Angling for Engagement

Read our earlier post – My Point of Vue: A Personal Look at Workforce Development with Danny Patterson – for an introduction to the art of angling for more successful business engagement.


Meeting Employers in the Flow of the Economy

Successful anglers know the key to catching more fish is the proper balance of three factors: location, fly selection and presentation.

It seems simple. But taking care to properly execute each step is the difference between an angler who consistently catches more fish vs. one who may have only an occasional good day on the water.

And, it turns out, understanding these fly-fishing fundamentals can also teach us a lot about successful and proactive business engagement strategies.



An angler’s first goal is to cast their line in places where the fish they are targeting are plentiful. Finding the perfect spot on the river is not guesswork – their ability to ‘read the water’ is vital and enables an angler to pick their location and throw their fly with confidence.

In the same way, successful business engagement strategies benefit from understanding the environment companies are operating in. This knowledge helps you reach out with greater accuracy and confidence, and you won’t waste time casting into empty ponds.

Some deep-dive questions to help build your understanding of a company’s location include:

  • Where are they in the business cycle?
  • Are they experiencing financial stress? If so, is it because they are stretching to grow or struggling to stay open?
  • What is the overall economic environment in the region?
  • Are there larger industry trends that could derail their current stability?


Fly Selection

A good angler also needs to know a lot about bugs. For example, a single trout will eat from 13 major categories of insects. To properly prepare for a day casting for trout, an angler will fill their tacklebox with flies resembling the varieties that best match the location and the season, avoiding trial and error. With a carefully selected assortment of flies, they can quickly and easily respond to conditions on the water to start pulling in trout.

This practice is also true for business engagement. Matching your message to a company’s ‘location’ and season gives you the greatest chance of building a connection. Your Board may have a dozen valuable programs and resources – but the company in front of you will only be interested in one that meets their current need. By carefully tailoring your message, you increase your chances of breaking through the communication overload and getting a response.

What’s in your messaging tackle box?

  • The needs of an employer based on their place in the business cycle?
  • A variety of potential business solutions to respond to the company’s location and season?
  • Information on industry or region-specific trends to craft targeted messaging?
  • A source for business level data to understand a specific employer’s needs?



It’s all about the drift. An angler’s hard work and preparation come together when the right fly is presented and moves naturally within the pace and flow of the river: presenting an opportunity that fish can’t resist. The more the angler gets right during preparation and planning, the more successful their drift will be.

As business engagement specialists, this is where the preparation pays off. With actionable information regarding the environment you are operating in and details about the businesses you are trying to engage, you can craft a targeted message using an appropriate platform that will flow naturally and lead to a positive dialog.



Successful anglers use a strategic approach that works to catch more fish: changing their location, fly selection and presentation tactics to best align with the particular fish they are targeting.

Workforce teams can take a similar approach – building outreach and engagement strategies that consider where a company sits in the flow of the economy (location), what solutions can be offered to respond to their current need (fly selection) and how to communicate in a way that best connects with the business owner (presentation).



“Fishing by the Caledonia Dam” by Grand River Conservation Authority is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
“Trout Flies from Favorite Flies and Their Histories by Mary Orvis Marbury. Digitally enhanced from our own original 1892 Edition.” by Free Public Domain Illustrations by rawpixel is licensed under CC BY 2.0