It was 8 a.m. on a Tuesday, and I stumbled into my local coffee shop. Laptop in tow and shaking off jet lag, I steeled myself for the onslaught: replying to the hundreds of emails that had built up while I’d been on a luxurious 12-day vacation to Spain. Like many professionals, I have a complicated relationship with holiday — coveting the idea of relaxation, while dreading the idea of being out of touch. (Even with absurd data roaming rates, it’s hard to resist the siren call of email.)
The trip had been incredible — the best of Barcelona, Madrid, and Marbella — but I returned feeling guilty and slightly panicked. What had I missed? What moves were competitors making in my absence? And that’s when I spotted Mimi, one of the most connected players in town. She smiled and walked over to my table. “How’s it going?” she said. “You’re everywhere.”
In that moment, I realized you don’t have to be present in order to be ubiquitous.
Ubiquity, of course, is a major marketing goal. You want to be top of mind for your customers, so they’re calling you (not your competitors) when they need a lawyer, a website redesign, or more widgets. But how do you pull it off without sleeping in your office and surgically implanting your Blackberry? Here are four strategies to consider:
- Schedule your social media presence. It’s true: the blogosphere never sleeps, and you do (unfortunately) lose face if you haven’t updated your blog in three months or you’ve let your Twitter feed languish. If you’re intent on building a strong personal (or corporate) brand, you need to be consistent. But that doesn’t mean you can never escape. Every few months, I’ll lock myself away for an afternoon and come up with a few hundred nuggets to post on Twitter. You can schedule them weeks or months in advance via services like Hootsuite or Tweet Deck. Sure, you’re not replying in real time — but at least you’re putting something out there when you’re lolling in your cabana. Similarly, you can use WordPress or other services to schedule upcoming blog posts.
- Respond quickly when it matters. When you’re away from the office, practice triage. If you have a corporate assistant, ask him or her to monitor your email and call you if anything urgent arises. If you’re a solo practitioner, shell out for a virtual assistant through a service like Elance. Tim Ferriss provides tips on selecting the right person and scripts to use with them in The 4-Hour Workweek. Most of what passes over the transom can be safely ignored — but you don’t want to miss a new client inquiry from that account you’ve been hoping to land.
- Enlist messengers. Perhaps the best way to seem like you’re everywhere is to get other people talking about you. Whether it’s people reading about you in the newspaper, suggesting you to speak at events, citing your advice, or mentioning they saw you at such-and-such fundraiser, you can quickly create an “echo chamber” if you’re vigilant (during your non-vacation time) about building your brand strategically. Specifically ask for referrals (which “forces” people to talk about you), cultivate reporters, attend networking events, and create a robust portfolio of content, from blog posts to white papers. Just as politicians buy radio ads in addition to TV placement and lawn signs and bumperstickers, you want to use a variety of methods to appear “everywhere.”
- Go somewhere cool. Sometimes, inevitably, you’ll miss something important because you’re away. Your suitors may even be disappointed or miffed that you can’t attend the meeting or turn around a new request. You may never make them happy — but you can at least intrigue them. “I’m on vacation” is a fairly boring, lazy-sounding excuse. But — “I apologize for the delay in getting back to you; I just got back from Puerto Rico” — which was literally an email I received today from a colleague — is a fascinating conversation starter. So consider this your permission to go somewhere fabulous and make the best of it.
What are your strategies for becoming ubiquitous? And how do you ensure the people who matter are talking about you?
This blog post originally appeared on the Harvard Business Review website.
Dorie Clark is CEO of Clark Strategic Communications and the author of Reinventing You. She is a strategy consultant who has worked with clients including Google, the National Park Service, and Yale University. Listen to her podcasts or follow her on Twitter.