“I’ll keep in touch!” You’ve likely said something like that to someone and meant it at the time.
But then… life gets in the way, time flies by, and you haven’t spoken to that person in years. Yet the idea of reaching out and reconnecting gives you pause, and you can’t put your finger on why.
Relationship-building expert Jason Levin, knows why! He’s even written a book on it backed by academic research. And he’s here to help us reframe what we think we know about networking, building relationships and keeping in touch.
In this episode of the Branding Room Only podcast, you’ll learn why people don’t stay in touch despite promises to do so and what’s really behind the fear of rekindling relationships. You’ll discover best practices for making introductions, reconnecting with others, and following up to solidify those new and renewed relationships in authentic, personalized, and supportive ways.
1:29 – The source of the personal branding concept, the opportunity of appreciation, Jason’s hype songs, and his annual go-to movie for addressing fear
8:30 – Why Jason took 10 years to write Relationships to Infinity and how it emerged from an idea into reality
13:25 – How the Bermuda Keep in Touch Triangle reflects why you don’t stay in touch even when you say they will
16:48 – What people really fear about rekindling a relationship
20:03 – How to reach out to someone you haven’t talked to in a while when you have an ask but don’t want to make it feel transactional
25:13 – How the process of making introductions can impact your brand
28:16 – How to facilitate the follow-up after an introduction is made
31:22 – How to solidify the connection made after an initial follow-up so that it makes sense, doesn’t feel weird, and helps your brand
39:00 – Mistakes that hurt your brand when connecting with others
40:35 – The appropriate time for making a business-related ask in a relationship and the approach that helps you get over your fear of asking
42:39 – The key to cultural fluency of communication between people
47:21 – The introverts’ superpower for building relationships properly and a different way for them to network
49:21 – Where to start with relationship building and what Jason does for fun, where he will never compromise, and his Branding Room Only magic
Connect With Jason Levin
Jason is an author, brand management expert, and founder of Ready, Set, Launch, LLC. Prior to starting his business, he worked in brand management for Unilever, consulting for Accenture, and employer branding sales for Vault.com. He’s also husband and father to a wonderful redheaded attorney entrepreneur and two redheaded boys, respectively.
Mentioned In Reframing Keeping in Touch with Jason Levin
Paula’s Resources on Keeping in Touch
Is Your Women’s Group Winning?: Strategies for Building a Stronger Women’s Initiative in Your Organization
Discover how to transform your women’s affinity group into a dynamic force that aligns with your organization’s mission and empowers women to thrive in leadership roles.
Don’t miss this opportunity to reshape the future of women’s leadership within your organization.
When: February 13, 2024, from 12 to 1 pm ET
What to Expect:
- Engaging and actionable insights on enhancing your Women’s Initiative or Women’s Affinity Group
- Strategies for aligning your group’s goals with your organization’s strategic plan
- Tips for impactful programming
- Best practices for ensuring intersectional membership engagement
Sponsor for this episode
This episode is brought to you by PGE Consulting Group LLC.
PGE Consulting Group LLC is dedicated to providing a practical hybrid of professional development training and diversity solutions. From speaking to consulting to programming and more, all services and resources are carefully tailored for each partner. Paula Edgar’s distinct expertise helps engage attendees and create lasting change for her clients.
Paula Edgar: Welcome to The Branding Room Only Podcast where we share career stories, strategies, and lessons learned on how industry leaders and influencers have built their personal brands. Now, let’s get started with the show.
Hi, everyone, and welcome to The Branding Room Only Podcast. I’m your host, Paula Edgar. I’m super excited today to be talking to somebody fabulous. But before I do that, I want to tell you about The Branding Room Only Podcast. It’s a podcast where we talk about branding, personal branding from experts and influencers in order to gauge their experiences and their advice on personal brand.
Today’s guest is one of my favorites, Jason Levin. He is the author of Relationships to Infinity: The Art and Science of Keeping in Touch. Everybody on the video will see me holding the book. He founded Ready, Set, Launch, LLC after a career in brand management at Unilever, consulting at Accenture, and employer branding sales Vault.com.
He is married to a wonderful redheaded attorney entrepreneur and together, they have two very active redheaded sons. I can attest to the redhead wife because I’ve met her. So, Jason, welcome to The Branding Room Only Podcast.
Jason Levin: Paula, thank you so much for having me. It’s a pleasure to be here.
Paula Edgar: I’m so excited that we’re doing this because I think that our story is really a testament to what you talk about in your book. Let’s talk. First of all, I want to ask you what does a personal brand mean to you? How do you define it?
Jason Levin: Since you’ve read my book, I love going to the source. I love the source of things. The source of personal brand for me is the 1997 article in Fast Company where Tom Peters wrote “The Brand Called You,” and therein lies the birth of the concept of personal brand.
