5 ways to stay connected as an off-site comms consultant

Remember how surprisingly easy it was for Kevin McCallister to get left home alone, in two movies nonetheless? Well, that's what it's like for consultants in the communications field.

We're normally off-site or tucked away in a tiny little room where excess sticky notes and employee manuals go to die.

We're the little brothers or sisters that no one ever thinks about/easily forgets about. We belong to the family like a sixth finger belongs on a hand.

We're useful and we carry our own weight, but we're annoying and we cost more money (i.e., specially made gloves), and the owner is silently cooking up a way to cut us off so he can save money.

But in the field of communications, connecting is everything. Our one and only goal is connecting with the end-user, the person using the information or product you're being paid to promote. On top of that, we're tasked with getting that goal completed quickly, with the fewest middlemen possible, and in the most effective way imaginable. If we can do that, we're pulling our weight as a necessary cog in the machine. But the consultant's world is a lonely one and in order to survive (like Kevin McCallister), we've got to fight to be included.

Some tips about how to stay connected from America's favorite Christmas flick:

1) Declare war on separation. In your first 30 days, introductions to everyone are in order, including a sit-down with the big boss and a friendly conversation with the front desk clerk. Just like Kevin didn't dawdle around his house until his family found him, you've got to find yourself working hard to be seen.

2) Make friends. Old Man Marley turned out not to be that creepy after all, right? And he was super helpful in the end when Kevin needed him most. Forcing yourself to make friends with the people you sit closest to or conference most with may be your saving grace in a tight spot. To take it a step further: if you're a young person in a company of mostly older co-workers, make friends anyway. Think of your peers as seasoned, more experienced than you; people who can teach you who, what, when and how things work 'round those parts.

3) Keep your ears to the ground. This is really an extension of the first tip. The only reason Kevin was prepared for the Wet Bandits' break-in is because he overheard them planning the details of the crime. I'm not saying you have to eavesdrop on every conversation in the room; most large companies have internal newsletters or email announcements full of events, new hires, promotions, changes in management, birthdays and service anniversaries.

4) Be prepared to get creative. Don't act like you didn't admire Kevin's ingenuity and thoughtfulness as he set these mind-boggling booby-traps all over his home for the burglars. At the end of the movie, we all knew we would remember each trap for the rest of our lives (and may even use it someday to our own benefit).

The same kind of creative handling should be a part of you as a consultant. We all know how to do phone and email "check ins". We can sail birthday cards to sign through the office, or bring in vanilla-frosted confetti cupcakes every first Monday. But don't you want to be the one person your associates think of when they have a certain bit of information? YES! Where I really go hard is in my "conversational memory" — when my project teammate mentions their daughter's first ballet recital or their son's championship baseball game win, I'm heading straight to the clearance section of the Hallmark store for a gift. My belief is that people don't mention personal things at work unless it's truly important to them (in fact, people don't talk at all at work unless they have to). Acknowledge that importance if that person is important to you.

5) Be consistent and persistent. Being an annoying consultant is easy to do; constantly badger people, fill up people's inboxes with too many needy emails, and make the same mistakes more than once. You'll get your job done eventually, despite driving your points-of-contact up the wall and not being hired again. On the other hand, one thing you cannot afford to do is let your work go unnoticed. That's where consistency (routine) and persistency (purpose) come into play. Your ROUTINE has to have a PURPOSE.

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