let me let you in on a dirty little secret. Sure, I’ve built up a good book of business and take my networking seriously, but I’m not even close to knowing every reporter on a first name basis – nor do I feel inadequate for this (cue gasps of PR professionals everywhere).

Now I’m not saying that having connections doesn’t mean anything, I’m just saying that it doesn’t mean everything. In fact, a lack of connections is the one thing you can compensate for with a solid strategy, on-point content and polished presence. The other way around? Not so much.

You know that old adage “It’s not about what you know, but who you know”? Well, I’d like to dispel this myth once and for all with five compelling reasons why having connections isn’t enough for successful public relations. Humor me, will you?

  1. Your story still has to be newsworthy

You might rub elbows, share jokes and sip coffee with a good variety of local reporters; however, if you expect them to repeatedly publish non-newsworthy stories as a favor, you will quickly drain that well dry. Everyone answers to someone and even their best attempts to sneak in your promotions will be vetted out by a check and balance somewhere in the hierarchy. Besides, it won’t do anything for preserving their reputation as a respectable reporter.

  1. You need to understand the outlets and what they are looking for

Continuing to pitch a variety of clients’ stories to the same outlet where you have your connection is putting on blinders to all other outlets that may be far better suited for a particular topic. People who rely too heavily on their connections often push clients to use that outlet, yet it’s not always in the best interest of the client. A lack of such connections leaves you with the unbiased freedom to pursue outlets solely on their reach and relevancy.

  1. It takes strategy to select the right angle

As I mentioned above, even the best connections won’t make up for the lack of a story’s newsworthiness. So often what makes a story newsworthy is the angle you take when writing it. This requires a good understanding of what makes the media tick and a strategic mind to align that with how you pitch your story. Simply writing the facts, even if free of any grammatical errors, is not enough to make it to the front page.

As far as having connections, even your own uncle or brother who works for the Wall Street Journal will need to decline an article that is overly promotional or self-serving. The ability to select the angle that will grab a reporter’s (and readers’) attention is worth so much more.

  1. Your content needs to be polished

You may have fostered some pretty solid connections in the local market; however, if you continue to provide them with crap writing, you can expect your emails to start getting “lost” in their inbox. The best connections will not outlast press releases and articles that are strewn together haphazardly and laced with elementary grammatical errors. A knack for creating captivating content and an eye for catching spelling and grammar mistakes is worth far more than the ability to name drop. Before you place any more emphasis on stalking reporters, first dedicate your time to polishing your basic writing skills.

  1. Connections can come and go

Finally, if your entire public relations strategy is built around your media and business connections, you are playing a dangerous game. Connections, as with any relationship, come and go fluidly. Even when you dedicate great amounts of time and energy to fostering them, it takes two to keep a relationship going and a connection or two may decide they need some space. If this should happen and you don’t have quality communication skills to lean on, you will most certainly fall down.

What additional skills or strategies have you found to be more effective than simply relying upon personal connections? Share your thoughts by commenting below!

 
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Posted by on September 22, 2014 in Business & Success

 

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#YOUREDOINGITWRONG: 7 Common Hashtag Mistakes

hashtagabuse

It’s taken the social media world by storm and nearly every platform has found a way to make it relevant to the way people share and archive content. It’s the #hashtag. This crooked looking game of tic-tac-toe no longer means “number sign” in modern society. Rather, it’s better known as the powerful symbol that turns ordinary text into a hyperlinked portal to a galaxy of content shared around the world on that exact topic.

And just as we have with nearly every other aspect of social media, we have found quite a few ways to royally mess up the use of this tool. Here are seven common ways people are abusing the hashtag way more than they should.

1. It contains a spelling error

Hashtags are very specific. What you type in is what you get.  Unlike a Google search that will offer you a courteous suggestion of “Did you mean…?” hashtags don’t spell check, research or interpret what you type. By design, this is what allows every hashtag to be so unique and to represent exactly what you want to say. This also provides the perfect storm for spelling errors to render an otherwise powerful hashtag completely useless.