As a former brand manager at Unilever, the classic definition of a brand is delivery of a promise or a service of an experience. A personal brand is your ability to deliver that and what makes you unique and different. That’s how I think about that. How we think about our differentiation and how we think about consistently delivering that to the buyers of our services, buyers of us.
Paula Edgar: The buyers of us. Consistency is so key in that piece. I love that you took it back to the source. Given that, when you think about your personal brand, what are three words or phrases that come to mind describing you?
Jason Levin: It’s funny you have the book and people have told me for years, “Jason, you’re really great at keeping in touch,” and to unpack that, I often say that appreciation is currency so how do we keep in touch? Well, I think it’s a big opportunity for the thank you party to all the people that have been there for you over the years. Keeping in touch, appreciation, and of course, in my day life, I’m an attorney by marriage, dad to two boys, even I can be here with you and everybody’s healthy and well and where they need to be, I’m appreciative of.
Paula Edgar: I love the appreciation piece. I sometimes take the liberty of defining the person who I’m going to connect with in three words myself just to see if we have alignment and I have a clever connector and community. I just feel like we’re right here. Tell me, do you have a favorite quote or mantra?
Jason Levin: I thought about this, I’m not a quote or a mantra type of person and I respect all that do. I do have a favorite movie I watch every year. It speaks to me in different ways. Did you ever see Defending Your Life with Albert Brooks and Meryl Streep?
Paula Edgar: No, but my husband’s a big Albert Brooks fan, so probably something he’s watched but I haven’t seen it, no.
Jason Levin: The whole concept of the movie is that you don’t go to heaven or hell, you go to this place called Judgment City where you are judged by how you’ve dealt with fear in your life. The movie is all about fear. It struck me as a teenager when I saw this movie, I was like, “Oh, my God, how cool is that that we can be thinking about fear and how we address fear?”
So every year I watch the movie and I like to ask myself, “What am I afraid of now? How am I addressing that? How am I thinking about that?” because there are all these quotes around fear which I disagree with, I think fear is normal, I think fear is healthy, and what does it mean to us at each different age and stage of our lives. Defending Your Life is my go-to place for fear.
Paula Edgar: I love this. I love this because number one, I love anything that differentiates somebody from somebody else. Every time I hear an answer, I’m like, “That’s right, exactly that,” and but this one I think I’m going to steal. Every year, I do an Intention & Goal Setting Session and I do it for free for anybody who wants to do it.
I walk people through a process of asking reflective questions but I’ve never asked the question about what are you afraid of now. I love that because I think while it seems like a very maybe Debbie Downer question, you’re going to focus on what the things that you want to move away and out from as well. It motivates you.
Jason Levin: It creates an honest conversation. It’s like, “Where does this fear come from? Is it situational? What happens in that situation? What do you do beforehand? What do you do afterwards? How do you evolve with that? Wonderful.
Paula Edgar: I love that. Done and done with attribution. Okay, do you have a hype song that you love? One that either hypes you up when you’re about to go do something great and bring the full Jason Levinness or one when you’re like, “Oh, today is not a day. I need to feel better,” either same song or different song, tell me which ones you got.
Jason Levin: There are two songs. When I’m about to go in front of a group, I’m usually already like up there so I need something to bring me down. What brings me down is the following song: I feel pretty, Oh, so pretty, I feel pretty and witty and good.
I need to be silly. The notion of me dancing and out there and feeling pink and all the good things. That’s my go to whenever I’m in a situation where I feel that I need to be pretty. Then when it’s raining or I’m tired, The Greatest Showman, Hugh Jackman, This Is Me. But the version of the song, there are multiple versions of the song, watch the one, and it’s on YouTube, I love it, it’s when they’re selling the movie to the executives and nobody’s in costume and they’re doing it like Acappella. For me, I put on This Is Me and I’m just like, “Yes. I’m me. I like being me. I’m bald but I’m still me.”
Paula Edgar: We will make sure we link that YouTube in the show notes.
Jason Levin: I’ll send it to you.
Paula Edgar: Oh, yes, please do. Please do. This mixtape that I’m going to make at the end of the year is going to be fire. Okay, I was thinking about relationships in anticipation of our conversation, and branding and how your relationships flow, they all go together. I do think that a big part of your brand is who you know, who knows you, and how you know each other. Tell me, what made you do this? What made you write this book? Tell me your story and then how you birthed this book.
Jason Levin: Well, I mean for years and I was always fascinated with the concept that we say keep in touch and we don’t. It’s just the saying for a lot of people, “Let’s keep in touch.” But I’m like, “I actually meant it,” and so when I went out on my own 12 years ago, I told my wife, Lori, I was going to write a book called Relationships to Infinity and it’s all about keeping in touch.
Of course, when you start out in a business, there’s no money in writing a book and so you have to build a practice. Every subsequent year, I’m going to write the book, it’s going to be called Relationships to Infinity and I’m doing these trainings and I’m talking about the concepts and I’m still seeing people that are struggling with this notion of keeping in touch.
