The Art of Following Up

followupFollowing up isn’t always fun, but damn is it effective.

It might feel a little aggressive.  It’s natural to think to yourself “I don’t want to annoy them. If they didn’t respond, maybe they just don’t want to talk to me.”

The truth is there are a lot of reasons that people don’t respond. People are forgetful.  People procrastinate.  People lose track of emails. Even if they just ignored you the first time, there’s a good chance they’ll respond when you check in again.

That doesn’t mean you should be pushy.  Be polite…

“Hey Barb, just wanted to shoot you a quick follow up.  Let me know if you have time to chat for 10 minutes on Friday.”

They won’t think, “man, what a dick, following up with me like that.”

They’ll think “oops, forgot to respond to that. Better get back to them.”  Hell, they might even feel guilty enough to want to help you that much more.

If they’re really not interested in whatever it is you’re offering, then they’ll tell you no.  Good, now you know and you can move on.

 

Now how do you become a master of the follow up?

In order to follow properly, you need to have a good system of keeping track of your communication with people.  Otherwise you’ll forget to follow up, just like they’ll forget to respond to you.  I forget to follow up with people all the time and it’s just missed opportunities.

1. Get yourself a CMS or use a spreadsheet.

I recommend trying Streak CRM which works with gmail.

I use it for blogger outreach, fundraising, managing contributors to blogs and any other situation where I need to keep track of who I need to follow up with.

2. Follow up more than once.

I typically will do two follow ups before calling it quits.  And you’d be surprised how many people respond to me on the second follow up.

3. Don’t wait too long.

Ideally, you want them to remember getting the first email.  I typically follow up anywhere from 3-7 days after emailing someone.

4. Set reminders for yourself.

If it’s really important, I’ll add an event on the morning of the day I plan to follow up.  You can also use boomerang (another awesome gmail plugin), which sends you reminders if people don’t get back to you.

5. Make it easy for people to respond.

If they respond once, there’s a better chance that they’ll respond again.  So if they don’t respond, in your follow up emails make it so easy that they could literally just say “yes” or “no”.  Then get into more details after they respond.

What’s your follow up strategy?

Are you Lowering your Networking Standards?

Photo cred: Coal Miki

At what point do you consider someone a trusted connection?

Is it after a tweet or two?

Is it after an email?

Is it after a skype chat?

Do you have to meet in person first?

How many times?

Let me phrase it another way.  What does it take for you to trust someone enough to recommend them to others as a professional?

I see social media tools constantly launching with new ways to help people connect with each other.  But as it becomes easier to connect with someone, it seems like we lower our standards for what qualifies as a “trusted connection”, or even as a friend.

What social media allows us to do is create these passive relationships, or “weak ties“.  People have always created weak ties with others, but with social media it becomes possible to do it on a much larger scale.

Now we’re (the social media bubble) even doing it in person.  There’s something that always bugged me about bump and hashable type apps.

Instead of really talking to a person and taking the time to get to know them when you first meet, you can just do a quick info swap on hashable.  It’s this “I’ll get to know her later” mentality.  It weakens our relationships.

The guys at addieu have built something better, because it actually connects the accounts.  It’s more permanent so the exchange actually means something.

Information about a person doesn’t create a relationship, interactions do.

Have you been making real connections with people?  Or are you just bookmarking as many people as possible for later?

7 Ways a College Student Can Start Becoming a Professional Now

Photo Cred: Jasmin Cormier

Whether you’re about to graduate in a couple weeks or you have a few semesters ahead of you, there are lots of things you can do to get started on your career.

I know I know, you want to enjoy your days at school while you can without having to worry about the “real world” that lies ahead.

You don’t have to devote all of your free time to developing your career.  There are little things that you can get started on now, that will pay off dividends after you graduate.

Want to get your career off to a good start after you graduate?  Here are some tips.