Let’s look an example. The very popular #iloveyou has more than 18 million posts on Instagram (at the time of writing this blog). Using this hashtag will get your picture seen by any of the millions of users who would stumble upon this mega-tag by the second. However, one slip of the thumb might cause you to tag #iloevyou which places your content in the ranks of just 45 other posts, earning you hardly any views. Proofread before publishing just as you would anything else! Never rely on auto-correct, which really seems to hate the formatting of hashtags.

This major hashtag fail may not be the direct result of a spelling error, but it is the result of someone not proofreading before publishing…and anticipating how awkwardly this phrase would read when smooshed into a hashtag.

hashtag fail

2. It is too long or too specific that there’s simply no chance anyone else will ever use (or see) it

Let’s take for example a hashtag like #icantwaitforkathysbirthdaypartyintoronto. I didn’t search it on Instagram, but I don’t feel like I have to. Hashtagging the alphabet backwards will have more posts than this. The example I gave is of a post that is both too long and too specific. Only in very isolated instances is hashtagging a whole sentence acceptable (or part of a good strategy). Instead, the post could have been written as “I can’t wait for #kathys27thbirthday in #Toronto!” Toronto is a far more powerful hashtag. And Kathy’s birthday-specific hashtag could become the designated tag for the party and where your whole group of friends collect photos in one place.

3. It is the “off version” of a more popular term

Holidays are among the biggest offenders of this common mistake. Let’s take for example the Fourth of July. Should you use #fourthofjuly or #4thofjuly or #july4th or #julyfourth or ditch the date and go with #independenceday? Don’t even venture down the path of throwing the year in there or your mind will explode with uncertainty!

The truth is none of these options are “wrong” per se. They were all used to tag posts related to the holiday and each earned some pretty hefty numbers. If your goal is to tag the fastest trending term, then do your research! Scan the different options and compare numbers. Another strategy is to simply go with what you like best, but make sure to be consistent and use this exact term across all your related posts.

4. It simply makes no sense

Sometimes it’s the result of a spelling error, sometimes it’s the result of not understanding hashtags and sometimes it’s the result of not understanding the English language. No matter the reason, if your hashtag makes absolutely no sense, you can bet that no one else (unless by sheer mistake) will choose to use this same tag and your post will never gain exposure beyond your own, isolated network. Again, do your research on whether your tag already exists, whether there’s a more trendy option and always proofread before publishing!

5. It is separated by spaces or apostrophes

For as much as I love to see grammatically correct social media posts, hashtags are one of the few times where you need to throw your spaces, commas, hyphens and apostrophes aside.  Here’s why. The hashtag #you’remybestfriend will be broken as soon as it hits the contraction. #You is a strong hashtag, but it’s missing the more relevant hashtag you’re really after here. In this case, you want to write #youremybestfriend, cringe and hit publish. Additionally, posting “# flowers are beautiful” won’t do anything – at all. Things need to get up close and personal for the hashtag to work. That’s right, the words will touch. Same goes for you hyphens and commas! Write #set-up as #setup and #this,thatandtheotherthing as #thisthatandtheotherthing.

6. It is one of 20+ hashtags you’re using in a single post

If the caption under your photo looks like a paragraph of blue links, you are drowning your followers in a sea of hashtags. Worse yet, you’re risking looking as spammy and desperate as those phishing emails from that Nigerian Prince who is still asking me to wire him large sums of money! More is not always better. There is a point of diminishing returns for hashtags. While this strategy will increase the different ways the social media platform shares your content, to us living, breathing humans it will simply look like you care more about being seen than what you’re really saying. Limit your hashtags to (gasp) 5-7 meaningful and relevant tags. We all thank you in advance.

7. It is used inconsistently

Using existing popular hashtags is a great way to promote your content to a broader, more public audience than your own social network. Another strategic way to use hashtags is to create your own as an organized landing spot for all of the content that relates back to your brand. Best of all, other people can contribute to this “file folder” of content by using the same hashtag. This is exactly what these platforms were intended to promote – a social and interactive online environment.

