I was recently assigned to write an article for a company’s intranet about one of their leaders who published a white paper on globalization. As corporate communicators we’re often in the situations where the source for our writing is unavailable or schedules just don’t align. And that was the case with this article so I did my research, wrote the article, crafted a quote for the leader and sent it off via email to be approved.
And I waited.
After the second or third email to the leader asking about the status of the article, I receive an invitation to meet with her in person at the company’s headquarters.
In person? Well, that seemed just a bit much for such a short internal article but I accepted the meeting.
On the day we met, I was prepared with the interview questions and the draft of the article. Given her schedule, I was all about getting right to business.
Boy was I mistaken. She wanted to talk. She wanted to get to know me.
She explained that was her culture – relationship-based. People based. Human interaction.
Coming out of the meeting, I had gotten to know her – and like her – but no further on the article. She suggested that we talk on the phone the following week.
Since that initial meeting, we’ve spoken three or four times on the phone, I’ve sent her several reminders to review the article and provide approval or edits (per her request for me to keep reminding her) and only recently – a good two months after the assignment came through, did we get final approval and publish it. A lot of time for an article that’s shorter than this post!
However, I realize that this leader taught me a good lesson. While productivity and delivering a good final written piece are important we can’t forget that there are people involved in every story. It’s important to stop and actually “see” the person or people involved. To get off our butts and go meet, speak, and ask questions about the person behind the story that you’ve been assigned to cover.
I got into this business because I love to write and tell stories but I also am intrigued by people – how they interact – what makes them who they are. I somehow lost that in the ongoing race to be productive and successful.
The bottom line here is not to “stop and smell the roses” or anything like that but for all of us to think about how we interact. Technology has made everything faster, more convenient. Social Media supposedly makes us connected. After this experience, I am not so sure these advancements are always a plus. What can we do to bring the focus back to the interaction or connection between writer and source or client and consultant? Can we pick up the phone, go have lunch or for a walk with someone we haven’t spoken with in a while? Can we be more relationship focused? Will it help us do our jobs better – to be better people?
What do you do to get out from under your technology-based handcuffs?