Sorry, wrong number? A primer on Communications 101
Before I launch into this month's chosen topic, a little background is in order. Man About Town? What the hell is that? A gossip column? Entertainment reviews? Fabulous restaurant recommendations? No, no and no.
This business--in case you haven't noticed--is a lot of fun. Which I'm going to have a lot of discussing different topics--pop culture one month, agency business the next. Which leads to the business at hand.
A few weeks ago, I set out to find examples of "agencies using technology to benefit their clients." Images of Extranets and Intranets (exploding with information being transferred throughout agencies to clients) danced through my head. I thought it would be a snap. I was wrong.
No guilty parties will be named, but this is what I discovered: I did a survey of 30 different agencies--S, M, L and XL. Then I tried to contact them. Hmmmph.
Now I know there are fascinating stories out there about how some of you have managed to utilize the tools at your disposal. Or found ways to build new technological architecture in order to do so. If so, let me know all about it. My e-mail address is in the bio line, above left.
But before we get into that, there are a few basics to take care of. For example, ever tried to get a phone number for an ad agency? Please. What's the name of your agency? Ever tried to get the number from directory assistance? Yikes. Those agency brand names we all revere? Believe me, the operators never heard of 'em. "Is that a business or a residence?" they ask. Egad. Better yet: Changed your name recently? Dropped pesky initials? Merged? Moved? Added a partner? Dropped a few? Whatever. All that's fine as long as someone remembered to call the phone company. Is the correct number listed? Or are there perhaps three listings? Two of which are for fax machines. Help!
So I went online. Which is where the real trouble began. Your company spent a lot of time, energy and money to get a Web site up and running. Now think about it. When was it updated? Who's in charge of doing so? Anyone? Take a quick look right now. I'll wait. Who's the contact person? Hell, who's listed as president? Creative director? Now ask yourself this simple question: "Does he or she still work here?" Lord. Even if the information is technically right, will it lead to actually making contact?
So why does it matter if I had a hard time with all this? Well, what if I was a client? A possible recruit? Or (drum roll) a prospect?
Perhaps I was spoiled last month when contacting sources for my column about an online film marketing venture. Looking back? It was a breeze. I got e-mail addresses for everyone from receptionists to the president of the film company. Here's the wild part: I wrote them, and they responded! Immediately. Wow!
For a communications industry, we sure have a hard time communicating, don't you think? Personally, professionally, whatever. We have more gewgaws than we know what to do with. I read a quote recently that said we were all drowning in information, but starving for knowledge. To paraphrase, it seems we have too many ways to "reach out," but few ways to "touch." We check e-mail at the office. At home. Voicemail? Office. Ditto, home. Cell phone. Do all of 'em in the morning. And into the night. I don't know about you, but I'm sick of it.
So here's the deal. Wanna reach me, but it's not urgent? E-mail. Sponsor you in a whatever-a-thon? Slap a stamp on it. Tickets to see Joni Mitchell tonight? Cell phone. A work-related thought? Office voicemail.
Time for a dream sequence: For many years, I hunted down a good friend almost every day. By phone, by Internet, by carrier pigeon. He was so worn out from trying to field these messages he didn't have the energy to respond to any of them. So I learned to leave one message in the most logical place and simply wait for his reply. I learned to communicate.
Now people know how best to reach me and that I'll get back to them. Quickly. If you do the same, perhaps we can have that conversation about technology in a month or so.
Take a few tips from Hollywood: Warren Beatty is legendary for conducting most of his business on the phone. His celebrated knack for remembering every number he's ever dialed allows him to reach the right people at the right time. And look at Sherry Lansing who smashed through the Boys Club glass ceiling by, for one thing, returning every call she gets with lightning speed. They know how to communicate.
Now I've gotta run. Need to find out if Warren knows my number and if Sherry's returning my calls. K