  1. Plant your seeds. If you’re not sure where to get started networking, just look around you.  You’re surrounded by future professionals (classmates) and seasoned vets (professors).  You also have a huge network of active professionals (alumni).  Sign up for Linked In, and start connecting with EVERYONE that you know.  You never know when a simple Linked In connection could lead to a big opportunity.  Here, you can start by connecting with me.
  2. Participate in projects. There are tons of things you can do around campus that will look great to future employers and will give you some great experience.  Start writing for the college newspaper.  Or better yet, start your own as a blog!  Start communities for students in the same position as you.  Just start something.  If you fail, who cares…?  You’ll learn a ton and it will look a lot better on your resume than whatever other crap we tend to fill that POS paper with.
  3. Attend events. Have you met Patrick Johnson?  No?  Well there are a ton of PR professionals who do because the kid is at every conference he can make it too.  Think you can’t afford it? Guess again.  Most conferences have student discounts, and pretty much ALL conferences take volunteers.  I’ve had the opportunity to meet some amazingly prominent professionals by volunteering at conferences.  Usually how it works is you work for half the conference, and the other half you can do what you want.  Start shaking hands.
  4. Join communities. There are hundreds of communities online for professionals.  You can find them on Linkedin, twitter, facebook, and niche social networks.  I got started in my career by joining 20 Something Bloggers and Brazen Careerist.  Just join them and start asking questions.  Professionals respect a student that’s taking the initiative to get out there and learn.
  5. Start writing. Whether it’s for your blog, for someone else’s blog, in your own private notebook…whatever.  Writing will help you learn and grow as a professional.
  6. Establish mentorships. It’s not something you can just set up usually.  By participating in communities, attending events, and networking, you’ll start to build stronger relationships with professionals.  Email them.  Ask them for skype chats.  Ask questions.  When you dive off the college cliff into the rapids of the real world, a mentor can be your life vest.  (Take that home…chew on it).
  7. Ignore me and do whatever you want. These tips are what worked for me.  They may or may not work for you.  If you have the motivation to kick off your career right, just do.  The first and biggest thing I’ve learned since graduating is that the doers will flourish.  No matter what I, or anyone else tells you, you just have to do what you think will work for you.  Just do.

Do you have any more tips for college students?  If you’re a college student, do you have any questions?

Too Much Networking Makes Bad Marketers

Photo cred: Andy Beal

The Supple Solutions have shown us how the marketer’s ability to do their job relies on how well they understand their audience…

Same goes for you PR professionals. You too advertising pros!

…so unless your audience (the one you were hired to understand) consists of mostly marketers, focusing so much time and effort on them will not make you much better at your job.

One could argue that lately, many professionals are equally (or more) concerned with building their personal network as they are with being good at their job.

This is especially an issue for young communications professionals and students.

We’re just starting out, and the first thing we now learn isn’t to start studying people and marketing, it’s to use social media to network and build a personal brand, so that we can use the services from longislandseoauthority.com later on.

When you focus on interacting with other communications professionals all the time, you lose touch with the people that you’re supposed to understand…the ones you’re getting paid to understand.

Learning how to reach out and engage with communications professionals will usually be very different from engaging with other people.  If you’re focusing too much on the former, you’ll quickly find yourself failing at the latter.

A communications professionals has to understand what people want, what triggers them, what turns them off, how to reach them, how to build trust with them, etc… and strictly communicating with other marketing professionals will only take you so far, there is a reason why real experts recommend to find a digital agency at DesignRush.com in order for you to get more knowledge and help your business at the same time.

Is the value of a professional’s network starting to outweigh the value of their ability as a professional?

What happens when we focus more on meeting communications professionals than on becoming a better communications professionals?

You're Being Cliché

Odd one out

The Nonconformist

Do you hate being called cliché? Do buzzwords piss you off? Do you avoid certain discussions just because they’re cliche?

Maybe, just maybe, you even look down on people who you consider to be cliché or that uses buzzwords?

I think we all do to some extent…but why do we do it?  Is it a smart move (professionally) to avoid “clichés” or do we just do it because we find it to be embarrassing to fall into a cliché?

If you’re not using buzzwords just because you don’t want to be cliché, you’re missing the point.  The point isn’t the wording or definitions.  It’s what they actually represent. It’s the concept, or idea behind them. If you disagree with the concept behind the cliché, then that’s fine…but don’t avoid it simply because it’s cliché.

If you’re getting caught up in not looking “cliché” by avoiding buzz words, you’re probably missing opportunities.

There’s a reason that things are considered cliché.  It’s because they make sense, they’re popular and they’re widely accepted. As a professional, wouldn’t you want to tap into that?

I’ve said it many times before, but I learn a lot of my life lessons from South Park.  In the episode, “You Got F’d in the A“, Stan tries to recruit some kids to join his dance crew.  He reaches out to the goth kids for help…

Stan: Please, you guys, our whole town’s reputation is at stake! Will any of you do it?
Red Bang Goth: I’m not doin’ it. Being in a dance group is totally conformist.
Henrietta: Yeah. I’m not conforming to some dance-off regulations.
Little Goth: I’m not doin’ it either. I’m the biggest nonconformist of all.
Tall Goth: I’m such a nonconformist that I’m not going to conform with the rest of you. Okay, I’ll do it.

So, in summary… if you’re avoiding clichés just because they’re clichés, then you’re being pretty cliché.  Make your own decisions. Don’t approve, or disapprove of something simply because of it’s popularity.

Thoughts?