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Adweek: 5 Ways to Keep Professional Relationship-Building Casual

by | Jul 15, 2021

Originally posted on Adweek by Luz Corona & Al Mannarino, July 15, 2021.


As marketers grow in their careers, their “digital” Rolodex grows extensively—LinkedIn invites start rolling in, emails are exchanged, and connections form. But after intros are made, what comes next? How does one foster meaningful professional relationships that don’t feel forced and truly connect without having to send a formal calendar invite? We asked these successful trailblazers in the industry for their tips and advice—check out what they had to say about throwing formalities out the window, meeting with folks across different interests, and more.

Be Curious, Take Notes

“I’ve tried to seek out non-traditional mentors and advocates as these relationships are often the most valuable in career advancement. They don’t necessarily have to be formal. For someone in marketing, you can build a relationship with someone in another department, like finance or engineering. Using those opportunities to learn the business and be better informed.” Lauren Sallata, CMO, Panasonic Corporation of North America

“My husband is actually a mentor here. One Saturday, I saw him working on a spreadsheet and I realized it was notes on the people in his life–their birthdates, their pets, learnings, and preferences. It wasn’t optimized in a certain way, and it wasn’t exclusive to “professional” connections… He taught me the importance of continually investing in one’s relationships and the value of random, well-intentioned ‘hellos.’” Evelyn Rusli, co-founder, president, and CMO of Yumi

Pay It Forward

“Invest in the next generation of marketers. Mentor future leaders inside and outside of your organization as well as hiring burgeoning marketers early in their career. By paying your experience forward, remember that you will continue to learn and grow as a leader yourself. I’ve learned so many valuable lessons from working directly with people that have different perspectives than I do.” Fara Howard, CMO, GoDaddy

“I have had many mentors and professional sponsors along the way in my career who have been a key to my success, and I now feel my job is to pay it forward. I believe it is my responsibility as a Latina business leader to seek out the talent in my organization and help mentor them to grow; so much onus is put on young women in the workforce today to find a mentor, but I believe the executives have just as much responsibility to go find and lift them up.” Michelle Freyre, global brand president, Clinique

Throw the Formalities Out the Window

“My relationships are almost always informal because after all: we’re all human. No matter where we are in life, we’re all going through everyday things together and I find that to be common ground. While that keeps it informal, it builds lasting relationships and trust that extend far beyond the conference room/Zoom lens, which leads to work getting done a little faster and often with more impact.” Zaileen Janmohamed, head of partnership development and innovation, LA28

“I foster relationships in an informal way. I make an effort to stay in touch with people and connect with them. Just like any relationship, professional ones need to be nurtured.” Teresa Barreira, global chief marketing and communications officer, Publicis Sapient

Stay Connected

“My relationships are very informal–social media makes it so very easy to keep in touch with a wide variety of people. I draw inspiration from my followers’ stories, suggestions, and comments.” Merian Odesho, founder, Bounce Curl

“Fostering strong professional relationships is the work you have to put into any relationship. It’s about being intentional and showing up for the other person. It’s been hard during the pandemic as a working mother to stay in touch. I have focused on texts to check-in, sharing articles they might find of interest, and sending them a thinking-of-you gift (some of my current favorites from women-owned businesses include: Partake Foods, Omsom, Tea Drops).” Mita Mallick, head of inclusion, equity and impact, Carta

Bring Them Along Your Journey

“I’ve always been lucky to have a close group of girlfriends and family who have always been supportive of me. Over time, I’ve learned the importance of surrounding yourself with people who encourage your success and help you feel comfortable with your own ambition to think big about what you can accomplish.” Leanne Fremar, chief brand officer, Chase

“Since I’ve started We Are Rosie, the female CMO community has come out in full force. These are women I’ve long admired and to see them reach back and pull me up is a truly humbling experience. I do my best to speak with them regularly, or at a minimum, send them periodic updates of how the business is doing and where we are headed. I want them to stay included in this journey that they have helped shape.” Stephanie Nadi Olson, founder and CEO, We Are Rosie