Follow up and Follow up and Follow up

One thing I’ve learned in my 20 years of work in communication is the importance of follow up. People often need to be reminded, not once or twice, but sometimes half a dozen times or more. If you’re willing to be patient and consistently ask, you’ll often get what you want (eventually).

Yes, it’s frustrating to have to follow up repeatedly. But that’s the way things are with a lot of people. You can either be frustrated by it and give up and not get what you’re looking for, or you can recognize it as the reality and work around it.

Whether I’m asking for an interview, content from a client, or looking for new projects, the key has always been following up.

Here are a few tips to make your follow up more effective:

  1. Make it easy: Whatever you’re asking for, do whatever you can to make it easy. If you need to schedule a meeting, give potential times that work for you or offer a scheduling tool. If you need them to complete a specific task, give instructions. If you’re asking for a certain piece of content, anticipate questions.
  2. No guilt: One of the dangers of repeatedly following up is that you can grow frustrated and that can seep into your communication. Emphasize that you understand how busy someone is and whenever they get to it is fine. This may mean you need to adjust your timeline and be flexible. Heaping on guilt or judgment is just going to sour the relationship.
  3. Set expectations: Sometimes you really do need something in a timely manner and you can’t be flexible. In those cases, set expectations. Let them know when you need it and what happens if you don’t get it in time. Again, don’t pour on the guilt, but be realistic. This may require you sending extra reminders.
  4. Be flexible: When you’re asking other people for something, you’re asking them to give of their time and attention. That’s a big ask. So be flexible. Have a backup plan if they take too long. How long you wait is going to depend on how badly you need what they have to offer. Sometimes its worth the wait, though sometimes it’s not.

I’ve had years pass between my initial ask and finally getting the response I was looking for. Sometimes it just takes being consistent and waiting for the stars to align for the other person. I’ve had interview requests where I just had to wait for the right time, and when it all came together it was worth the wait.