Then the pandemic hits, we all go into lockdown, everybody’s miserable, and I feel very blessed every year, someone would come up to me and say, “Jason, you should write a book,” and I’m like, “I know. It’s called Relationships to Infinity.”
So after 10 years of talking about Relationships to Infinity, I feel really lucky, I do radio interviews for Bloomberg business, there was a radio journalist that reached out to me and said, “Jason, I think you have a book in you,” and I just took a book-writing class through Georgetown School of Continuing Studies. I think this would be perfect for you.”
I can’t tell you how quickly I signed up for that book-writing class because it did so many wonderful things. Paula, you and I have talked about this. Success is not alone. We don’t do anything in isolation. The entire class debunks this myth that you need to go into some corner and write the book alone, in solitude, and unhappy. Although it’s very emotional to write a book but we’re in a cohort and I had an editor.
Every week, “Alright, Jason, give me my 2000 words. I’ll see you next week.” So I’m writing and I’m writing. The famous Brené Brown who talks about your sh*tty first draft, let me tell you, my first words on page, we got the chairman out, that’s for sure.
But the thing that I really appreciated about my book professor, his mantra is “Books are not written, books are rewritten.” You can’t rewrite a book unless you have a first draft, and the versioning, the editing, sharing chapters with people, getting feedback, and all those kinds of things made it what it is. Book-writing via community.
Integrating folks within my world to be able to give me like, “This is what I think about this and this is what I think about that,” and then you come to this final, well, I look at it now and it’s like, of course, there are always things but yeah, that’s how I wrote the book. That’s how we wrote the book. The community around me helped me write the book.
Paula Edgar: So it’ll be Infinity Part 2?
Jason Levin: One of my friends said, “Infinite opportunities is a version your book.” I was like, “Uhuh, yes.”
Paula Edgar: I mean, still out of touch: There’s so much here speaking of branding. Well, I have to say that every time I’m in conversation, I’m an extrovert, I think that the opportunity to connect with folks, I love connecting with people, but there’s always something that I don’t know that I need from the conversation and so I don’t even know what we’re going to talk about next but I know that was what I needed for this because I have been in this space of being like, “Girl, just write this book. Write the book.”
I am hearing the universe literally clubbing me over my head telling me to write the book and so I’m going to take that as the motivation and whomever out there is an editor at a book place, listen to it and say, “Paula, come talk to me. Let’s put it in the universe.”
Alright, so let’s talk about relationships. There’s one part of your book that really stuck out to me that I think that is going to resonate for the audience which is the Bermuda Guilt Triangle. Can you talk about this feeling, this concept of the guilt triangle as so why people may not stay in touch?
Jason Levin: Right. In coming up with the Bermuda Keep in Touch Triangle, and at the core of the question is we say keep in touch and we don’t, well, why? The book is founded in academic research and then I started looking at the psychology, the sociology around emotions. How do we feel, what do we tell ourselves when we’re putting ourselves in certain situations?
I started going down these different avenues and talking to the psychologist, “What do we feel when we need to get back in touch with somebody? What are these human emotions that we feel?” The more that I stayed there, I started to recognize there were three foundational normal human emotions we feel: guilt, fear, and worry that come out when we need to reconnect with someone.
The idea of the Bermuda Triangle, I would look at people, I’m like, “Oh, go get back in touch with someone,” and it’s as if just like planes and ships get lost forever in the Bermuda Triangle, so do we get lost forever in our own heads about a particular person, “Ah! I’m not that interesting. Ah! They don’t want to hear from me. Yeah, the relationship wasn’t that good anyway.”
We all talk about the negative self-talk. I wanted to give this a name because all of us want connection, all of us need connection, all of us have had important people in our lives we’ve lost touch with as we get older, life events, all the things that are going on. That’s the core of what the Bermuda Keep in Touch Triangle is and everybody has a version of it because we’re all human.
What’s even crazier now, after the book has been written, is we’re looking at this set of things that are happening in our world around loneliness. Sargeant General says we’re all lonely. The state of New York has appointed Dr. Ruth Westheimer as the Ambassador for Loneliness.
Paula Edgar: That’s a whole nother podcast because I’m like, “What?” That’s branding. That’s branding right there.
Jason Levin: That’s branding. The fact that I can say that with a straight face, we’re still talking about Dr. Ruth, God bless her in her 90s, and even the World Health Organization has created a global council on loneliness. One, connection, how do we get there? For me, it’s the triangle and all these emotions that are holding this back.
Paula Edgar: Yeah. When I read that, I thought hanging above the triangle is shame. For me, I get asked this question over and over again, “I haven’t talked to this person in insert amount of years here. I’m just going to give it up,” then I often hear stories later on where people just go ahead and they reach out and the person is like, “They were so happy to hear from me. They were thinking about reaching out to me too. They were nervous.” I’m like, “You know what, if the relationship is truly damaged and cannot be repaired, then your outreach is not going to shift that. But you’re not losing anything if you actually rekindle it.”
