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The Back Channel, My Most Important A/R Tool

May 21, 2009

Getting to the person you want to meet with or communicate with when you want to is vital.

Relationships ultimately are very important, but I find that an A/R best practice is knowing the Back Channel.

My First Back Channel

I’m skipping the phone in this discussion.  Most people screen calls.

Backing up a few years when I was in PR, I remember when public email first started.  We were using MCI Mail on DOS and  300 baud modems back in the mid 80’s to reach influential people in the industry like John Dvorak, Paul Sommerson, Bill Machrone and others.  I think there were about 10 of us using it.  I was beating the big PR agencies and they couldn’t figure out why, as I was working for a small company that shouldn’t have had the presence we had.  We were the inside club.

Email then of course became mainstream so we lost that advantage.

The Next Tool –  IM

It’s hard to believe that as much as we use instant messaging now,  that at the beginning of the technology not many were using it and again it was the way to reach those who were using it.  At this point, Email immunity was beginning to take hold and if you weren’t important, you fell quickly out of the realm of first responders.  I read a tweet from an analyst recently who noted his inbox was so far gone that he was about to delete everything and just start over.

IM also fell to everyone abusing it and we moved on.

Twitter:

Skip forward a few years and you have  Twitter.  This worked until the recent explosion of everyone being on the platform and it again became commonplace.  It still is somewhat effective if you are high on the other parties list.

The Point of this Post:

I was meeting with an very influential analyst a few nights ago and to be honest, I’m not that high on his list.  I decided to ask him, what is his back channel when I really need to reach him.   The condition was that I wouldn’t abuse it so that when I really was using it, I had something of value to speak about.   He was up front and gave me a personal address that he said he will look at.  Bingo.

It occurred to me that this is the best practice.  First, be high on the relationship, you will get through that way.  Next, find out how the analyst wants to be communicated with as a preference and DON”T abuse it.

When you use that method, you get to them and they answer.  Sure they will answer you anyway out of courtesy, but at some point, you have an I need it now, or you are on the road and don’t have your usual access.  In a way, it’s part of managing the relationship properly anyway.

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