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Managing your very own moment of insignificance
Monday, 2nd April 2012
John A. Walsh
The nature of a successful business is drastically different today than it was just a few years ago. The nature of a successful, growing professional has transformed too. Why the change? So many aspects of doing business involve managing (or failing to manage) communication.
The nature of a successful business is drastically different today than it was just a few years ago. The nature of a successful, growing professional has transformed too. Executives used to have a certain level of control. Now, they have less. So, too, do their staff – the public relations experts, the communications gurus, the marketing team – who previously could be found wielding a fierce governance over the communications around their brand. Today, that power is shared with (if not relinquished to) the users.
Why the change? So many aspects of doing business involve managing (or failing to manage) communication. Communication platforms are endless and accessible enough that they’re beyond the control of any single entity. The people sharing their opinions about information products and services (and often the people garnering the most attention) are not the producers, they’re the users. This situation presents a challenge and an opportunity.
Imagine you’re a powerless teacher who’s not loud enough to be heard over a raucous classroom of students. How do you manage that moment of insignificance and put things back on your terms? You have no lights to flick on and off like the teacher would. Instead, try using that insignificant feeling as motivation to do things radically different.
Participate, initiate and make it count
Your users chose a certain space to talk about your products for tangible reasons: that space is where their peers are; it’s where the experts are sharing their insights; perhaps more than anything, it’s the easiest place to interact. The space I’m thinking of is Twitter. Spend your time interacting with your users by joining them on their turf. Plainly show that you’re open to the feedback, both positive and negative. Prove that you’re participating by making the changes that your users demand. Start the conversation by asking the tough questions yourself. When someone takes you up on your services, you’re on the same team. It’s time to start communicating like it.
The concept applies to individuals even more strongly. As information professionals, your users – or dare I say, stakeholders – will realise your many strengths if you serve them up at every opportunity. Notice that your staff aren't using the company intranet to its fullest potential?
Initiate improvement by being proactive and different. Send a short email to your team with the top 10 ways the intranet will help them make the 5:30 train instead of the 7:45. Hold short in-person training sessions to help everyone on their way to being the savvy users you know they can be. Connect with them in whichever way they prefer and do it extremely often. When your information is delivered in a useful-upon-receipt format, you’ve not only won, you’ve improved your relationship with your user. Now, they’ll start asking you for help, you’ll happily give it, and success will follow.
On the organisational and personal level, you’re overloaded by methods to communicate with peers and users. They all have their positives, but no method has as much impact as talking face-to-face. Manage your relationships by finding ways to show up in person, ask people how they like your offerings, and simply get to know them. Attend a conference, share your insights and benefit from those of others, and make your presence count. Eventually, you and your organisation will grow through the network that is starting to once again focus on its rightful centre: you.
By John A. Walsh
John A. Walsh is communications and marketing manager for the Special Libraries Association where he's responsible for business development, social media presence, and public relations and communications. He's currently helping plan partnerships around the upcoming SLA 2012 Annual Conference & INFO-EXPO on behalf of SLA's supporters. Prior to joining SLA, he co-founded and instructed at a collegiate test (SAT) preparation programme in his home town of Springfield, Virginia, USA. In his spare time he enjoys playing and watching sports, and finding new places to try new food.
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