Jason Levin: Yeah. It’s not the rupture of a relationship, it’s the fizzle of the relationship that people get wigged out about. When a relationship just fizzles, that’s no fault of anybody. Guilt is a feeling of shame or regret. It is that shame that “My fault. I must have done something.”
Well, you moved because you got a new job, you got into a relationship, you might have had little ones, things might not have worked out, and now you’re not together with that person. All these life events, you had to care for aging family members, all these things happen, that’s not a rupture. That’s all these life things that are happening which cause these things to fizzle.
Paula Edgar: I feel like one benefit of the pandemic is that we all had this fizzle. We all had this seismic shift in who we are and how we connect that allows us some grace to be like, “Hey, haven’t seen you in a while because we’ve been inside.”
Jason Levin: Not only that, those people that we would just run into that we didn’t run into anymore and now we see them again, there was that period of time where I was forgetting people’s names. I would just go, “Forgive me, it’s been a while since the pandemic. Remind me of your first name.” I would just say, “Pandemic brain and I forgot your name.”
Paula Edgar: That is a perfect way of doing it.
Jason Levin: It’s like, “I know you. You and I recognize each other. You know my name, I forgot yours.”
Paula Edgar: I call it cheerleader syndrome because I obviously was a cheerleader.
Jason Levin: Stop.
Paula Edgar: I know. I know but what happened is everybody knew my name and I did not know theirs and I’d be like, “Hi. Hey. Hey, girl, what’s up dude?”
Jason Levin: So you were a cheerleader, high school, I was voted most talkative guy.
Paula Edgar: Where have we been all of each other’s lives, Jason? What is going on? You already gave two tangible things that people need to know because I was going to ask you about this, what do you do? Let’s just say I want to talk to somebody, haven’t talked to them in a while, but I feel like there’s a reason, I actually have a reason I want to reach out to them. I don’t want to be transactional but there’s a reason I have. What do I do?
Jason Levin: There are two lanes: one, reconnecting just for fun, or two, because you actually have an ask. But don’t reconnect just for fun when there’s actually an ask. That’s the ultimate bait and switch. Number one, don’t bait and switch. If you have an ask, then say, “I know it’s been a long time but one of the things I’ve always appreciated about you is… I have an ask for you, can we talk?”
Paula Edgar: I love that.
Jason Levin: You’re setting up an honest conversation about something or with the person that you’ve already told is amazing on that particular thing. Make an ask with intention that is honest and a little honey in it.
Paula Edgar: So no bait and switch. Don’t be like, “Hey, girl. You want to go for coffee?” and they’d be like, “Here’s my proposal.”
Jason Levin: People hate that. It’s always that human, “What do they want? Why are they getting back in touch with me?”
Paula Edgar: Yes. I call it like my Brooklyn tingle, I’m like there’s something that you haven’t asked for and it’s because trust has been breached before and so now you’re like–
Jason Levin: Well, and that’s the thing why I had a whole chapter on trust in the book is like no trust, no relationship. There’s nothing to get back in touch with if there wasn’t some level of trust beforehand. There’s no breaching trust, there’s only honesty. People appreciate honesty because “we’re all busy” and it’s like, “Alright, can I get 20 minutes with you? Because I want to talk about this.” Then already the agenda is set.
Paula Edgar: Yep. I did a pet peeves podcast recently where I talked about things that get on my nerves. I could do that every week, but anyway, one of the ones that I called out really resonated with people, people were sending me messages, it was this. It’s when someone wants to make an introduction and just makes the introduction without giving the other person a heads-up.
Jason Levin: Oh, sacrilege. Sacrilege. What needs to happen, you need your blessings. I don’t care what religion you are, whether you believe or not believe, but we talk about blessings, talk about consent, you need to get consent from the person you’re going to introduce, “Hey, listen, I want to introduce you to so and so.”
I was just asking someone for an introduction and she’s like, “Let me call you,” and she had done the right thing. She had reached out to person and then she called me back, she’s like, “Let me tell you why it’s not going to work.” It was honest. I was like, “Alright, cool.”
The only exception I would say is that if you’re in an alumni relations role where you’re like, “Alright, here’s an alum of this place, here you shouldn’t be introduced,” then that doesn’t need an introduction.
Paula Edgar: Then the context is already there.
Jason Levin: Right, the context is already there. You’re an alum of this law school, you’re an alum of this business school, you two should know each other. For me, that’s the only exception, or if there’s like, “Alright, this person wants to donate to this nonprofit. You two should know each other.”
Paula Edgar: You have money, you need it. Take it.
Jason Levin: Alright. That’s the only exception I would put out there.
