Part of being a successful publicist is having a killer network, so it’s critical to know how to quickly build and maintain rapport with those in and outside of the industry. Your network will become your source for under-the-radar job openings, client referrals and new projects as well as insider intel.
Gone are the days of happy hour networking events with name badges and awkward elevator pitches. Who has the time? Most often, your connections are going to come from taking advantage of any and all opportunities during your regularly-scheduled life, as well as PR industry events and conferences. It’s part of your job as a professional communicator to recognize a potential networking opportunity, interact on the fly and keep the conversation flowing.
While many PR professionals are natural connectors, it’s not an easy thing to simply walk up to someone at an event and strike up a conversation. But, practice makes perfect. My top tip is to find a place of mutual connection – whether commenting on the event that brought you together, offering a quick compliment on a great pair of shoes, or asking for help choosing an Instagram filter. Then relax and let the discussion run it’s course. Whatever you do, don’t make the mistake of going into “pitch mode” when you first meet someone. Your goal isn’t to sell yourself, or your clients, it’s about authentic engagement and connecting with likeminded professionals in your field.
Gone are the days of happy hour networking events complete with name badges and awkward elevator pitches.
The next time you are in a position to make a connection, adhere to these dos and donts:
DO share a little bit about yourself and your company with people you meet. Give them something to remember you by with a beautifully designed business card, and let them know how they might be able to help you.
DO share information about upcoming projects or launches that may be of interest. However, make sure you are sharing, not selling.
DO follow-up via email in a timely manner with any connections that you want to maintain. Move the conversation forward by sharing resources, asking for help or putting a coffee date on the calendar.
DO remember that the people you meet at events may become your future colleagues or employers, so be on your best behavior. Be positive about any work experiences you have had to date, resist the urge to trash talk a poorly executed event as a means to form an easy connection.
DON’T dominate the conversation. Networking is not a monologue. By all means be interesting, but don’t do it at the expense of being interested in what others have to say. Always aim to listen more than you speak.
DON’T share your personal life story, struggles, health issues etc with someone you have just met. Be cognizant of how much you are speaking and if you’ve strayed too far off topic, bring it back to something relevant for both parties.
DON’T immediately look up your new connections on Facebook and send them a friend request or comment on an Instagram post from 3 weeks ago. Keep it professional and connect with new acquaintances on LinkedIn instead.
DON’T stalk your new connections on social media. Even if you’re doing so in the spirit of supporting the work they do, don’t overwhelm a new relationship with an abundance of likes and comments. Be genuine and give the new relationship room to breathe
If talking to new people at events terrifies you, chances are, you just aren’t doing it enough. The only way to build your network is to get offline, show up to events and meet people. Be genuine, let the conversation unfold organically and don’t forget to follow up when you meet someone fabulous! Have fun!