Two-Way Street

PR, social media, events and incentives – Collaboration & communication ideas for demanding businesses from The Castle Group's Mark O'Toole

Posts Tagged ‘network’

Building a Better Network

Posted by thecastlegroup on June 11, 2009

Social networks are proving great tools for sharing content, connecting with colleagues and friends, and keeping hard-to-maintain relationships dynamic. 

social networking

There is also a world of opportunities, personal and financial reward, camaraderie, friendship and learning experiences that can come from building and nurturing a fantastic network in a more personal way.

Everyone needs a network—whether for business development, career development or personal reasons. In fact, everyone has a network, whether they know it or not. But not everyone knows how to build or use one.

To create a usable, expandable and vibrant network, you must nurture it. Some of that can be done via technology, but much of network building and maintenance comes from getting out, getting together and getting on the phone.

Just as our PR team builds its media contacts by getting to know reporters individually, taking the time to contact people on their terms, supplying relevant information and seeing our targets as people, so must a personal network-builder take the time to correctly develop a network.

Here are a couple of lessons learned:

  • Networking happens everywhere: Anywhere people congregate and share interests can be fertile networking ground. A neighborhood cookout, school committee meeting, black-tie gala or walkathon can be just as appropriate as a planned “Networking Luncheon.”Here at Castle, the events we managed and those we attended, even cab-sharing, became networking opportunities for our clients and ourselves.
  • This brings up an important point: The best networkers help others build their networks as well. The smoothest networkers are also the most sincere—they look for opportunities for other people that make sense. Just as media relationship-building means occasionally giving non-client-related story ideas or sources, so does personal and professional networking mean helping others that may not directly pay off for you.
  • Which leads to point three: What goes around, comes around. Networking is often little more than doing the right favor, making the right recommendation or offering the right connection for the right person. Remembering someone’s need, and helping him or her to fill it, will position you as a problem-solver as opposed to an opportunist. And people do remember—and repay—favors.
  • Have your elevator pitch down cold: If you can’t verbalize what you do, you can’t expect potential members of your network to accurately share that information with their contacts. So be able to succinctly describe your company, its products and services, and your role. And listen carefully to your counterpart’s pitch—otherwise you might miss a chance to make an important connection.
  • Be yourself: We can all smell phoniness, opportunism and disinterest a mile away. The people that we network best with—invite to events, pass contacts along to, do favors for, are, not surprisingly, the people we typically enjoy being with.

networking

Networking is an art, and must be developed like any other business skill. The first step is being aware that you’re building something fluid, lasting and vital. And you’ll be amazed at how it can grow with a basic level of nurturing and support.

Here’s a way to test your network-building success. Attend a large annual corporate event (for example, here in Boston, The Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce Annual Meeting or the Boston Business Journal Book of Lists party). Take a look around and consciously note how many people you know—either well, slightly or peripherally. Then, after setting networking goals and working on your network, attend the same event. You will experience a noticeable expansion of your network.

Only you can make the difference between meeting them and knowing them.

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The Simple Things

Posted by thecastlegroup on March 3, 2009

A colleague recently said, “In difficult times, there are those who cry, and there are those who sell handkerchiefs.” While some of our clients are scaling back in 2009, some are staying the course, others are increasing their budgets, and still others are shifting marketing tactics due to changing goals. Regardless of how your company is faring right now, every company needs to take a hard look at expenses. Yet even if you’re downsizing, there are straightforward marketing recommendations to consider: 

 
1. Long lead times. 
The efforts you put forth today can yield significant results six months from now. If your product needs to be featured in monthly magazines during the spring or summer, you have to make it happen now. The news and event cycle will pass you by if you ignore long-lead opportunities.
2. PR is not a one-shot deal. 
PR works best when there are both long- and short-term corporate goals included in the program. We once had a client that ended his contract with us because we “did such a great job getting the company visibility” that he “didn’t need us anymore.” Guess what? The visibility ebbed away and he came back.
3. Good news is suddenly news. 
If you communicate momentum, your targets will see momentum. I just read a news brief about a company that secured $1 million in financing. A number that low would never have hit the press last year. Further, one of our clients recently hired 12 people and had two banks vying to offer them a significant line of credit. That certainly wouldn’t have been newsworthy a year ago, but it is today. 
3. Leaner times can create internal opportunities. 
If business is slow, you may have talented staff who can be redeployed to support marketing objectives: a salesperson with the soul of a writer or an IT person with a creative flair who can improve your website or collateral.  
4. Bring your audience to you. 
Think about your office or retail space. Can you create opportunities — seminars, roundtable discussions, networking events — in your office and invite colleagues, customers and prospects? Face-to-face communications can still be the best marketing tool there is.
5. Get out…do more.
Go to networking events and conferences. Leverage your memberships beyond event attendance; meet with association executives to see whether you might be able to be an event speaker or moderator. You’ll get visibility through the sponsoring organization AND have opportunity for that face-to-face at the same time.
6. Consider your assets.
Do you have a creative presentation that can be repurposed for your website, as a bylined article, and as a speaker abstract? Take inventory of the marketing materials that already exist and creatively leverage them to create new opportunities.
7. Partner wisely.
Consider a marketing co-opportunity (event sponsorship, co-authored op-ed, online promotion) with a non-competing organization that targets similar audiences. You can leverage your marketing dollars by sharing resources and achieving a similar goal together.
8. Review your online presence.
This is a good time to make the most of your image online.  Make sure you’re maximizing SEO opportunities, posting new materials to your site, participating in online groups through sites like LinkedIn and Facebook, Twittering and blogging. All free, and all marketing. 
           
Be the company that’s making the most of this downturn. To revisit the saying referenced earlier, sell handkerchiefs. B2B and consumer demand still exists — the winners will be those that best continue to meet those demands. If you can afford to maintain or increase your visibility, your handkerchiefs will look pretty good amongst all those tears. 

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