Public Relations – By the people, for the people, through a vast network. Where there are people and voices to be heard, thoughts to be exchanged and information to be passed on, there have always been networks – from cable TV to the World Wide Web, to the oldest and most organic – the people network. Enough said. It’s clear that networking is important, but what are some guidelines that must be followed to achieve an effective level of networking as well as a truly diverse matrix of connections?
Never forget your roots
Whether it is occasionally touching base with former professors, catching up on a monthly basis with old classmates, or staying connected with friends and acquaintances working in relevant industries, laying down roots and making them stick is always a good idea. While this can be difficult on a personal level, professionally it is much easier to keep track of goings on in your larger circle.
People who have known you for a long time, and have witnessed your growth from student to novice to professional, can provide meaningful insight into your career progression, can understand you better, and also provide the edge of helping out and seeking help “for old time’s sake”. It’s not just professional tasks that can be accomplished with the help of a well-grounded network. At a juncture where you are considering a job switch, a role elevation, or even a sabbatical to study again, these are the connections that can help you make better, more prudent decisions, because more often than not, they have your best interests in mind.
Branch out and diversify
Your roots are laid down, your foundation is established, and you probably have quite a varied range of specialisations to bank on. It often happens that most people you studied with years ago have branched out and started working in other fields and industries. This is a blessing in disguise, and this should give you the impetus to continue networking in numerous directions. While advertising, marketing and sales seem like obvious industries for PR professionals to maintain connect with, take care not to stop there.
Media, entertainment, NGOs, content creation agencies – these are all realms that PR professionals can both seek support from and also give support to in terms of resources and connections. With the vast array of platforms available for communication, everyone from radio jockeys to social media experts and analysts can provide opportunities to reach out to the public. Additionally, every corporate also participates in social outreach activities through their CSR program. This often involves awareness campaigns that can be better executed in collaboration with social activist groups and NGOs. Also, the impact of such activities can be augmented with effective and sensitive press coverage, thereby connecting all the dots that surround a PR professional. Essentially, there is no end to the ideal network kitty that a PR professional can amass.
Always give back
Expanding your network does not mean simply reaching out to a huge number of people, saving their contact details, and then asking them for help when needed. Take every opportunity you get to help others. Proactively share their work on social media, recommend one connection of yours to another connection of relevance – keep in mind who does what, and when someone mentions a requirement from a certain industry, then you can be the one who helps a productive professional relationship blossom.
If you have asked someone for a favour, keep track of it and return the favour whenever possible. This does not have to be a calculated “you-scratch-my-back-I-scratch-yours” kind of situation. If anything, the principle of give-and-take is derived from the art of maintaining healthy personal relationships. This concept is built on empathy, mutual appreciation, trust-building, and network-based credibility.
Ultimately, networking shows a level of consistent pro-activeness in a PR professional. People are understandably impressed when someone whose career is based on people, actually takes the time and effort to initiate a connection with people. Working in silo is never a good idea, but in the Public Relations world, it is a sure shot way to alienate opportunities.
So, network, network, network, but not just to grow your LinkedIn following or lengthen that Excel sheet of journalist names that you have. Network so that you have a range of people to count on, and so that you can become someone others can count on.