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VICTORY: A modern communications parable

Once upon a time, when an American wanted to communicate with someone other than their immediate family or neighbors, they wrote words … on paper … with quills dipped in pots of ink. Men on horseback carried these letters to their intended recipients, but not further than a few miles.

Then, one day, the threat of the Civil War and the need for faster communication between the East and the West spurred men on horseback to do the unthinkable: riders from each coast left simultaneously to deliver words written on paper with quills dipped in pots of ink to people on the other side of the country. This rudimentary mail service lasted for just 19 months, until a new system was perfected for transmitting messages from a distance along a wire, breaking the connection to create a code.

Unbelievably, voice messages were soon transmitted along wires, eventually at long distances. No longer did one need to hire a horseman to deliver messages; no longer were choppy sentences transmitted via broken electronic signals the norm. One shared this verbal line of communication with between two and twenty other people, and could talk only five minutes or so before someone else would want to use the service. Privacy was a concern, as anyone on the party line could pick up their receiver and listen in on another’s conversation.

Fast-forward some 70 years, and a new technology takes hold. No longer does one need pick up a phone to communicate. Now, they can type letters on their computers and shoot messages across networks of wires to receivers as close as next door and as far as the other side of the world. Just 10 years later, it is impossible to spot a person emerging from an airplane without a new-fangled object, a voice messaging device that bounces signals off of satellites, affixed to their ear.

Of course, everything just keeps speeding up. With the advent of cell phones comes the ubiquitous typing of short text messages into these magical handheld devices, followed shortly by social media. People now list “making calls” as the third most common use for their cell phones.

Today, in late 2011, we are in communications overload. Text users send and receive between 50 and 100 messages a day, while the average active email user now receives about 120 emails a day, and sends 30 of them. It’s no wonder our messages get ignored and deleted without being read.

This is where our story begins.

Our intrepid heroine has accepted the call to wrangle a minimum of 4 nominees for elected officer positions for the regional affiliate of a national organization. The jobs will entail the usual: Chair, Vice Chair, Secretary, Treasurer. Being that everyone in the WORLD is juggling about 200 things at one time these days, and getting people to volunteer to chair and run a group that meets quarterly would be ONE MORE THING, this seemingly innocuous task will prove more difficult than our heroine would have imagined.

The campaign begins.

One e-mail goes out to the whole tribe, announcing the election to be held in 2 months’ time and explaining the roles of each officer.

About 2 weeks later, a second e-mail goes out, reminding people that the nominations are open.

Amazingly, 2 individuals respond, throwing their hats in for 2 of the 4 positions! “Yippee – we’re halfway there!” our heroine thinks.

A third e-mail goes out, again reminding people of the positions, and encouraging them to self-nominate or nominate qualified others.

It’s now about a month away from the election, and the presidents are asked to announce the elections at each local affiliate meeting, which – presumably – they do.

Crickets chirp.

The election is 2 weeks away.

Help is enlisted to call the presidents to try to round up some interest and candidates.

Another e-mail goes out.

The election is 2 days away.

Our heroine re-emerges, this time armed with a secret weapon: that newfangled device that allows voice messages to bounce off the satellites. Please remember, this is a reluctant heroine who does not favor phone calls, but prefers the less invasive e-mail and texting as her favorite forms of communication. Nevertheless, she’s facing down the clock, so she bites the end of her pen and presses the buttons for the first number. “No, I’m not interested in running, and I don’t really know anyone else who would be.”

Down the list she goes, leaving messages and cajoling people to phone her if, sometime in the middle of “The X Factor,” they hit upon the perfect, but as yet untapped, candidate.

Then, something magical happens during call #8. “I’m not really ready to take on one of those roles. Maybe next year.”

“You’re not ready? What does that mean? Tell me more,” our heroine prods. Voila – with just a tiny bit of encouragement, Miss “I’m Not Ready” becomes a willing candidate.

Another phone call, this time resulting in the suggestion of another perhaps willing individual.

One more call, and she’s done it. Our heroine has 4 nominees for the 4 spots, all willing to step up and help run this great organization. But it never would have happened if she’d held fast to her phone-phobia and relied solely on e-mails.

You’re an SBM*, so I won’t beat you over the head with the moral to our story. But I will encourage you to pick up that phone if you’re not getting results with e-mail. Whether it’s about scheduling a book signing or inviting people to attend. Get out your contact list, sit down with a glass of water, take a deep breath, and start calling. Your results may amaze you.

Happy phoning!

Laura

* Savvy Book Marketer

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