How to “Keep In Touch”
Both a client and a reader of my blog recently had higher-ups in their companies tell them to “keep in touch.” Both believe these individuals were sincere in their requests, and wanted to know the best way to maintain these important career relationships.
They were right to inquire. A delicate balance is required to “keep in touch” successfully. You do not want to be a pest, but you don’t want the higher-ups to forget you, either.
The following list contains a number of ways to keep connections alive. I know you know this -- do not do all of them at once! The general guideline would be to implement any one of these suggestions, once a quarter. Depending on your relationship with the person, or any special reason for maintaining contact, you might need to reach out more, or less, frequently.
1. Email any updates on promotions, new assignments, unusual business travel or non-work activities of interest. Keep the message short and upbeat. For example, a vendor just sent me an email about her selection to compete in an international sporting event. It was great to hear of her success.
2. Forward articles of interest. If you come across an unusual article that the person may not have seen, send it to him or her. The Internet makes this very easy to do.
3. Use social media. There is a lot that can be done, if the “keep in touch” person participates in social media. LinkedIn lets you know of your contacts' updates. You can easily acknowledge their achievements via an InMail note. If you have a professional blog, let others know of it. Be careful with Facebook. If the “keep in touch” person wants to friend you, make sure your Facebook page is business appropriate or use the privacy controls.
4. Ask for advice or suggestions. Asking someone’s opinion can be very flattering to the person. It needs to be a worthy request, and can be done in person or by email.
5. Informally “stop by.” Do this infrequently and have a legitimate reason for doing so. You can say something like, “I was in the building for a meeting and thought I would stop and say 'Hi'.” Judge how long you should stay by the response you receive. If the person invites you into the office, it usually means he or she has time to talk. If not, it’s usually best to keep the conversation short.
6. Invite the person to coffee or lunch. Make sure you have the relationship for this one. One salesperson would invite her “keep in touch” person to lunch during her annual visit to the home office. She emailed the person ahead of time to set up the appointment.
7. Send holiday cards. This old standard is still being done and is still a good way to stay in touch. Today people email greeting cards, also. Make sure to include a personal note.
8. Get involved in professional organizations. You will often see your contact at meetings or events. Go up to the person, say hello, shake hands and make some small talk. Do not monopolize the person’s time. Stay a few minutes and then move on.
Additional information on connecting can be found in my latest etiquette book, GREET! EAT! TWEET!