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 ‘social networking’

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 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 customer is always right

Posted by thecastlegroup on May 28, 2009

The Castle Group’s co-founder, Sandy Lish, weighs in today with a post on customer service and social media.

The customer is always right. An old adage, but one social media is making a harsh reality for many companies. Some, like Comcast, JetBlue and Zappos, have embraced social media as an outlet to resolve complaints, share information and interact with customers.

And while some consumer-facing companies are encouraging social media participation, others are ignoring its utility. But when it comes to customer service, social media is merely another avenue. The real interaction should happen at the point-of-sale, e.g. in your stores and showrooms. Below are two anecdotes that illustrate this movement.

customer service

Thanks Hyundai

“These days when you buy a Hyundai, you tell everyone – by email, text or tweet. You call it social networking, we call it good PR.”

Yes! This was how a Hyundai commercial I saw last night started. But I could not have said it better. It caught my ear because of the reference to “good PR” – not something you hear often in ads. In some circles, PR is still equated with “stunts” and “publicists” and “spin” – and nothing else. We know better. Social networking is PR – whether comments on social networks are good, bad or indifferent, it’s critical to listen and, when relevant, respond. Thanks, Hyundai for pointing that out.

I applaud Hyundai on its willingness to encourage customer interaction. I would recommend that they load their television ads onto their own site, though. If you run an ad encouraging social networking, shouldn’t that ad embody that spirit as well?

Has anyone recently purchased a Hyundai? If so, did the showroom customer service meet the “tell everyone” status boasted in the ad?

 customer service 2

Customer Service: Act Now or Pay Later?

The other day I was in a department store, and observed an irate customer trying to resolve a problem with a return. I overheard her, on her cell phone, calling the retailer’s corporate office to complain about the service she was getting, saying she had already spent 45 minutes trying to resolve the issue with the manager – to no avail.

I shopped around for at least 25 minutes, passed by her again, and overheard her on the phone, escalating her problem, but still not resolving it.

So at least 70 minutes spent (I left without knowing if she found resolution) – precious time she can’t get back. Now if she told everyone she knew – “by email, text or tweet” to use Hyundai’s language – complained on the retailer’s blog and posted negative comments on consumer blogs, she would likely have set off a far more viral process that attracted those with similarly poor experiences. She would have had the power that was once limited to consumer advocates working for traditional media companies to spread the word and influence others.

I’m sure many people are tweeting about their new Hyundai or forgoing customer service for customer action. PR is clearly in the hands of anyone with a mobile device or a laptop, and it is important for merchants to recognize the power of the consumer.

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