So where does it go wrong? When you use this hashtag inconsistently. Hashtags are, after all, a communications strategy. Just as you (hopefully) know you must remain consistent in your other marketing and public relations efforts, you must also remain consistent in using this phrase with every piece of relevant content you post. Make it a destination to which people want to travel – and stay a while. This requires quality content that is updated frequently.

Now that you’ve learned the most common ways people are abusing this powerful social media tool, I hope you’ll go out and utilize the almighty hashtag with confidence and creativity. #goodluck!

What are some of the most egregious mistakes you’ve seen when using hashtags? Share your funny (and helpful) examples by commenting below (pet peeves are welcome)!

 
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Posted by on September 15, 2014 in Business & Success, Social Media

 

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Life Lesson: 5 Ways to be Your Own Advocate

you-must-be-the-change-you-want-to-see-560x560

Throughout my life, I’ve learned a time or two – the hard way – that no one else is going to seize opportunities for you or voice your opinion. You must be your own advocate.

My most vivid memory of this life lesson was on the campaign trail in my former career. Our candidate was elected and the celebrations were coming to a close. Yet, one big question remained. What do I do next? Do I have a job? We were promised that, yes, we would all be placed somewhere within the new administration; however, days then weeks passed without any senior staff members sitting down with me to discuss my future.

It wasn’t until I started asking some of my peers that I found out that job conversations WERE taking place – for those who were bold enough to wait outside the office door and track down senior staff to MAKE them have this conversation. The people that controlled my fate were beyond busy and weren’t going to make time for me unless I demanded it. I had to become my own advocate if I wanted that job I was promised.

Things worked out. I was finally given the attention I demanded and got the job (I thought) I wanted. While I didn’t stay in this role long, it was a necessary turning point in my career and in my life. I was slapped in the face with the reality that if I didn’t muster up the courage to seize my own opportunities, they were surely going to pass me by.

I want to now share with you some of my hard-learned lessons on ways you can become your own advocate and seize life’s many opportunities – before someone else does.

  1. Build your personal brand

If you’re committed to becoming your own advocate, you must work to build your personal brand just as a publicist does for celebrities. This doesn’t mean securing guest appearances on the Today Show, but it does mean creating a valuable set of skills and qualities that can be marketed to potential clients or employers. Here is a great starter guide to help point you in the right direction. A strong personal brand is a valuable asset and wise investment of your time because it follows you wherever life may lead.

  1. Network internally and externally

For some reason we think of networking as only taking place at socials and mixers where everyone is wearing a stick-on name tag and shoving business cards down each other’s throats. This isn’t reality – and hardly even “networking” in its truest sense. Be aware of opportunities to network internally as well as externally.

No matter your current job, there is a valuable opportunity to build relationships with (and impress) your peers and higher-ups. This is an obvious opportunity if you want to move up within your own company, but it’s also valuable if you want to move on. You never know who other people know and the more people that can recommend your work, the more opportunities you will have at your finger tips.

  1. Actively seek opportunities

Life will rarely ever spoon feed you your next big break. You need to be out in the field – everyday – hunting down opportunities. The people I know who are their own best advocates are the people who get aggressive about knowing all the opportunities that are available to them at any time. They may not be in search of a new job, but they still keep their ear to the ground for anything interesting going on. By the time you realize you’re ready for a career change, you’re already behind the curve. Stay connected on social media, inquire within companies that interest you and keep an open conversation with your peers – who should also be on the hunt!

  1. Stay educated

I can’t stress enough the importance of becoming a lifelong learner. This makes you well-rounded, knowledgeable and interesting. It also keeps your eyes and ears wide open to an array of opportunities that people who are less informed would overlook. Staying well educated is like staying in shape. If you should be presented with the opportunity to run a 5k – or interview for a job – you are fit to jump right in with far less preparation and training than those who do not “stay in shape.”

