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    Bridging the Gap

    We launched our new business with an All-Star 2020 live event introducing a popular fitness and apparel brand. We brought all our previous marketing experience to bear on creating some of those memorable in-person moments that help establish a lasting connection with people.

    That successful three-day event had us looking forward to a bright future. And then COVID-19 essentially shut everything down. So, like everyone else, we had to find new ways to reach and engage people, at a distance.

    More than a year later, as the number of coronavirus cases drops and vaccines are more widely available, some things are starting to return to the way they were pre-pandemic. But not everything in either our business lives or our personal lives will do so. Virtual and digital interaction will remain a more significant part of the way we relate, so it’s important to know how to do so well, at business and at home.

    Here’s some of what we have learned is important for meaningful connecting at a distance:
    Educate yourself. We knew we had to pivot quickly, and that we didn’t have all the skills that we needed in the area of technology. So we committed time and money to learning what we didn’t know, and finding people who had the skills we didn’t have.
    Equip yourself. You need to invest in some tools that will help reduce the “virtual gap.” Buy a decent camera, purchase a light that improves your appearance, consider getting some kind of backdrop if you don’t have a good location from which to Zoom.
    Express yourself. Make a little effort with your appearance. Yes, quarantine relaxed the rules of appearance, but there’s a difference between being casual and looking offhand. Presenting yourself well tells other people they matter.
    Extend your reach. One of the positive consequences of going to online events is that you are no longer limited by the size of a physical venue; you can invite as many people as you want. Take advantage of the opportunity.
    Establish a shared moment. You may not be able to enjoy the same physical space, but you can share an authentic experience. If it’s a celebration of some kind, ship everyone a box that’s filled with related goodies they all get to open at the same time.
    Express your appreciation. Take a moment to follow up and thank people for their participation. You are telling them that they are important to you. And don’t underestimate the power of a short handwritten note—it’s a small token of your physical presence.

    We may not always be able to be there in person, but we can still make a real and lasting connection.

    Terrance Pratt and Nicole Marie Pittmon are cofounders of creative marketing agency Culture Loupe, specializing in immersive brand activations. Previous clients include BET Networks, Buick, Google, Maker’s Mark, the Obama Foundation, Starcom, and Xfinity.

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