Four fundamental questions for relationship building

Four fundamental questions for relationship building

A few months ago, I shared a post focused on the importance of relationship building called, “Relationship Building is My Career.”

In PR, the ability to build a relationship is a core competency, and at the forefront of a PR person’s role. The reason is simple.

Businesses rely on great relationships to create loyalty and advocacy. Some aspects of PR will never change, regardless of any new advancing technologies or the many different platforms that become the channels of consumer choice. However, what has changed is the way we approach relationships, in an effort to create even stronger 21st century bonds and to nurture them over time. 

This is where some new fundamentals of relationship building come into view. Of course, social media plays a big part of mastering these new fundamentals. Whether you’re building relationships with the media, bloggers, customers, employees, partners, etc., there are new strategies and planning necessary to build trust, credibility and the loyalty that leads to valuable relationships for the long term.

You can focus on a few of the new fundamentals by asking yourself these four questions.

1. Do you listen more than you speak? Listening closely or monitoring feedback from your conversations is so critical today, not just as research at the beginning of your program, but throughout all of your exchanges with an audience. If you haven’t already, it is definitely time to put on your “listening ears.” You will quickly discover the difference between just sharing information to knowing that you are sharing useful information, because your audience told you so. When you really pay attention to what people have to say, then you are able to dissect their conversations and analyze the feedback, finding better ways to inspire, teach, promote, engage, etc. At the same time, your ability to listen, and really hear an audience, lets them know how much you value the relationship, giving them a reason to continue advocating on your behalf.

2. Do you visualize your connections to grow your relationships? Social media has you connecting in any number of communities. However, it is not about the number of friends and followers. On the contrary, it is seeing how and why you are connected through the context of the conversations and like-mindedness of the people you are attracting. Using technology (e.g. tools like MentionMapp) to visualize connections helps you to see who is the most actively involved in your conversations. Their level of interaction with you, from initial participation to more meaningful engagement, lets you know who has the most interest in what you have to say, and in what you are sharing. Knowing this information helps you to grow the relationship based on what people expect and prefer from you.

3. Do you give more of yourself and expect less? They say, “When you give to the universe, the universe gives back.” It is the same principle you need to apply when it comes to connecting, keeping and growing a relationship for your business. You will always get more from people when you take the time to learn about their needs and then give freely; all for the sake of the relationship and not because you expect in return. Being human, transparent and helpful will get you noticed, not because you always want something from them, but because you want to give, as a meaningful resource or partner. Remember the days of sending a note to your media contacts in between pitches? Well now, you have different channels to reach out and no excuses when it comes to being a better friend.

4. Are you celebrating people and making them feel empowered? When you make people the center of what you do, they know it. This goes so far beyond social technologies. However, social media certainly helps you to include people in the co-creation of their favorite brands. Are you involving them in fun activities and promotions that they prefer, giving them an opportunity to be more a part of the brands they love? Celebrating people means making it about them from your positive commentary to the rewards and recognition you share about them. The focus on two way, peer-like conversations through social media has certainly made us reflect on the way we include or celebrate people in what we do. Social media put the “public” or the people back into important discussions, allowing them to share their ideas freely and to feel appreciated and empowered to give more.

Over the course of my career, I have learned that relationships take time, energy and focus. You cannot expect to have a great relationship, if you are not willing to listen, give, grow and celebrate the very people that you want to advocate for you. Ask yourself the four questions and then figure out how your answers will be incorporated into your research, strategy and the implementation of your programs. The result will be closer connections and engaging with people who truly want to grow in a relationship with you.

Deirdre Breakenridge is CEO of Pure Performance Communications. She is an international speaker, blogger, and an adjunct professor at NYU and UMASS at Amherst. Her most recent book published by FT Press is Social Media and Public Relations: Eight New Practices for the PR Professional

Photo: Business people meeting via Shutterstock

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