I’m having a relationship with a lady from Australia I have only just met! Also a man from Prague, several people from America, and yes, Mrs L is fully aware. OK, it’s not in a face to face physical sense, but it’s great anyway. The last few weeks have been extremely busy with several presentations to do. Whilst speaking at the Swallows head and neck cancer conference I met Julie McCrossin, who was also doing a presentation. As soon as I saw her title slide I knew immediately she got what we are all doing. Without really realising it we are creating relationships daily. Either physically or through social media we are engaging with others. In many cases it can be hard work and sometimes not worth the effort, but we only establish the worth of that relationship the more we invest in it.
Personally I have always given everyone time, until they prove they are not worth the investment. It is indeed exhausting but now more than ever in my life, so rewarding. I am a great believer in Karma, and I now have an incredibly fulfilling life. Daily I share so much of my time and experience with others, but my goodness, whatever I give out I get back so much more. I believe my fuel comes from the incredible feedback wherever I go, including social media. I now meet such inspiring people daily, and am learning so much about living life with cancer. My experience is totally rounded as I am speaking to members of all sides of the sector, from patients to clinicians, charity CEO’s to MPs.
When I attend an event, many people know me and some of the audience already engage on Twitter etc. I personally speak to as many people as I can, and connect with others via the Internet. These people have given up their time to come and hear my views and experiences, and I want to do the same with them. The more information I can gather, gives me a very strong case when talking about shaking up the cancer support sector. I have become one of the most influential cancer patients across the world, and feel very comfortable on the international stage, where I get to speak frequently. When I set out on this crazy path, I saw so much wrong with cancer support in this country. The influence that politics and money have, being just two. Large organisations creating a cartel at the top of the cancer tree, totally oblivious to the needs of the patient, but dictating the messages they want to, because the sector has always let them do it.
Now, because of the relationships I have created over very many years, people are finally sitting up and listening! Maybe I was right after all and things do need to change? I am now talking to groups and individuals across the world who realise that the current system is just not working. Change is happening rapidly, and many systems and organisations are losing their relevance in today’s market. Unless you are truly engaging with your ‘customers’ eventually they will not be engaging with you. That will cut off your supply to the gold we have today, data and immediate feedback about what works and what doesn’t. Of course that will also mean a drop in income!
‘Story telling’ is becoming so powerful now, and many recent innovative services have wonderful stories about how they started and why they exist. I am often asked to talk about how our simPal service started, and it really is an incredible story, this is what people want to hear these days. Slowly going are the repetitive adverts and sponsored posts of corporate healthcare. People are finally beginning to see that in many cases, the cynical advertising and conflict of interest corporate partnerships, are not benefiting people on the front line. It is only putting more money back into the people who use it least effectively.
Many charities do understand this issue and are attempting to engage better with their consumers, but are struggling because communication is coming away from the traditional methods. A GREAT relationship is one that works BOTH ways. A SUCCESSFUL relationship is one where everybody benefits. The sign that things are working well, is regular engagement, however that happens. We all want to be acknowledged, so answer your email, or tweet a personal response. Communication is not a science at all.
But you guys continually broadcasting your ‘asks’ are becoming boring, even to your own followers. Have a look on your Twitter timeline, and see how many times anyone from outside your own organisation shows up. Unless they are raising money or praising your work. That quickly shows how you are engaging. It is about listening to others and being more ‘humble’ in your work. It is no longer a race to see how many times a day you and your staff can tell us how wonderful your organisation is.
As always these are my own views and experiences, please feel free to join the discussion below!
I am an official support partner of the Grove Hotel in Bournemouth. The only hotel in the UK specifically for people affected by cancer and other life limiting conditions.