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The Art of Polite Communication – First impressions DO count

In this guest blog piece, Music Gateway’s Dan Armstrong writes about the importance of communication in today’s technology obsessed society.

When working in and around the Creative Industries, it is often easy to focus on the product and its creation, rather than the placement. In our modern society, where everything is intrinsically associated to some sort of social media or website organisation, it is all too easy to forget that behind all the technology, real people are running the show.

These lynchpins are the stalwart of our business – without them, nothing works. And yet this aspect is often shown a great lack of respect, or even worse, ignored completely.

What happened to effective communication?

Let’s take a step back here. What exactly are we trying to achieve? Whether it is to send material to a person of importance, or to sell ourselves in a coveted job role, the impression of the term “importance” and our respect for this definition is key.

American Businessman and Philanthropist, John D. Rockefeller once said that, “The ability to deal with people is as purchasable a commodity as sugar or coffee.” “And I will pay more for that ability, than for any other under the sun.” (WikiQuote, 2015)

Most hopeful associations are shot down at the front door – by a “gate-keeper” – usually a personal assistant or secretary.

Why are they shot down?

Invariably by a lack of effective communication skills, whether they are written or verbal. As a matter of reflection, ask yourself, when was the last time you actually spoke to somebody of importance about your product or career choices? For example, following up an email with a phone call about your music, or an internship?

Many of us now choose the technology option as the primary option to communicate. Why shouldn’t we? It’s quick. It’s easy. Spell-check will sort out the spelling for you and we can copy & paste multiple messages to a great many people all within a short period of time. Brilliant. Except for one small thing, and this involves some introspection. Think back to your last involvement with Social Media. No doubt through the sheer amount of messages/tweets/pins and so on you’ve had to trawl through, there were some, if not many asking to, ”Check out this artist!!!”. Did you? Or did you just swim on through your feed? If you clicked, well done – you’re in the minority. For the majority, it probably didn’t register on your interest’ometer. So if this instruction doesn’t register with you, how can you expect the recipients of your “spam” to act any differently?

There’s a degree of salesmanship required to gain support from the gatekeepers in this world. This is a skill that has aided the most successful people today. Learn to sell yourself, and sell yourself in the correct manner. Whilst you may not always get the desired outcome, you’ll always get a response.

For example, as a songwriter, my main goal was to gain interest in my songs from a publishing perspective. I performed the usual due diligence in my research and found a great many contacts and email addresses to use to sell both my songs and myself.

Why did I have to sell myself? As a songwriter with published songs, the material is the important element, surely? True, but most publishers like to build up a rapport with their writers, so that they know they can confidently place them with artists or clients, knowing that bespoke material can be written without clashes in personality. It sounds strange, but there is also a cost implication to getting the marriage of songwriter and artist wrong. And that doesn’t include starting the search again once the relationship has broken down.

My initial email or message was polite, professional sounding, and to the point.

Here was one response from a well-known Publisher:

OK, in this instance, we didn’t get a signing, but because I was polite to the PA, the email was forwarded to this gentleman. 18 months later, Mr A N Other and I still keep in touch, and he is more than happy to receive material for consideration. As are a great many other Publishers that I have contacted.

I always provide my mobile and Skype numbers, as well as the usual email addresses. Where distance is an issue, there is great value in communicating via video chat, or phone call. I’ll always try to follow up one form of communication with the other.

It is always worth keeping records of everybody you contact – even those that don’t reply initially. For one simple reason: the Music Industry is quick-paced. People may not stay in one role, or with a company for very long, taking advantage of new opportunities. This is networking: a HIGHLY time-consuming part of the job – however, keep in touch with them.

I have the pleasure of working with young people and in their educational assessments; they are encouraged to conduct research, which may involve actually talking to people. A good 75% of the struggle with this concept is their preferred style of taking refuge behind their smartphone and tablet screens.

Is the art of verbalising dialogue dying out?

Hopefully not, as nobody seems to have told the older generation! The main issue appears to be there is a blurring of the professional lines – especially where the Music Industry is concerned. In essence, trying to make formal introductions into something very informal and casual.

Why not put these ideas into practice at Music Gateway and Creative Access?

Ask yourself, how would you conduct yourself if your communication were a job interview…