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HMC NEWS: What’s all this engagement buzz?

A few years ago, one of the business buzz words on everyone’s lips was, “sustainable.” Businesses were sustainable, products were sustainable, strategies were sustainable, packaging was sustainable.

What wasn’t sustainable was my tolerance for the word. In fact, I went through a short period of boycotting it entirely.

Fast-forward to 2018 and one of my current bugbears is the word, “engagement.” Particularly working in public relations, I hear the word engagement many times each day. Okay, and if the truth be told it trickles off my tongue without me even thinking about it. And flippant use of the word is starting to irritate me like an itch I can’t scratch.

So, what do these two overused words have in common? The fact that sustainability is incredibly important – like, as in, ultimately saving our planet. And the fact that engagement is incredibly important – like, as in, the success of your business depends on it.

While I’m not going to tackle that s-word today, I am going to tackle the e-word.

What exactly does engagement mean and why is it so darn important for your business?

What is it?
When you break it down, engagement is a pretty simple concept. It’s about creating authentic, mutually-beneficial relationships.   

The issue is that businesses get caught up in wanting to create opportunities for engagement, but they miss those two qualifiers: authentic and mutually-beneficial.

What’s an authentic relationship? It’s ‘real.’  It’s not about schmoozing at a business function hoping to add to your business card collection. It’s not getting hundreds of likes and comments on a meme you’ve just posted on your company Facebook page.

Authentic relationships – real engagement – requires offline contact, meaningful discussion and exchange. 

So that’s the authentic part. Then you’ve got the mutually-beneficial part, which is all about creating an exchange where both parties walk away feeling better because of it.

Why your business needs it?
I can’t think of too many businesses who don’t need an engagement plan as part of their everyday communications efforts. Think about all the people, groups and organisations who have potential to positively or negatively affect your business success. 

You should build relationships – that is, engage – with these people for one of two reasons.  

When it comes to positive influencers, if these people understand you, know you and have a great relationship with you they can help you achieve your business goals faster. 

And when it comes to potentially negative influencers, you can sometimes minimise the potential harm they can cause to your reputation by creating an open-door policy for exchange. When these people feel valued and know their opposing views will be listened to, that’s often enough to diffuse tensions. 

Now do it!
So, if you think 2018 is the year to get better at building authentic, mutually-beneficial relationships that help move your business forward then here’s my top three tips for getting engagement right:

  1. Be methodical and purposeful – you’ve got to plan who you will see, when, how often and why.
  2. Give as much as you get – always approach business relationships from the other person’s perspective.
  3. Get out from behind your computer – while online engagement is important, off-line is imperative.

By Heather Claycomb, HMC Communications