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March 2nd, 2017

Building trust, one cup of coffee at a time

By Jess Columbo

When I was a teenager, my family was lucky enough to have a house cleaner. Julie would visit once a month, straightening, wiping down, and putting things away.

The night before each of Julie’s visits, my parents would ask me to pick up my room. For years, I was incredulous: “Why do I have to clean before someone comes over to clean?” I’d whine and moan and trudge upstairs.

Of course, I know now that Julie could do a much better job of cleaning if I did a bit of legwork upfront. Pick up my clothes, and she could vacuum under the bed. Take my toiletries off the counter, and Julie could give it a better scrub.

This important lesson - that doing some work upfront can result in significantly better outcomes later - is not lost on me today, as a social media practitioner.

In fact, after a decade of working both agency and institution side, I’ve realized the best use of my time is not necessarily in the execution of good creative work.

Instead, I encourage all social media professionals to invest internally, in relationship development, becoming trusted advisors for their colleagues and leadership. Down the road, it will pay off in dividends.

So, where do you start?

CoffeeMy favorite and most successful tactic to-date is simple: Buy them a cup of coffee.

When I first arrived at Oregon Health & Science University, back in 2013, my boss took me aside: “We know you can do the work, Jess. That’s why we hired you. You need to understand that you will be successful here, when people trust you.”

I knew trust wouldn’t begin on an institutional level; it had to be personal. So, I spent the next 9 months much like an avid online dater, asking for and going out on coffee dates with any colleague who would have me.

From housekeepers to neuroscience faculty to division heads, I travelled all over campus and across town just to get in front of my peers.

And when we met, my first order of business wasn’t to share my own expertise or excitement about joining the OHSU ranks. Instead, I let them talk. For an hour, sometimes, scientists and admins and physicians would tell me about their education, their passion, their successes and failures.

After I’d shown real interest and investment in their work, I’d thank them for their time and ask only one thing in return:

“I feel very lucky that my job is to tell stories about the great work that happens here – and to help my colleagues do the same. So tell me, how can I help you?”

That’s it!

By the time our cups were empty, my colleague understood my work and how it could benefit their own. The next time they had a question or concern related to social media, they knew exactly who to reach out to. And any apprehension about a request too small or “silly” had gone by the wayside, because of our established rapport.

In social media, our work depends on the contributions of and collaboration with others - whether their stories, their approval, or their engagement on our brand channels.

Establishing yourself as a knowledgeable, approachable social media resource within your organization will build invaluable trust between you and your colleagues, and it will also encourage your confidence in your own social expertise.

So, pick up your clothes, even if it feels time-intensive or redundant. I can promise you, the time you invest in one another will not be wasted.

Jess Columbo is principal at Med|Ed Digital in Portland, Oregon and a member of the Mayo Clinic Social Media Network. She will be presenting a case study on what to do when things go wrong in social media at our annual conference Dec 11-12 in Phoenix. Watch for registration to open mid-March.

Tags: General, relationship development, staff engagement

Liked by Rebekah Moore, MS, LGC, Abby Stonebreaker, Shea Jennings, Communications Associate, Colleen Young, Connect Director

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