Positively Connecting Your (Seemingly) Disconnected Past With Your Present

Erik Knowles, the new fitness director at Five Seasons Family Sports Club in Burr Ridge, spots personal trainer Mike Sullivan last week at the club.

What does military service have to do with being a fitness director at a sports club?

When it comes to forging relationships with your audience, it’s essential to take the time to thoughtfully think through a question along these lines—and then offer relevant answers in any writing that stems from that reflection.

In September, Erik Knowles became fitness director at Five Seasons Family Sports Club in Burr Ridge, Ill. His background includes a five-year hitch in the U.S. Navy. He was not only a helicopter rescue swimmer, but he trained some 100 of his fellow servicemen in the same discipline.

That background, along with Knowles’ work with at-risk teenagers, helps paint a more complete and compelling picture (see the news release here at Patch.com) than if his story was confined to the realm of physical fitness.

No, he won’t be swooping in on a helicopter plucking club members out of its outdoor pool. But it’s not a big leap to see that the qualities that he exhibited and developed in his military career are significant assets in his current post.

There are times when you’ll want to run away from your background. It’s an understandable reaction, especially when you fear that it could be a turn-off, or think it’ll just seem too extraneous, to those in your current line of work.

But before you do so, see if there’s a positive connection between that seemingly disconnected past and your hopes for future success.

In `Thank You Economy,’ 2% Extra Effort Can Reap Major Public Relations, Marketing Mileage

Exactly a week ago, my kids got an unexpected treat at Pump It Up in Elmhurst.

As it happened, last Monday was their 8th birthday, and the trip was a last-minute addition in an already-crowded day of activity for my wife. As she filled out the admission form for the duo, she mentioned that she was not suffering from a brain cramp by writing out Aug. 8 as both the date and the children’s birthday.

A few hours later, after jumping and scrambling and having an energy-expending great time, the kids were showered with Goodie Bags containing an assortment of cool gifts. Whatever dollars the business invested in recognizing them in this simple, impromptu way, it will receive back many times over in return visits and word-of-mouth stories about the thoughtful gesture.

That’s the business side of it. The plain-old human side of things: it’s just a really cool thing to do.

When I heard about the positive experience, my first thought was The Thank You Economy, a no-nonsense, common-sense urging from Gary Vaynerchuk in which he lays out a solid argument, and case studies, that underscore the merit of this kind of business behavior.

I’ve found that often you don’t have to go an extra mile to get most folks’ attention (and capture their appreciation). All the ground you need to cover is, oh, maybe 100 feet. For those scoring at home, that’s not even 2 percent of a mile–though more than enough to get a lot of marketing mileage from the effort.

Who is your audience? And other questions…

Just what is public relations?

It can mean different things to different people, but taking a look at a definition carved out at Wikipedia offers one version.

And focusing on various portions of that definition can spur on any number of questions. Here’s one, when thinking about “exposure to your audience”:

Who is your audience?

How do you reach them now?

Is there a more effective way of reaching them?

How can you expand your existing audience?

What does your audience need to know?

What will move them to take the action that you desire?

Do you need to create different messages for different segments of your audience?

Any business ought to be in the continual process of updating their answers to these questions. When’s the last time you took a step back from your day-to-day work and did so?

LinkedIn Survey Feature Shows Promise

With each passing day, it seems, something new emerges in the social-media realm. Or, to be more accurate, a new tweak comes to my attention for the first time.

Two weeks ago, it was my discovery that you can create surveys on LinkedIn, the professional-networking site.

Immediately, I did what I suggest anyone do when they want to see if any given application is worthwhile: I gave the new discovery a test drive by setting up a survey.

Of all things, I created a poll about folks’ use of LinkedIn: “What do you primarily seek from your LinkedIn experience?”

The four choices I offered: Biz/employment opportunities, Receive Recommendations, A Social Outlet, and Innovative Ideas. (LinkedIn rotates the order in which those choices appear, by the way, to ensure I’m not steering people in any overwhelming fashion.)

So far, here are the results. As of this morning, 78 people had replied–certainly almost, if not, all from my own network, though you can enable, as I did, anyone on LinkedIn to answer your survey.

LinkedIn does all the work of categorizing the responses by gender, age, job title, job function and company size. In addition, 14 people have chimed in with supplemental comments.

As embryonic as the process has been for me, already I can see a variety of benefits flowing out of these surveys. Among them:

1. The collection of original data, tailored to your needs, for business or personal purposes.

2. Opening up a dialogue revolving around common interests.

3. Establishing your expertise, via the content contained in the questions as well as via your interpretation and commentary of the data flowing from the questions.

4. Expanding your network. Over the past two weeks, I have experienced a rise in the number of people seeking to LinkIn with me. Part of that increase, I suspect, is attributable to my survey question.

Want to take the survey? Get on LinkedIn, then click on the survey results link.

Contacting The Media: Your First Goal

Do you have 30 seconds? Is this a good time for you to read my blog?

Silly questions, I know. Why don’t I just get to the point?

OK, here it is: When dialing up someone in the media, if you want to communicate with power and persuasion, then make sure they have at least 30 seconds to hear why you’re calling.

How I typically start: “Are you on deadline, or is this a good time to talk for 30 seconds?”

Such a courtesy signals that I know their world—and I am not about to waste their time. This simple question alone helps me stand apart from the publicist pack, many of whom are self-absorbed and long-winded, not even bothering to check if the journalist has time to talk.

After gaining initial buy-in (and be ready for some wiseguys to say, “OK, the clock’s going…now!”), then it’s crucial that you make good on the promise.

Succinctly and confidently explain why you are calling, and be ready to get off the phone within the time you’ve allotted. When I say 30 seconds, I mean it–I avoid saying “a minute” because people don’t literally mean 60 seconds when they trot out that phrase, and I want to be abundantly clear that I’ll be brief.

The phone call’s purpose is not to sell the journalist on pursuing a story, anyway. It’s simply to warm ’em up to the idea that the e-mail you’re about to send is worth serious consideration instead of the reflexive tap of the DELETE key.

Win that battle, keep the dialogue going, be sure to have compelling content in that e-mail, and at least you’ll have a fighting chance to get your story told.

Related Posts:
For Media Relations, Twitter is For the Birds–Especially for the Ones Seeking the Worm
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