The Blurring Lines Between Personal and Professional has a good post focusing on whether it is possible to be personal and professional in social media. It is a topic that we, at AHA, discuss on a regular basis.

We are a boutique agency by choice. We started that way and it works for us. Now, we happen to believe that you can be small and still deliver the results of a much larger agency. Small doesn’t mean less to us, it means lean, focused and it gives us the opportunity to be a real team. It also allows us to make choices about the clients that we take on. We don’t have to “feed the machine” so we don’t take on everything that comes our way. We have to believe that we are the right crew for the account and we need to believe in the client. There is something personal about that and it’s an area of business development that is important to us.

Social media allows a different connection between agency and client—between people—than ever before. I have several clients as “friends” on my personal Facebook page. I often have lunch, coffee or drinks with clients and past clients to catch up on what is going on in their life. Not for work purposes, but because I genuinely like them and am interested.

We have a no jerk rule at AHA. If you’re a jerk, we don’t want you as a client. Internally, we have a very clear definition of what we consider a jerk, but I won’t bore you with it here. If I wouldn’t invite you to stop by for a glass of wine or a coffee if you were going through Gibsons, why would I want to spend potentially hundreds of hours working with you?  Working with someone on their PR efforts can be a very close, connected relationship. We don’t have to agree on religion, politics or even who will win the Superbowl to have a positive relationship, personal or professional, but I think there are some key areas for each person that are important when it comes to connecting.

When I speak with CEOs, company presidents and senior executives, I always point out that the days of having a personal life and a professional life are gone. Years ago, a CEO could be who they choose to be at work and then go home and be someone else altogether. The two worlds rarely, if ever, collided. Not so now. Social media has broken down the walls between your work and your home personality. Look at Tiger Woods. Do the problems in his personal life impact his professional life? Does it impact our perception of him, and thereby the business of his golf career? Oh, yes.

The line is blurred. Worlds have collided. I might not be close friends with all my clients, but I genuinely like them and care about them. And, given our roster of exceptional clients, I think they feel the same way. We’ve worked hard at being a “good” company, not just a profitable or successful company. I believe that brings us “good” clients, who are good people. When personal and professional crossover, there aren’t any big, negative surprises for us about the person. And when you make a strong personal connection, something extra happens on the work side. There’s a little bit of magic that happens when you respect, believe in and genuinely like someone that you work with. It becomes a true partnership and everyone benefits.

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