  1. The right time is always now

Finally, develop a sense of urgency in your life. As your own advocate you cannot become complacent. This is one instance in life where patience will not serve you well. You cannot afford to wait around for the next opportunity to present itself; otherwise you will risk falling into the trap of waiting around forever. Opportunities are always around us. While not every opportunity is a large stepping stone to our dream career, those tiny pebbles do stack up. Get excited, get motivated and become urgent about your need to advocate for your best interests.

What are some ways in which you could benefit from being your own advocate? Share your experiences by commenting below!

 
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Posted by on September 8, 2014 in Business & Success, Life

 

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7 Ways to Effectively Manage Busy People

busy people

Whether it’s a client, a boss, a friend or a spouse, we all have those one or two extremely busy people in our lives. I’m not talking about the “busy bodies,” but the truly busy, nose-to-the-grind-stone people who are booked almost all day every day with important tasks.

While their exhausting schedules challenge them, they also challenge us with how we can break through the noise to communicate with them. The good news is that it’s not completely impossible to get timely responses from these people. It simply takes managing them in a different way. Here are seven ways to help you effectively manage busy people and their busy schedules.

  1. Use clear and concise messaging

Getting answers from a busy person can be like pulling teeth. Even if they get the time to read your email or listen to your voicemail, they’re usually called away to the next task before they can provide you with the information you need.

Reduce the friction of this process by using clear and concise messaging. Your emails should be brief, to the point and should highlight exactly what you’re asking of them. Dates, times and location should also be bolded or underlined so they pop out. By cutting to the chase, you save them the time of reading through paragraphs to get to the point and increase the chance they’ll have enough time left over to shoot you a quick reply.

  1. Consolidate the number of messages you send

There may be times where you need 3 or 4 things from a busy person in a single day. This most commonly happens when it’s one of my clients. Rather than shooting off an email every time I have a question, I keep a running list for that day (or that week) and several hours before close of business, I consolidate these requests into a single, clear and concise message.

Think of it this way, the more messages you throw into an already inundated inbox makes it even less likely that you’ll hear back from them that day, week…or ever. Be a part of the solution, not part of the problem.

  1. Schedule meetings far in advance – and confirm them

Finding a tiny time slot on a busy person’s calendar can create a game of email or phone tag that just never ends. For my busiest clients, we scheduled our reoccurring meetings for the quarter or even half of the year all at once. This got the meetings on both of our calendars nice and early and allowed us to plan around those dates. Expecting to find an open time in a busy person’s calendar just one week in advance is like walking in to the most exclusive salon in town and asking for an appointment that day. Maybe you’ll get lucky, but it’s far more likely you’ll get asked to come in 10 weeks.

Additionally, once you have these meetings set far in advance, be sure and follow-up several days before the meeting is set to take place. It’s likely the busy person has long since forgotten about this obligation. If they don’t have a secretary (or reliable calendar reminders) there is a good chance that you’ll get stood up.

  1. Provide briefings prior to events

For some of my busy clients, I schedule them to attend events such as fundraisers, public appearances, speaking engagements or media events as part of our communications and branding strategy. In these scenarios, it is also my responsibility to adequately prepare them for such events with details like directions, what to wear, other dignitaries in attendance, how long they’ll be speaking and what topics they should cover.

I place all of these details in a single-page template that serves as an event briefing and send them several days in advance to prepare my clients in mere minutes for the event. They love the efficiency of this process and the depth of the details I provide. As a busy person, your life is a whirlwind. If you can help them to feel more prepared and organized, you will quickly make a good impression.

  1. Anticipate their needs and questions and address them before they have to ask

When communicating with a busy person, you should strive to answer all of their questions before they have to ask. This eliminates back and forth communication that can drag on for days – even weeks.

For example, when setting up a meeting, don’t simply email them with “Can we schedule a time to meet?” This question produces so many more questions. Instead, be as descriptive (yet concise) as possible. Include why you want to meet and approximately how much time you’re asking of them. Also propose several dates, times and locations from which they may choose. This allows them to confirm all of these details for you within a single response, rather than through an unreasonably long email chain.

