Do Relationships Matter Anymore?

July 21, 2011 § 2 Comments

Written by Phil Vollrath

Recently our PR firm’s newsletter talked briefly about how social media should not and cannot replace one-on-one relationships in most situations.  I want to reiterate that while social media is here to stay,  neither it or anything else can ever replace one-on-one relationships for securing business, support or positive results.

This is not a critique of social media, but rather an advocacy for relationship building.  Contacts can be made or originated in many ways, including the Internet and electronic communication.  But the final deal comes down to how well you know or understand your public or your prospects,  and how you may be able to leverage that relationship.  A business relationship may be started by reaching out on social media, but the best results are achieved by looking inside to find the mutual perception, understanding and trust that only one-on-one communication can bring.

One example is that while teaching at a local university, my students asked me in front of the room, after class, how I could teach public relations and not take a position on very bad news that was emerging from the media.  I had to explain that I was not in a position to take a stance, because I was not one of the inner circle and not privy to the information I needed to have to form an impression or make an informed statement, in addition to the fact that legal restrictions in were place.  To my students this was a serious issue, and for me teaching my subject a difficult one, but we reached a common understanding that may not have occurred with emails or tweets.  The point is, the give and take brought the understanding, not the rehash of public rumors or information.

Another example is that our new Wisconsin governor made some decisions and took some specific actions that he felt everyone agreed with him on, with thousands of emails back and forth.  Unfortunately current disapproval ratings demonstrate this may not have been the case.  How much better it would have been if he had gone directly to the people, performed needed research and then communicated the fact that his actions on specific issues were indeed those voiced directly by the voters of the state, if this were the case.  Again, it may not actually be what one’s stand is on the issues, but rather whether decision-making information is sought or not sought, and then how it is communicated, in order to achieve credibility.

With a bit of cynicism and humor, for those following “The Bachelorette,” one has to ask how a lasting relationship can be predicated on how two people feel about each other’s voice tones and physical attractions.  The answer is it cannot be.  Wait until the discussions focus on having children, political viewpoints, religion and spending money!  That is where the trust and understanding begin, by reaching in rather than out.  And I’m not simply advocating agreement here, but an environment in which disagreement can occur naturally without harming the basis of the relationship.

And so it is too with networking.  One can establish contact for a new job or even a new client by opening the door with electronic personal profiles, but any decision to hire or not hire will depend upon how one fits into the organization family and culture, based on the perceptions, zeal and understanding, or lack thereof, one personally reflects on the issues in personal meetings.  We always insist that major decisions, and hiring, be made in a one-on-one meeting, where give and take provides best answer every time.

It all boils down to the adage that there is a correct time and place for everything, but bonding and firm, stable relationships that will stand the test of stress, time and disagreement, will only emerge from building sound one-on-one  relationships with the others you need on your side to win.  Yes, for many, electronic communication dampens or lessens the awful impact of rejection that a personal decision can often bring, but unfortunately it does not replace or substitute for the trust and understanding required for a positive result to occur.  Therein rests the challenge.

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