This week I spoke to a group of students in business communication on the importance of focusing on social media communication. I relayed information on the various tools, why they’re important, and how a person could manage so many outposts. Really, it was multiple weeks of material condensed into an hour talk. Anyway, when I finished, a student stayed after to ask a GREAT question. To paraphrase, he asked me if I thought it was still important to maintain an in-person or more traditional relationship with customers. What a great question! Here’s my response:
Because this class turned out to be mostly Agribusiness students, my post is focused a bit more in that direction.
Authentic relationships and traditional communication still mater!
No doubt, I love talking about digital business communication, but there’s a HUGE slice of audience that doesn’t feel the same way I do. Many people still want to connect with an actual person, and they want to know something about that other person. Relationships still really do matter. If you’re going into Agribusiness, I think you have to pay careful attention to how you maintain relationships.
Take my in-laws for an example. They are fifth generation farmers still working the same ground their ancestors did over 140 years ago. Except for my husband, the boys all stayed in this area and know just about everyone in Southwest Wisconsin, it seems. After my husband and I moved back, I noticed something interesting. Every time (and I mean every time) I introduced myself to someone, they wanted to know how I was related to Brogleys they knew, and almost always they tried to go back as far as they could, often to my husband’s parents, and they always had to figure out where they lived. They never really asked where I lived, which I thought funny. After we settled that, the conversation could resume, but not until a connection had been defined. Have you ever had someone ask your last name, and they tried to piece it back to your grandparents? And where they farmed? I bet so. People still really do want to establish a connection with you and know how you fit in their world.
The other interesting observation I noted is that when people describe land, they often still refer to it as the home farm of the oldest owners they can remember, regardless of who has owned it since. My in-laws refer to a section of land as the “Huntington farm,” but I know the Huntington family hasn’t owned the land since the 1980s. Recently I opened up an old plat map from 1948. I promptly turned to familiar land to find the “Huntington farm” right where it’s been for decades. Sure, Google Maps can give interior walk throughs of swanky hotels, but can it reveal decades of landownership? Nope. Not yet. Lots of people in our area still care about how we are connected to land. Do you know anyone that calls a farm by the original owners? Ancestor and historical connection also matters.
Additionally, my father-in-law would say that my social media appreciation is for the birds. He doesn’t even have voice mail on his house phone. If you want to talk to him, head to the VFW or the farm. Recently, an appointment was cancelled on him without notice, and he was disappointed they didn’t send a letter. Now to me, I would think that’s a waste of paper. To him, formal communication matters.
My point — personal connections, history, and traditional communication matters too. Gadgets and social media matter too, but to a different slice. The challenging hurdle for you is that you have to attend to all groups. That means learning the traditional ways of writing and engaging with customers and keeping up with the digital methods. Thankfully, you’re in school to do just that!