Written by Diana Bridgett
In this impactful era of #metoo, #timesup, and #leanin, conversation that espouse the idea of collaboration over competitions remain in the spotlight. With all of Instagram posts and tweets of solidarity for women to connect and network, the work – of showing up and supporting – can often be empty in practice. Rather than being overwhelmed with invites for mentorship lunches and leadership retreats, many female PR professionals (myself included) aren’t expiring a shift toward more examples of colleagues reaching across industry lines for connection opportunities.
The truth is that no matter the stage of your career there are always new situations to work through, and the old standbys (clients expecting miracles!), plus thousands of daily challenges that only a fellow PR professional can understand.
The good news is that not everyone has the “every woman for herself mindset” or the “my network is my network” philosophy toward business. There are individuals out there who would love to give you guidance, share struggles and wins, and be a sounding board for your frustrations. If you have yet to you feel that warm embrace of industry support, I want to encourage you to take the first step and lead the charge.
1. Reignite lapsed relationships
To begin, think through any industry connections, potential mentors and colleagues that you’ve simply fallen out of touch with and reach out with a warm note inviting a catch up conversation. Think back to your college days. Is there a professor that taught public relations that you could meet with? Was there a campus event coordinator that you could reconnect with? I was apart of a campus religious organization. The student ministry had a pastoral consultant who guided us through all of our campus events who was also an event planner. I formed a lasting relationship with her which afforded me the opportunity to bounce ideas to her for my first event and be introduced to her network for future opportunities. Spend some time combing through Linkedin connections, old emails and business cards. You are bound to discover loose connections that are just waiting to be tightened up.
The good news is that not everyone has the “every woman for herself mindset” or the “my network is my network” philosophy toward business.
2. Engage with PR pros on social media
We engage on behalf of brands all day long and think about our Instagram accounts as marketing channels for prospective clients. But we often forget to see social media as an opportunity to connect with our fellow industry players. Follow other agencies and agency owners and take the time to engage with their content. If an email is available, send a short note of admiration of their work. If you’re looking for a leg up in the industry, ask if there are any volunteer positions open for a project or event. If you have a complimentary skillset or like-minded clients, reach out for collaboration opportunities. You have to be willing to put yourself out there and make the first move.
3. Show up for your network
Everyone loves a positive, supportive person; we are attracted to genuine light in one another. Be supportive of your colleagues by showing up to their events, promoting events across your own networks, sending birthday flowers, etc. Instead of trading services or asking for free advice, pay your talented friends their going rate. When you are kind to people, and willing to go the extra mile, you show how much you value the relationship. This kindness has the added benefit of increasing the likelihood of recommendations and referrals finding their way to you, even when you aren’t around.
4. Ask to Be Mentored
Mentorship isn’t only for young professionals. At all stages of professional development we can benefit from regular check-ins with those who have been where we are before. Remember, closed mouths never get fed. If you don’t ask, you will never know what the answer will be. Be brave and reach out to someone a few steps ahead of you career-wise and ask to be mentored. Many professionals see this as an honor. Ask, ask, ask! What is the worst the could happen. They could say no or they could say yes!
5. Include your network in your career growth
When I transitioned from being an entertainment writer into public relations I sent an email to the publicists I had met previously about my career change and business vision. I didn’t hear back from some, but those who did reach out provided a new opportunity to solidify our relationship. Having an existing network of PR professionals helped me to stop selling myself short and build confidence around pricing and tough client conversations.
When it comes down to it, you have a wealth of opportunity to create the kind of supportive network you’re craving, and it might come down to you taking the initiative and starting the outreach yourself.
PS: If you’re looking for a way to keep your firm in front of prospective clients and a safe place to connect with fellow agency owners, take a look at the PR Couture Council – we’d love to be a part of your support team.
Diana Bridgett is an entrepreneur, author, freelance publicist and ghostwriter. With over 10 years in the industry, she has crafted digital campaigns, strategic partnerships and connected client brands to new audiences. Outside of public relations, Diana is an author of two novels. She is a lifestyle reporter and non-fiction ghostwriter. When she is not working, you can find her spending time with her husband and three children or on a treasure hunt at her local flea market.