Paula Edgar: I have another exception that I’ve had a conversation about this before. The exception is that there are probably like five people who never have to ask me for anything. If they put my name in something, I know I’m going to act because it’s them but those people never use this. They always ask but they have that ability to override the etiquette in that situation.
Jason Levin: But that’s a level of your closest trusted people with like the inner circle.
Paula Edgar: Yeah. The irony is they don’t use it because they also respect me that I want to know the context before I’m connected but there’s like four or five people who could just be like, “Name, name. Bye.” I’ll be like, “Done. What do you need?”
Jason Levin: Yeah. But it’s funny, the things I’ll get CCed on and I’m like, “All they had to do was reach out to me and give me a little bit more context on why you want to make this introduction.”
Paula Edgar: Yeah. The wild thing is that it impacts your brand because here’s the thing, on two sides, one, if somebody reaches out to you and makes the introduction and then the person who they’re introducing doesn’t respond because they’re like, “Hell, what the hell. You didn’t ask my permission,” then the power influence that you thought that you’re showing, your brand is messed up here.
Jason Levin: Let’s take this a step further and what even drives me crazier is that I’ll get asked, I make the introduction, the person that asked doesn’t follow up. That’s happened and I’m just like, “Alright, lots of no there.” The highest level of no. I can’t believe that.
It’s just common decency, alright, throw me to BCC and within a reasonable amount of time, I’ll make the introduction, doesn’t happen in the first five minutes, but at the very least, in the first 12 or 24 hours of that introduction. But there’s just people that after the introduction was made and then I’m like, “Ghosting? Stop. You just asked for this.” That’s happened also.
Paula Edgar: I have to say that in the safe space of just me, you, and the internet, my challenge has always been I need people to tell me they’re going to make an introduction and give me the context because I have ADHD and so sometimes, if an email comes through that I wasn’t expecting and prepared to respond for, I don’t even remember that I have it so I have to be prepped and primed and ready to go with whatever it is so that I respond. If not, then I’m going to say, “Oh, I’ll just wait till later,” and I’m telling you, there’s a lot of love in later. I love the laters. I didn’t mean to but they are still in later.
Jason Levin: As a kindred spirit, I’m probably going to be diagnosed with ADHD soon. The procrastination exists and if you’re not giving the clearest context of the introduction, then it’s like, “Alright, that’s nice. Let’s move on.”
Paula Edgar: Yes. I have a two-part thing. Let’s hold on to this one thing. We have to talk about follow-up, just follow-up generally, so hold on, don’t let me forget speaking of procrastination, but when you think about oh, gosh, that was hilarious, that’s a perfect example of how my ADHD works, forget it, I’m going to just grab follow-up now.
When I think about the things that challenge me, and you just started bringing this up, it challenges me that people don’t do is I will say, “Hey, send me an email, do this thing,” or “Hey, I’ll do this for you,” when we’ve met, and then there’s no follow-up.
We meet and I’m like, “You’re the best thing that’s ever happened to me. Please just send me this email,” and no follow-up. I know that people are busy. I know all these things, oh, I was remembering now, so my question, and this is as good as two-parts, is do you recommend that people have a template that they use to help facilitate the follow-up? Like, “Hey, it was great to meet you at [insert here].” Tell me what is your strategy to make it easier so that it’s not so hard.
Paula Edgar: I think it gets back to the versions of the Bermuda Keep in Touch Triangle where you just had an interaction, you were clear as day, “Here’s my card, I’d love to hear from you.” Then you leave and then like brain comes back, “Paula never really liked you. That wasn’t that interesting. You have all these things. Why don’t you wait?”
Instead, the business card or whatever, just put the email out and it’s context, gratitude, and whatever else you talked about. I think people think that a follow-up note needs to be the rewriting of the Magna Carta.
Paula Edgar: Four score and 17 yesterday.
Jason Levin: I was honored to be standing next to you in the ballroom of that hotel where that lovely set of drapes were next to you. It’s like, “We had a great conversation. I love connecting on X. I know that you have some travel coming up. Maybe we can connect via Zoom or phone at the end of the month here or a couple of dates,” or whatever it is that you talked about.
I think the reason that form doesn’t work is because back to what do people want, they want personalization. It’s this juxtaposition people want to feel special, Paula, you’re special, we’re all special, we want a personalized note. We think AI is going to do that for us. We think this is going to do it for us.
But AI is not in the room understanding what that conversation was. Then you layer on, so I’m an attorney by marriage, subject-verb agreement, “What do I put in the RE?” and all you’re doing is three sentences.
Paula Edgar: Yeah. Perfection paralysis.
Jason Levin: Yeah. I often talk about the joy and the mundane. I love follow-up. I think that we all have an opportunity just to show the courtesy that that conversation happened. Therein lies a larger opportunity and that could be a mantra, back to what I was talking about earlier, around fear. Why are you afraid of following up? What’s the worst thing that could happen if you don’t? Well, nothing new because you didn’t follow up.