  1. Make meetings as convenient for them as possible

Simply put, come to them. In most cases, I think it’s fair to schedule a meeting somewhere mutually convenient for you and the person you’re meeting. But for a busy person (especially one who is paying me or may potentially pay me), I make it as convenient as possible for them. Why? Because every minute they spend commuting to a further location is less time they can dedicate to our meeting. I’d rather drive a little further and make the meeting last a little longer. It also shows you respect their time and it also provides them with a good first impression of how easy you will be to work with.

  1. Minimize their to-do list (take on as much as you can for them)

Finally, lessen their load as much as you can! For my busy clients, we will cover a laundry list of to-do’s during each meeting. While they’re perfectly capable of taking on many of these tasks, it’s not their time best spent. I take on as many of these tasks as I can; leaving them only with the smallest items that absolutely cannot be done without them (like asking a donor for a large amount of money). But even for these tasks, I still work to prepare and remind them so that it’s as easy as possible. I never mind taking on these tasks, because when they’re in my hands I know they’ll get done when I want them done. And with busy people…well, that’s just not usually the case.

How have you made dealing with very busy people easier? Share your experiences and insights by commenting below!

 
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Posted by on September 1, 2014 in Business & Success, Life

 

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Why We Need Rainy Days

cat looking at rainy window

It has been a gorgeous summer in Pennsylvania. After a long and cold winter, we have earned these warm and sunny days – and there have been many! A couple of weeks ago I had some (rare) free time during a Sunday afternoon. My first instinct was to find something to do outside that would allow me to enjoy the day; however, the skies were ominous with a pending thundershower. As I stood by the window, I took a deep breath and felt a wave of relief wash over me. What an odd reaction to have to a dismal day? No, I didn’t feel sad, depressed, frustrated or annoyed. I felt relieved.

Reflecting on this feeling and the circumstances of the day made me realize something quite important. We all need rainy days in our life. Obviously the rain nourishes and revitalizes the earth, but it does the same for us.

My relief came from not feeling like I had to find something to do make the most of the nice weather. I had an excuse to be inside – and to just slow down for a little bit. On this particular afternoon, I watched a movie from start to finish (a nearly impossible feat for a mother of a toddler). That’s it. That’s all I accomplished and had nothing to show for it. Or did I? I felt focused, rested and happy. It’s the first time in a long time that I turned off all other distractions and was fully present in the moment. I can’t remember the last time I did this, can you?

On a sunny day, I feel like I need to be outside walking, running or at the park with Holden. I feel guilty making him play inside when I know all too soon winter weather will come rolling in and we’ll be locked up for months. Even when we’re inside during naptime, the blue skies inspire me to tackle work projects and chores at a dizzying pace. In the afternoon we’re on the go again, running errands or back to the park. And after dinner? You guessed it; we get outside as a family! I’m proud of my active lifestyle that has allowed me to accomplish all that I have, but even hybrid moms need to idle every so often.

On a rainy day, we move slower. There’s no rush to get to the park; it’s not even an option. Naps seem to last a little longer and watching more television than usual is completely acceptable. If errands can wait, they do. Getting toddler in and out of a car seat is even more of a miserable chore when rain is pounding on your back. Maybe best of all, without the sun shining through the windows, I don’t notice the little finger prints that should be cleaned off as well as every other surface you can imagine. It all waits and we rest.

I don’t take for granted that the “sunny” days, when I feel energized and productive, will always be around – so I make the most of them! But I no longer dread the “rainy” days that serve an equally important purpose. These days revitalize my soul and force me to slow down long enough to appreciate the need for balance. The weather is a funny thing; somehow it knows exactly what we need even when we do not.

What purpose do rainy days serve for you? Share how you have found balance in your daily life!

 
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Posted by on August 11, 2014 in Life

 

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The Most Effective Way to Follow-Up

listen to me

There’s one exclamation that I’m sure to say at least once a week (often with my hands on my head for emphasis). “I spend WAY too much time following-up with people!” How many of you share my grief?

