We’ve all known people in our lives who, when you sit down to ‘exchange stories’ you find yourself on the receiving end of a relentless dialogue all about them.
Whatever you might have started as a topic – you can be sure they’ve done it bigger or better.
They’re clearly a fan of the sound of their own voice, and they’re determined to give you a valuable opportunity to hear the re-telling of their life story.
To be fair, in social situations, it can often be argued that those who talk a lot have a degree of insecurity and aren’t just outright self-loving evangelists.
But in business, when we find ourselves bombarded by a one-way ‘Me,Me,Me’ sermon, is it any wonder we feel a little unnerved and sceptical?
Of course, as a PR person, I’m inevitably going to agree that a business has to ‘sell itself’ in a formal pitching opportunity or a less contrived networking circumstance.
And yet, there are lines to draw and compromises to be made.
The first of which, surely, is to remember to LISTEN just as much as to speak.
If you’ve asked a business to come and see you to discuss their services and how they might potentially help you, inevitably you want to hear about their skills and solutions.
But you also want to know that they’re truly HEARING what it is you’re about and what you need in the here and now.
Sure, particularly if they’re in PR and marketing it can be useful to know that they’re good at articulating the positive. After all, if they’re going to represent your brand, you want to get a sense of that competency.
You don’t, however, need a business which is so caught up in their ‘it’s all about us’ mantra that they fail to ‘GET’ you and your challenges and objectives.
If you’ve asked for a business to pitch to you and you’re preparing for that first ‘getting to know you meeting’, here’s three tips to ensure you’re both getting what you want and need:
Ask them how much they already know about you?
This is a great opportunity to see what homework they’ve done on you and to ensure you’re not just opening yourself out for an hour or more of their ‘hype’.
Question what they see as their strengths (Lead the opportunity for them to relay their PR effort)
By being the one to ask the defined questions about their strengths, what their customers may view of them, or what they’re most proud of, you’re preventing the meeting from becoming too much of a Me Me Me dialogue which is unhelpful to all.
Politely enquire about the opportunity to speak with other customers
Most agencies and consultants will be only too willing to let you chat with those they’ve worked with in the past. Reticence to do so suggests you have every reason to doubt the hype.
And meanwhile, if you’re a business preparing to meet a potential client but don’t want to risk falling into the Me Me Me trap.
Two ears, one mouth:
Remember listening is a hugely underrated skill. One thing I learned most in my time as a journalist is that silences and pauses allow people enough time to think and to react with sincerity in the ‘now’. Don’t speak too much. There’s being authoritative, but there’s also ‘being nauseating’.
Know the line between self-PR and modest clarification of your strength
You can leave people with the impression that you’re competent and capable and great to work with, without ramming down their throats that you believe yourself to be the world’s greatest designer / marketer / PR.
Sometimes, less really can be more.
Evidence in what you offer:
If you’re saying you do something well or that you think this solution would be right for THEIR business, bring examples around how you’ve deployed those tactics with other companies and individuals. Do so in a manner which proves helpful and which allows them to relate to their brand journey – but always bring it back to them to keep it personal.
**I’m currently looking for new communications and PR projects to undertake, so if you have anything suitable you’d like to discuss, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org