Paula Edgar: We’ll never know because you didn’t do it. Oftentimes, people will ask this question too. I met somebody three months ago and I sent an email a day later, but now what? Now what do I do? Should I send them a love note? Do I send them an article? How do you make sure you solidify the connection in a way that that initial follow-up makes sense without being pesky, stalkery, and weird?
Jason Levin: It’s funny the notion of being a stalker, stalkers make weird phone calls, stalkers show up at your office or your home. If you’ve emailed with somebody and you want to continue that relationship, then have you seen what they’re putting out on LinkedIn? Have you done a Google search on what they’ve been up to or what the organization’s doing?
Again, back to personalization and customization, if they are putting stuff out there, what does that mean you? Oh, I saw this article or I saw you had this win, let me tell you what that means. “Hey, congratulations,” “I loved how you framed X,” or “You’re working for this organization and I just see that you’re moving buildings, is that going to change where you get lunch?” There’s a whole set of things that you can be doing either to research what’s going on or back to the conversation in the magical words, “I thought of you because…”
Therein lies we all want to be thought of. If three months go by and there’s nothing out there, put a tickle in your calendar, alright, month four, let me see if I can find something. As long as you are going in with the intent that you want to continue that relationship, then that will happen.
Paula Edgar: Is the calendar your best strategy in terms of putting a tickle? What does it just say? Like, “Check on Paula three months from now?”
Jason Levin: Well, I think for me, the simplest thing, depending on how high up there in the organization, put their name into a Google Alert. Put their name, put their organization into a Google Alert. When you check, like have the check, check their LinkedIn feed, see who’s commenting on their stuff, those kinds of things, and see where you’re at in terms of what they’ve shared with you.
They might have dropped some really great nuggets and it’s been three months, did you follow up on what they said? You have new questions. I think depending on the conversation, there are all different kinds of follow-up and it doesn’t need to be robotic.
Paula Edgar: I like that because it’s also good for your brand because even if the person is not responding and being like, “Oh, thank you for whatever the perspective is you shared,” they are also still seeing that you put some effort into whatever your outreach because a Google Alert, like you said, checking on their LinkedIn feed, etc, shows that you care, you’re doing an extra step.
Jason Levin: For example, you look at the back of my book, the first person that blurred my book is Dan Pink. He’s my man crush. Dan Pink, thought leader, he’s written Drive, To Sell Is Human, and The Power of Regret, am I completely full of gratitude that he blurred my book? Absolutely. Does he continue to write back to me when I send him things? No. Does that bother me? No, because he’s damn Pink.
But every three months, I’ll check in and see what he’s up to or whatever, or if there’s some piece of news where I see he’s done something, I’ll shoot him a “Hey, that’s awesome. Good for you and congratulations.” I think it’s one of those things where I think too often, everybody has to be a BFF or everybody has to respond to me. It’s like no, you can still have some person that’s a Grand Puba and you send them something and you don’t hear back from them.
But I think in what you’re describing, there is that opportunity to continue that relationship. Use the example, what about three months? What about six months from there? What about a year from there? What about two years? What about three years? That’s the idea of Relationships to Infinity.
There are infinite opportunities to continue that relationship, the natural continuum to the end of the opportunity, I love follow-up because it’s like, “You know what, if they didn’t follow up after I wrote that thing in three months, I’m going to try again in three months from now. I’m going to try to do something better than I did beforehand.” I think each of us has that opportunity, especially when you want to continue your relationship.
Paula Edgar: I think something that resonates for me that you do and you inspired me to start to do even though I don’t think I’ve told you, so I’m going to tell you now and I’m going to tell you what I think it is as well, is you understand that gratitude is a facilitator. Well, I think everybody knows it like in concept, say thank you, we got through kindergarten, say thank you, get good manners.
But I think as we get older and we get more in our careers and more experience, there’s less thank you than I would love. Then when you get more thank yous, it hits more personally. It’s much more impactful when you hear the thank you. See, look at your Thank You card, that’s right. I have a drawer for my thank-you notes.
Jason Levin: I’m ready to thank. Who can I thank? I got the stamps to say thank you.
Paula Edgar: I love that.
Jason Levin: It’s one of those things. I ask of myself, we all have that opportunity to act on.
Paula Edgar: The first time we interacted when we met, you sent a note, then I was like, “Look at that, he’s actually doing what his book says. Let me find out.” I’ll tell you, I said to myself, if I can understand how I felt in just getting that, then I want to be the person who makes that happen for other people as well. So I have been much more thoughtful. I actually put it in my calendar, “Send a thank-you note,” so that I get in the habit of it in case I get busy, and at least, it gives me a little bit of a reminder to do so.
