Written by S. Angelique Mingo
When it comes to public relations, all sort of professional and even personal relationships can come in handy, but media relationships are essential. Agencies post openings looking for candidates who come with their own connections to editors, freelance writers, segment producers, influencers and more. If you’re building a freelance PR business, your prospective clients are hiring you in part for your media relationships and corresponding ability to create the buzz they are looking for.
As a new professional just starting out in PR, the focus no media connections can seem daunting and overwhelming. If you’re trying to build your empire but are starting at the bottom with zero connections to the media, take a deep breath and get ready. The best way to get started when you don’t have any connections is to begin building relationships before you need them. Here’s how:
1. USE SOCIAL MEDIA TO FOSTER professional RELATIONSHIPS RATHER THAN FRIENDSHIPS
For most of us, checking in on our social media platforms is something we do multiple times a day. Instead of scrolling blindly or leaving inside joke emojis on your friend’s profiles, make the most of that time and follow – and pay attention to – key industry people, particularly journalists, bloggers influencers and celebrity wranglers on Instagram and Twitter. One great way to find out the stylists behind celebrities is to see who celebs are tagging in their posts. Often they will tag members of their styling and management team.
Notice what they are posting, and when a post speaks to you, say something! Everyone loves a compliment and being genuine and consistently supportive of someone go a long way in making yourself visible. Stay away from bots and comments that don’t actually built rapport like the “love,” “hot/haute,” and “great pic” – show off your enthusiasm, humor and support with specific comments that go above and beyond a heart face emoji. Once you feel like you might be gaining some traction, introduce yourself privately with a question or compliment, thereby leading to the next phase of relationship from there.
2. TAKE ADVANTAGE OF YOUR ALUMNI NETWORK.
When we think of alumni associations, we tend to think of the career services office or fundraising efforts while we are still dealing with student loans. However, the people you went to school with and those who graduated before or after you just might be the golden tick to create the mutual connection that can ultimately move your career forward.
The commonality of an alma mater is a great way to meet fellow grads that may be working in an area of your interest. This is an often-overlooked resource of professional contacts may be proof of the six degrees of separation to that next key connection. Hop onto the alumni section of your school’s website and take a look at networking events, directories, even professional matchmaking services.
3. CONNECT OFFLINE TO PUT A FACE TO A NAME
Don’t underestimate the value of face-to-face connections and the value of taking off your cozy pants and getting dressed up for an industry event. Journalists, stylists and influencers are just like you, meaning they are ten times more likely to respond to messages from someone they have met personally, a name they recognize. Building real-world connections through networking events, conferences, boutique openings and seminars is arguably your most valuable tool in building connections and well deserving of your time.
The Chambers of Commerce will typically host monthly events where members and prospective members can meet-and-greet local business owners. Websites such as Eventbrite, Meetup.com and Facebook all have running lists of local and national events to attend – show you’re interested in one and you’re likely to be shown other related events as well.
4. Be actively involved in something you love
Of course the professional hustle takes up considerable time, but oftentimes valuable professional alliances are struck not inside a structured networking meeting, but through people who meet one another through an unrelated circumstance, like a shared hobby. This approach has the dual benefit of taking the pressure off forced meet and greets and amps up your own happiness and work-life balance while still cultivating your network. Stash some business cards in your bag just in case!
Don’t underestimate the value of face-to-face connections. Journalists, stylists and influencers are just like you, meaning they are ten times more likely to respond to messages from people they can put a face to a name
5. FIND A professional MENTOR.
Mentors are the X factor. Not only have they navigated through the waters you are now entering but they also have connections that can open doors. They have spent years nurturing their relationships so now they can introduce you the right people to help build your network. From taking you as their plus-one to VIP events, to giving you the heads up on trending after-work meeting spot, a mentor is invaluable. When approaching a potential mentor, remember that this relationship is a two-way street wherein both parties are adding value. What might you offer in terms of skills or perspective to someone a few years down the road professionally from where you stand today?
Relationships are living entities and as a PR professionals part of your ongoing work is to nurture and keep up with your contacts. Using the most relevant form of communication for both of you – be it Instagram or Linkedin, make a habit of popping in to see what’s new and how you can help.
About S. Angelique
S. Angelique Mingo is the founder and creative director at Sinala Noir, a New York-based boutique fashion and lifestyle communications agency that specializes in creative public relations and brand messaging for emerging brands.