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Sarah Haston: It’s Valentine’s season: Choose to love your local community

Sarah Haston • Updated Feb 13, 2018 at 1:00 PM

In my world of economic development, more often than not, I am selling this great, city, county and community. I tell people the true testament of this amazing place we are blessed to call home is the people in the community. We, as the people and how we treat each other, are among the best sales pitches I could present. 

In many ways, a healthy relationship between your brand and our community parallels that of a healthy relationship between two people. Both relationships rest on simple ideas like respect, and both should be celebrated whenever possible.

This Valentine’s Day when thinking about the connection you’ve built with your community and its members, remember these 10 truths of a healthy relationship to keep your community feeling loved and appreciated.

• Remember to say “thank you.” People generally enjoy saying or doing nice things for others, and tend to do it without expecting to be thanked for it. However, if feels great to be recognized for our efforts. When your community says something nice about you, it’s always a wonderful idea to say “thank you.”

• Celebrate their successes. This is the age-old principle of thinking of others before yourself. If you do so, then you will probably notice the great things members of your community are accomplishing. Congratulate them and share their successes with others whenever you can.

• Be a good listener. This is probably some advice we all received at least once from a parent in our lives. Great relationships are also built on the idea of give and then, perhaps, get. Invest in your community by listening and understanding their needs.

• Ask for their opinion. There probably isn’t a person alive who doesn’t like to be asked for their opinion. Collaboration on a project almost always produces a better end result. Social media has given brands an amazingly simple and effective way to engage with those who have thoughts and ideas about them and their products and services. Remember to ask your community for its opinion.

• Don’t forget the little things. Sometimes it is the smallest of gestures that can mean the most to someone. Focusing on the little things that matter can show a person that they are indeed worth your time. Look for little ways to help each community member.

• Be patient. In any relationship, making things work means working through occasional misunderstandings or frustrations with one another. Life is not supposed to be simple; if it were, it wouldn’t be all that exciting. It’s important that you take a step back and look at every challenge from the other’s point of view. Your patience and willingness to try to understand will be appreciated. Be known for your abundant patience and caring approach with your community.

• Admit your mistakes. Nobody is perfect, and holding onto your pride will never do you any favors. When you invest in building relationships within your community, members get to know your brand’s human side. You will make errors but, while members may be disappointed, your community generally has the ability and willingness to forgive. Be quick to admit your mistakes and be genuine in asking for forgiveness.

• Share a common passion. Brands and people are more than capable of setting up daily routines to get things accomplished based on things that need to be done. Finding a common passion, something you both enjoy doing and talking about, creates the strongest bonds. If you are passionate about what you do, then no doubt there are others out there that feel the same way you do. Find them, invite them to your community, and enjoy learning and sharing together.

• Show respect and gain trust. The strongest relationships are built on mutual respect and trust. But getting to that point should ideally start with you. Be willing to respect the views of your community even though you may not entirely agree with them. Community members have reasons for their views and it is up to you to understand, or at least accept, them. And, when making commitments to your community, make sure you meet or exceed their expectations. A willingness to compromise, or give and take, will help your brand demonstrate respect and earn a community’s trust.

• Keep it clean every day. Giving your commitment to keeping your community clean will show them how much you love them on a regular basis and that should be for what you strive. Apply your creative energy to think of new ways to accomplish the first nine goals. 

Most companies are still just awakening to this idea of focusing on their community, so anything you do to show appreciation for your community now can help your brand stand out in the crowd. 

Sarah Haston is economic development director in Lebanon.

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