I can’t stand the blazing bold font of an email message that’s not yet been answered. If I’m anywhere near my phone or computer during normal business hours (and who isn’t these days?), you can expect a response within the hour. Even if I don’t have the full answer, I’ll at least send an acknowledgement so you know the task is on my list. This makes it even more frustrating for me to spend so much of my time chasing down answers from other people.

Following-up has become one of the finest arts of communication. It’s a delicate balance of friendliness and force. You can’t be so abrupt that you get tuned out completely, but if you aren’t direct you’ll never get a response. So what is the secret to crafting an effective follow-up message? Here are six rules of engagement that will help get your questions answered!

Be polite

Always, always, always be polite. It doesn’t matter if this is your fifth follow-up message, you have to maintain your composure and professionalism if you ever want a shot at receiving a response. Time is valuable for everyone, so while it’s taking some (more) or your time to follow-up, you’re also asking for someone else’s time to provide you with an answer. Don’t act annoyed or be passive aggressive with your message. Reference your original conversation, reiterate your request and genuinely thank them for their time.

Allow a reasonable amount of time to pass

You or I may hold ourselves to the standard of answering an email within one business day, but realize that not everyone shares that same practice. For some people, a week might be a reasonable amount of time to get you a response – especially if it’s not urgent. My rule of thumb is to wait at least one week before sending the first follow-up message. I’m often pleasantly surprised by the number of responses that come in on their own right about this time. And I’m always glad I didn’t annoy them with a reminder when they were, in fact, on top of things.

Once you send the first follow-up message one week later, continue to wait a week in between each email. You can use alternative methods of communication in between that time (such as phone, text or Linkedin message). Some people are just terrible at checking email, but will respond promptly when you contact them through an alternative source. It will also increase your chances of getting your message heard. If there’s a significant deadline approaching, you can use this as a reason to follow-up more frequently than the one-week rule. Play this card selectively or risk becoming one of the 11 most annoying email personalities.

Give the benefit of the doubt

Don’t be so quick to assume that the only reason some has not responded to you is because they’re rude or incompetent. In between work, life happens and sometimes takes precedence over your requests. Have patience when waiting a reasonable amount of time before following-up with someone. They might have just had a death or illness in the family. Or maybe they have just returned from some time off and are still catching up on emails. I remember when I first had my son; I was a little slow at responding to messages but greatly appreciated those who afforded me patience and understanding during this time.

Don’t be repetitive

If your follow-up strategy requires several messages, avoid the temptation to simply copy and paste your request from week to week. This repetition is annoying and can seem condescending to your contact, like you’re assuming they won’t know the difference. For each follow-up message, include a new message at the beginning that updates your contact with where things currently stand (don’t make them read down through your whole conversation to figure this out). And for bonus points, add in something timely or relevant that will show you put thought into this follow-up. For example, maybe you saw that they published a new blog this week. Reference something you like about that blog and they’ll know you’re really paying attention and are invested in this relationship.

Make answering easy

Especially if you have multiple questions awaiting answers, the best way to increase your chances of getting a response is to make it as easy as possible. Once tactic I use is to break down each question into its own bullet point so that my contact can simply respond in-line. Other times I will bold or underline the question so that within the context of my message people know exacting what needs a response.

If I have a laundry list of questions or items that warrant more of a discussion, a phone call is the way to go. Emails should be short, sweet and to the point. The question should appear in the very beginning and again at the end. Repetition is a courtesy because it allows your contact to easily skim the message, identify what you’re asking for and quickly respond.

Give an easy “opt-out”

This is most applicable to a message in which you’re asking for someone to meet with you or buy your services. For reasons unknown, some people just hate saying no. Instead, they’ll avoid answering altogether so that they don’t feel like they’re letting you down. In the long run this is a disservice to you both. If you’ve followed-up multiple times, it may be time to offer your final message where you directly ask if you should stop contacting them. Be polite and friendly. Even if they take you up on the offer, this professional courtesy will end things on a positive note and reflect well on you and your business.

What tips or tricks do you have for crafting an effective follow-up message? Share your advice by commenting below!

 
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Posted by on August 4, 2014 in Business & Success

 

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