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You Only Keep the Relationships You Manage

Tuesday I talked about the importance of building and maintaining relationships…and saying thank you. Today I discuss how you can do that. As something of a disclaimer, I started my career before we had computers, cell phones and programs that automated your contact lists.

We had paper address books or address cards in a file box. When someone moved, or you wanted to write a note on the card, you just crossed the old off and wrote the new information. I still have mine as I can’t bear to throw it away even though I don’t use it anymore.

Anyway, at that time, there was a lot more that was local and fewer national/international relationships. But it remained important to keep track of the person’s particulars including:

  • Name (include maiden name)
  • Address(es)
  • Phone numbers
  • Work information
  • How you met the person; connections
  • Spouse, parents, children’s names
  • Assistants
  • Birthday and anniversary

Once you have the information, it’s important to transfer key dates to your calendar. Purchase a variety of cards (birthday, anniversary, etc.) so you can send greetings. When I have time, I address them ahead of time so they are ready to go.

The key is to find things to share. It can be anything from memories of your time together to news articles you think the other person might enjoy. When someone you know is in the news, make sure to share that too. Before we had email, I mailed these with a short note. I still like to do that occasionally today as snail mailings really stand out from the rest.

With today’s social networks there is even more information to collect about your networks, and a never ending array of ways to stay in touch. In addition to the list above, collect:

  • Email addresses (home and work)
  • Phone numbers (any and all)
  • Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Flickr, etc., contact information
  • Web addresses

The program I use, Apple’s Contacts, has a notes section. I keep track there of how I know people. It’s a nice reminder but also a way to search and contact a group of people with common interests.

With the ability to sync in the cloud, there’s almost no excuse to keeping your contacts up to date. It’s a great project when you’re on an airplane or train. Also consider programs like CardMunch that will scan business cards so you don’t have to input contacts by hand. LinkedIn and Plaxo, and  others, can also automatically sync your contacts to keep things most updated.

Keeping in touch with your network is also easier, but it’s still time consuming, takes thought, and a strategic process. Consider a blog, e-newsletter, individual emails, social network posts, et al. But mix it up with lunch and coffee meetings and handwritten cards.

Whatever you do, make sure you’re sincere, that you stand out, and keep it personal. That’s what builds the relationships.

What are some ways you manage your relationships? Do you have tactics you can share to help build them? What are some bad ideas you’ve seen?


Photo: moarplease via Flickr, CC 2.0


By |2017-04-20T00:15:51+00:00October 17th, 2013|Leadership & Networking|2 Comments

About the Author:

Mary Deming Barber, APR, Fellow PRSA, runs a strategic communications consultancy where she helps clients understand how to integrate new media into traditional communication programs. Mary has counseled clients in Tacoma, Anchorage, San Francisco, Oregon, and Colorado for nearly 40 years working with a variety of food organizations, several agencies, and as a key team member on two successful US Senate campaigns. 


  1. geoffwelch October 17, 2013 at 10:11 am - Reply

    I’m very much a quality over quantity guy. I’m wired for a relatively small number of deep relationships with people that I respect, trust, and am dying to see succeed. I also love this notion of keeping track of people who have made a difference in your life, and in whose life you have the opportunity to make a difference. I have a cadre of former employees that I refuse to let go of even though they are spread across the US. It’s like they’re my kids.
    I use my calendar religiously to track the dates that are important to the people who are important to me…and it makes me mad when Facebook reminds everyone about a birthday I took the time to catalog. 😉

  2. mdbarber October 17, 2013 at 2:31 pm - Reply

    geoffwelch I hear you on the Facebook thing. It can be annoying when you’re tracking it so closely. When we meet IRL, I’ll have to show you my “system.” It sounds like you have something similar though and the important thing is it works for you.

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