The more experience I've gained throughout my career, the more I'm continually reminded that all good things take time. And as I look back at how my company has evolved as a whole, I attribute its success to our ability to remain committed to a singular vision — and with the acknowledgment that it takes a village to keep the wheels turning. Since launching Slow Stories in October 2018 (and subsequently, this column earlier in the year), I've outlined the many ways to approach slow content and storytelling in your own endeavors. And whether you run a small business, manage a large team, or embrace a "solopreneur" venture, cultivating sustainable relationships is an essential part of building brands and telling stories with real longevity. Enter my latest article.
Even with the accessibility of technology, communication tools, and social media platforms, we're constantly faced with the challenge of fostering substantive relationships both in our personal and professional lives. That is in part, why slow movements in industries like fashion, food, and business have started to pave the way for conversations about the importance of simplifying in the digital age so that we can create more space to focus on the people in our lives just as much as the products that we're selling. This idea has been especially prevalent in this season of the podcast:
1. Transparent communication ensures long-term success.
Many of my interviews so far have touched on the importance of finding the courage to facilitate harder conversations with higher-level decision-makers, managers or clients. While this can sometimes lead to discomfort, it's something to work through so that you can create the best (and most honest) work long-term.
2. Checking in with your people matters.
With the above point in mind, a lot of the women I've been speaking with this season bring up the important matter of checking in with your internal team specifically. Providing the opportunity for everyone to pause and weigh in on certain initiatives is a way to hold one another accountable to your company's overarching brand mission, and in turn, make sure it's amplified consistently and thoughtfully across channels.
3. Use online as a vehicle to build offline relationships.
While it may seem like a no-brainer, these interviews have also reinforced the idea that digital platforms and storytelling should be a driver for offline relationship-building. As professionals in content and marketing, it's essential to spend time away from our devices and create an environment for discovery and connection that might not be possible digitally, but in turn, can inspire compelling storytelling online.
With all of this in mind, and in the case of this column, when it comes to creating compelling content, there needs to be a level of trust. So much of the successful storytelling we see online and on social media is a result of collaboration and shared expertise — but this is something that takes a level of focus and commitment to establish. Below are a few steps to consider when creating healthy and lasting professional relationships:
1. Human relationships = humanized content.
Tactically speaking, building relationships in a professional setting may be a strategic move, but it is key to balance your work-related aspirations and ensure that you are respectful of the other person's talents and needs. When looking to create big-picture relationships, make sure to come from a place of authenticity, which can ultimately lead to discovering shared experiences that can make your content and storytelling that much more relatable.
2. Build your network, but nurture older relationships, too.
While we're taught to attend as many events or engage in as many networking opportunities as possible, it's critical to consider the idea of "quality versus quantity" and be selective about how you spend your time — and who you spend your time with. In the content and marketing space, having a robust roster of people to call upon is vital as this industry is dependent on fresh perspectives, unique skill-sets, and diverse thinking. And while I'm all for meeting new collaborators, clients, and friends, it's important to also keep in touch with older peers. You never know when there might be a project opportunity that you can reconnect over.
3. Establish communication workflows and set boundaries accordingly.
As the owner of a service-based business, creating and fostering long-term relationships is a two-fold approach: client-facing and internally with my team. This in itself can be a lot to manage as a small business owner and can sometimes lead to certain relationships taking priority over others. However, as my network and client roster have both grown in tandem with one another, I've learned that the best way to attend to everyone appropriately means that it's essential to set expectations and boundaries accordingly and based on the communication needs of the particular individual. Doing this will provide a baseline understanding of what your team and/or clients can expect from you regarding how you communicate and what means you use to stay in touch. If you're able to establish these guidelines, this will ensure proper communication channels so that all involved parties can remain in touch and see a project through — content or not — to its fullest potential.
The art of relationship building is in a constant state of evolution as we work to keep up with the changing expectations of the modern workplace. And coupling this idea with the changes we see in content and brand-building, it's never been a better time to find your tribe and work together to tell stories with impact! For more on slow content and brand-building I invite you to deep-dive into past articles in our column, and of course, follow along with the Slow Stories podcast on iTunes.
Rachel Schwartzmann is the Founder and CEO of The Style Line LLC. She created The Style Line in late January 2011 via Tumblr and has fostered The Style Line’s brand in its growth since then. Rachel has been featured in esteemed sources including Forbes, Refinery29, and MyDomaine and has also spoken at Create & Cultivate and Columbia University on establishing a unique brand point of view and entrepreneurship. On October 1, 2015, Rachel took The Style Line in a new direction as a boutique content company with the introduction of its slow content agency CONNECT(ED)ITORIAL.