Jason Levin: I mean because, Paula, all the positive mojo that you already bring, the positive ripples you’re already creating, if you add that one in, your ripples become like a wave. I think we all have an opportunity to do that with each other. It’s real. It’s not fake. It’s just using our voice to connect.
Paula Edgar: Yeah. We kind have talked about some best practices in here about keeping in touch and how those impact your brand, but what about things that people do when they’re connecting that are bad for their brands?
Jason Levin: Oh, my gosh. Well, one you were talking about, not following up. I still think if you’re going to link in with somebody to at least send a note, I enjoyed meeting you, I also think the Berenstain Bears books, there’s one Berenstain Bears books where the kids have the problem with the Gimmies. Gimme, gimme, gimme. I want. I want. I want. The case of the Gimmies.
I think so many ask from “What can you do for me?” kinds of things and then just like the over-promotional things after you’re like, “Alright, let me tell you how amazing I am,” and you’re just rushing human nature. You can’t rush human nature.
Paula Edgar: Hmm. You can’t rush human nature. Yes, come on. Give me some philosophy. I like this.
Jason Levin: I’ve got 20. I’ve got 10 commandments.
Paula Edgar: I do have a question for you. You often talk at organizations and firms about how the relationships connect to business development. One thing I see people struggling with often that I would love to hear your take on is the appropriate time in a relationship to make an ask. How do you gauge that?
Jason Levin: I think when someone who could be in an opportunity to buy your services, either your services or of your firm, is when they start talking more specifically about the problems that they’re facing. They’re opening up a little bit more. For me, it’s always sales is listening, “Tell me more about that. How are you addressing that right now? Do you need help on that?”
I think too often, folks get wigged out with the sale, the ask. As someone who also works with in-house folks, in-house attorneys need help. They can’t be an expert on everything. It’s not possible. If they’re in a place where they’re starting to share certain things, then there’s an opportunity, “It sounds like you could use help. That’s something I do,” or “I’ve got a colleague that I might be able to introduce you that could help you with that.”
If you treated it as an opportunity to help and support someone’s work, we all want to be helped and supported in our work, then I think you get over the ask. It’s like, “Hello, In-House Council, I am here to make rain.”
Paula Edgar: It doesn’t seem to be drizzling yet, may I please have [inaudible]?
Jason Levin: It’s like, “Hello, In-House Council, give me the work.”
Paula Edgar: Sometimes it’s like that which is terrible. I find that contrary to popular belief, when I have seen this in action, I find that women do a really, really great job of business development because they’re really, really good at relationship building. But there’s this concept that men are the rain-makers and I’m like, “Actually, a steady drizzle is better than that rain that you’re talking about because it might be louder but it definitely is not better.”
Jason Levin: Because I believe as things become more complex, hail to the listener, hail to the question asker, and yes, women are great listeners. Ask a question and wait, oh, interesting.
Paula Edgar: Wait. The wait. Some people are just born in the space of taking up space and I think waiting is a skill some folks have to learn to just let the silence do what it needs to do.
Jason Levin: Yeah. I lived in France for five years. I’ve been to 30 different countries. There was one study, the average American gets uncomfortable after seven seconds of silence.
Paula Edgar: I was there at three like, “Huh?”
Jason Levin: Oh, my God. What’s he going to say? So the pause, we often talk about being present and being in the moment, so you don’t know where this human being is at. Sometimes they’re going through something where they can’t articulate it immediately. So just sit there.
Paula Edgar: Yeah. This is a broad, broad, broad generalization but when I was in France, I remember being super uncomfortable because they would say [mumbling] and they’d be like, “Uhhhhh,” they have that long way and I’ll be like, “What? What is it?” and I’m guessing the words. That speaks to me being under that seven seconds where I’m like, “What do you want to say? I will say it for you.”
Jason Levin: Then you get the French person, the German, and the Dutch and everybody’s all together and you’re like, “What is going on here?”
Paula Edgar: I need to know the full sentence. What are we talking about here?
Jason Levin: Then there’ll always be fun to like then there would be somebody from Japan at the table, anyway, but I think as an American, we’re loud, we’re taught to talk, we’re taught to fill space, all those kinds of things. Even between Americans, we can be better listeners but I think there’s also the cultural fluency of also being able to say, “Oh, what is it like in your country?” and what’s the best way to communicate.
Paula Edgar: Yeah, no, cultural fluency is key. It’s so key. The key to cultural fluency is to make an appropriate ask and to understand that whatever your standard is, is not the standard.
Jason Levin: Right.
Paula Edgar: While it makes so much sense, I can’t tell you how many conversations I have with people who are like, “But they didn’t speak American,” and I was like, “First of all, that’s not a language. Second of all, no one is obligated to speak English in other countries where English is not the first language.”
