Gini Dietrich

Do You Have a Conversation Strategy?

By: Gini Dietrich | June 30, 2010 | 

Guest post by Dr. Jon Buscall, an online communications consultant based in Sweden.

Forget about thinking in terms of communications, marketing or PR for a moment. What’s your conversation strategy? How are you setting out to talk to the people that matter for your business – whether it’s prospects or even mainstream media?

Starting New Conversations

It’s imperative to start new conversations if you’re going to convert prospects into customers or encourage customers to become ambassadors for your brand. Online communications are often perceived as impersonal, but social media has consumers looking to engage. With the web becoming increasingly social, a great way to start a conversation is to vary your content from just text-based communications. For example, Gini recently posted a video about setting up an editorial calendar for your website on this very blog. Not only does this video vary the content and offer great tips, it is also a great conversation starter. Taking a deep breath and daring to appear on camera in your cycling gear – instead of looking like the elegant business woman Gini usually seems to be – shows some of the personality behind Arment Dietrich. This is not just a successful professional playing the corporate game. This video shows she’s also someone who’s happy to have fun and share a laugh with customers. This, in itself, is a great conversation starter, but what’s more, instead of saying, “It’s easy to approach Arment Dietrich,” Gini demonstrates that she’s approachable and fun. That’s a great way to start a conversation!

Other Tips for Starting New Conversation

* Start a business blog, write regularly, and respond to every comment!

* Get active on Twitter – but don’t just post links to your blog. Really talk to tweeps.

* Ask your community questions.

* Make sure your business is everywhere online so customers and prospects can connect with you.

* Dare to drop the corporate crap that populates a lot of your business communications by committing to different communications channels.

* Encourage your staff to talk like people, not a corporation.

Keeping Conversations Going

If you ever start a conversation in business, make sure you keep it going. There’s nothing worse than starting a blog, getting responses from people, and then not bothering to respond. That tells people they’re not important to you.

Same goes for Twitter. If you put a Twitter button on your website, you better be there if someone reaches out.

My other top tip for keeping conversations going is, as I wrote recently (The Secret of Repeat Business is Effective Communication), to use a contact management system like Highrise (no affiliate) to schedule conversations. If you’re not converting customers and contacts into loyal customers and contacts, you’re missing out on incredible value. Follow up conversations by scheduling times to contact them by mail, Twitter or phone. This cements lasting relationships and generates return business.

Finding New Outlets to start Online Conversations

Finally, if you’ve not tried a PR service like PR Web or MyNewsdesk, you should, especially if you’re looking for mainstream media coverage or reaching out to bloggers. Direct PR newswires are rapidly keeping up with emerging social communication channels and many offer social media pressrooms. Instead of posting a traditional press release, these services allow you to post your business information with tie-ins to networks like Facebook, Flickr, YouTube and Twitter.

Although these services can be expensive, they work hard to ensure your releases and other press information are heavily search engine optimized and found in Google by journalists, bloggers, and customers looking for inspiration. A social media newsroom is something to consider because you can share news, information, video and audio content to drive traffic directly back to the communications people in your company. And that can be a great way to start new conversations that can help grow your business!

Your Turn!

Go on, how else can companies effectively start online conversations?

Jon Buscall is an online communications consultant based in Stockholm, Sweden.

Editor’s Note: I think my mom must have sent Jon a big, fat check for the nice things he said about me vlogging in my cycling gear!

About Gini Dietrich

Gini Dietrich is the founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, an integrated marketing communications firm. She is the author of Spin Sucks, co-author of Marketing in the Round, and co-host of Inside PR. She also is the lead blogger at Spin Sucks and is the founder of Spin Sucks Pro. Join the Spin Sucks   community!

  • Excellent post, Jon – and thanks to Gini for publishing such great content. I appreciate so much the encouragement to engage with your audience in social media. I don’t think this point can be stressed enough. Too many send the wrong message by not communicating and that’s a sure way to lose the very audience you gained through some other means.

  • Good tips Jon.

    I’ve definitely dropped the corporate speak from my posts and tweets, getting more into conversation. I gotta plan content, work on my blog more, develop an ed cal. #slackerfail on my part for sure.

    On tip I have: Talk about something that really interests you no matter how “off topic” it may seem. I watch way too much TV, so I’ve turned that into the jumping off point for several blogs. Works. Plus tweeting about WTH?! happened on LOST is a good way to connect with people on a human, personal level. FWIW.

  • We’re all a little bitter toward Jon here at Spin Sucks. He thinks just because he lives in Sweden, he should be able to take a six-week vacation like everyone else in that country. Meanwhile, we’re toiling away stateside as usual.

    That’s why it pains me to say what a great post this is! Arminda, you’re right on to pick up on the engagement piece. I’m working on a post that will hopefully be published on these pages soon in which I make the assertion that the two most important elements in an effort to build community around a business are: interaction and information.

    I’m not 100% sure, but I think Jon may have left for his big summer vacation today, so he may not be able to live up to his point about responding to every comment. I’m sure he’ll come around when he’s able. Until then, let’s keep the conversation going… If nothing else (there’s a lot else), our readers are great conversationalists. What are your tips for starting online conversations?

  • @Arminda, You’re so right. It IS about connecting and engaging. I’m much more likely to purchase something from a company that reaches out and connects with me and just doesn’t try to hit more for a sale.

    @Davina, I agree. You need to be able to connect and off topic material can often open up new communication channels. I know Cliff Ravenscraft started podcasting, mentioned Lost and by podcasting about that he ended up building a career as a podcast consultant.

    @Daniel, Yup, the hols are here. But being Sweden I have high-speed broadband on the go so I’m okay – as long as the family aren’t looking. Thanks for encouraging me to post here. I guess it came about through the conversations I’ve had with Gini and you! Not bad, eh?

  • Gini Dietrich

    Davina, I LOVE your tip! You’re so right…it doesn’t matter where the inspiration comes from, as long as it comes from somewhere (and WTH did happen with LOST??).

    I say this over and over and over again, but the communication tools offer us a new way to network 24/7. I know for my entire career, we’ve talked about what the customer is thinking and what the customer would like from us…now the customer is in the room with us! This is about talking, engaging, communicating, listening, and paying it forward. It seems scary at first, but it really isn’t any different than introducing yourself to a stranger at a cocktail party, trade show, conference, or networking event.

  • Informative post. Spot on. Great read!