Communications

There has been a great deal of coverage on the acquisition of online retailer Zappos.com by Amazon. I had the privilege of hearing Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh speak earlier this year at the Ragan Social Media Conference in Las Vegas.

I have to admit that when I saw Tony’s name on the program as a keynote and realized he was speaking about corporate culture, I wasn’t that excited about it. However, you can’t deny that Zappos.com has a great reputation as does Tony, so I went to see him speak because, well – he was there and so was I.

His keynote changed how I view the world.

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There is an excellent post on the PR Channel blog about how to effectively use video in public relations. More and more at AHA, we are making use of video as a communications tool for our clients. It is one of the reasons that we wanted to have a video producer as a part of the crew. (And we were lucky to get Scott to join us, he’s exceptional.)

Five years ago creating a video was a huge deal. It took big budgets, a great deal of planning and the video came out looking very corporate and slick. Today, no one wants that. For video today, while production value is still very important, it’s not about the slick look. It’s about good lighting, sound and the story.

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Chris Brogan has an excellent post on his site this week on how to influence him, and it translates to how to reach out to anyone either online or not.

One of the key points he makes is “don’t let the numbers fool you” and that is so important. I’ve blogged a bit about this before and according to some of the AHA crew, I am a bit obsessed right now with this topic. It’s not how many people you reach, it’s which people. Reaching a blogger with 100 key readers or one with a wide-range of 10,000 creates different results, but the one with 100 readers may be of more value to your organization.

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Communication is a wonderful thing, and as a communication specialist, I am happier than most people (I think) for blackberries, wireless Internet connections in coffee shops and that my clients, my business partner, our strategic partners, our staff and the media can reach me when they need me.

It’s a bit of a running joke with clients and friends that if I don’t have my blackberry nearby, I go looking for it … if someone needs to speak to me immediately, I want to take that call.

However, I think that people need to respect the levels of need, urgency and expectation when it comes to being able to reach someone 24/7. Just because I have a blackberry with me all the time doesn’t mean that everyone has an all access pass to me all the time. The interesting thing is that the people that have the right to call me at all hours (especially our clients…) are much more respectful than those who are almost strangers. Many of the people I deal with on a regular basis go out of their way — unless it is immediately important or urgent — not to call me on off-hours, if a subject or question can be answered in an hour or two or even a day or two, they email me. If they call me at the office and I am not in, they leave a message. They don’t just call me on my cell expecting me to drop what I am doing and turn my focus to something that is not urgent.

However, there are others out there that don’t seem to understand this approach. They call the office and if I am not there, they chase me down on my cell phone. I recently got a call from someone I had met briefly at a business event where I presented. She called me on my cell in the middle of a particular hectic workday. She hadn’t even bothered to email or call me at the office. She wanted to know if I would be her guest at a BNI meeting three weeks from the day of her call. Not an urgent call. And the truth is, in the middle of the day, going from meeting to meeting, dealing with media calls, talking to my colleagues at the AHA office, discussing projects and initiatives with clients, it was pretty challenging to focus on this woman.

On the other hand, several years ago, I spoke to a class of new business entrepreneurs and one of them, a graphic designer, kept in touch with me. She would email once in a while and update me on what she was doing, remind me that she was talented, hungry and looking for work – all in a very respectful way that was convenient for me. That allowed me to actually focus on what she was doing in her business and think about how I could be of assistance to her. She and I met for coffee last week and if the opportunity comes up, I will go out of my way to recommend her or to work with her. This is a vast improvement compared to the woman who made the assumption that her call would be good for me at any time.

In our work, we are always thinking about how the person on the other end will best receive our information. For the media, we know their deadlines and what the best times are to call and pitch them. For our clients – we ask them how they would like us to communicate with them. Even within the AHA team, when we call one another, we almost always say – is this a good time? I have something that I need to run by you right now.

Immediate, instant communication is a great thing if used respectfully, properly and effectively. Remember – just because you have someone’s cell or home number doesn’t mean you need to use it. Would you want people calling you at home or on your cell if it wasn’t urgent or immediate? If you treat people the way you would like to be treated, it really does deliver results.

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