But I do think when we have this brand as a country, which is like we’re Coca-Cola, we are America, so everybody wants to do what we do and when you go to other places, which is why I’m so adamant of my kids traveling, you understand cultural humility in order to be more culturally fluent.
Jason Levin: Yeah, absolutely. I think it’s one of those things where when you do interact with other cultures, then you see there are other ways of doing things and they work too.
Paula Edgar: Who knew?
Jason Levin: Who knew?
Paula Edgar: Okay. I knew I was going to be like jab-jab, jabbing with you, and then time was going to pass so number one, you have to come back on, there’s that.
Jason Levin: Oh, pleasure. Pleasure. Paula, come on. It would be an honor being on.
Paula Edgar: I’m just going to let you know. I’m already booking you for another one. But I have a question because people ask this all the time, which is am I able to build relationships properly if I’m an introvert?
Jason Levin: Yes, you can, because what is the introvert’s superpower? The capacity to listen. I think this notion that the only way to network is in a big room is not true. It’s back to get a conversation, follow-up on the conversation. At the very base level, you can be very good at connecting and reconnecting individually.
If you do not like large rooms, one way for you to get over that as an introvert is to get on a committee. Get on a committee where you know the people already and you see them again and again and again. It’s not like being an introvert is some kind of a death sentence. It is just that you derive your energy from quiet, and Lord knows as a father of 10 and 12-year-old boys, I have found my inner introvert like hiding in the closet is a good use of my time.
I think recognizing that and even if you are going to a conference, take breaks. So yes, I think people that have those introversion tendencies absolutely can connect and reconnect. You have the capacity to listen. It’s one of those things where you just recognize that you need your silence and so take that.
Paula Edgar: I’m glad that I asked the question because it is, again, like I said, something that people ask all the time and I think it’s just another type of superpower, it’s not a lesser power. Alright, as we close, I’m going to try to squeeze like 80 things into four minutes, what piece of advice do you have for people who are trying to build their brands through relationship building?
Jason Levin: Just start. Just start one person at a time. If it’s daily or weekly, just get started. Pick a person, outreach to them, go to the next one. Keep it personal. Keep it custom. Keep it authentic. Therein lies, I was just having lunch with a chief marketing and business development officer and he said to me at the end of lunch, “Jason, I love your consistency. I love your consistency.” I was like, “Oh, my God.” I was getting all goosebumpy. I think that’s all that really people want is a reliable person that is who they are.
Paula Edgar: Yes. Truth. That’s all I want. Tell me what do you do for fun.
Jason Levin: What do I do for fun? I love going swimming. Again, back to quiet, swimming is a great use of my time. I love going out to dinner with my family. My wife and two boys, they’re all foodies so it could be Indian food or dumplings. Put anything on their plates and we’re doing it. We’re an eating family.
I also love working out. I’ve got a couple of buddies I go to the gym with and that’s fun. My elementary school has a whiskey club so a good Bourbon every once in a while also was a good use of time.
Paula Edgar: I’m assuming it’s for the adults. It’s for the adults.
Jason Levin: I know it’s funny, I say that [inaudible] elementary school in DC, whiskey club. No, it’s for the adults.
Paula Edgar: I have a couple of people I need to call after this. I ask all of my guests to tell me about what is that aspect of their brand that they will always stand by that they will never compromise. Talk to me about that. What is that for you?
Jason Levin: Don’t mislead me. Ethics, ethics, ethics. Just say what’s on your mind and be as transparent as you can and I will do the same. It’s all the different ways of just saying, “Can you please be honest with me?”
Paula Edgar: I used to attend a church and the pastor would say, “Straight talk for straight understanding.” I love it. Just keep it to the point. Come on. What do you got? Okay, the next question is this: Branding Room Only is planned standing room only and so if you’re on the stage in the room, what are people coming to hear, experience, learn about you that is your magic?
Jason Levin: I think when people come to hear me talk, one of the things is reframing what they think they already know about a particular topic. Reframe relationships. Reframe their networks. Reframe communication. Reframe. Reframe. Then action, tactical action, concrete action.
I think that there are a lot of folks that are good at 30,000 feet and give you grand ideas and grand vision, come and hear me talk and I’ll give you all the goods what you can do now, tomorrow, the day following because if it’s not concrete and if it’s not here, you’re not going to do it.
Paula Edgar: That part. Tell people how they can find you and your work and connect with you.
Jason Levin: My website is readysetlaunch.net. You can find on LinkedIn, Jason Levin, and in either of those scenarios, usually, as someone who talks about connection and reconnection, I’ll respond, I promise.
Paula Edgar: Fantastic. Jason, thank you so much for being in the Branding Room. Everybody, make sure you share this with your friends, the extroverts, the introverts, and your colleagues who you know don’t do this well, and also everybody else just needs to hear us chat and have the best time. I appreciate you spending some time with me and I’ll see you next time in the Branding Room.
Jason Levin: Thank you, Paula.
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