It’s no secret that a huge part of being a successful public relations professional is assembling a network of mutually beneficial relationships. A beautifully written press release is only as good as the number of journalists and media pros who take notice of it. A client won’t be thrilled if she or he provides you a generous budget for a special event only to find there are only a handful of attendees. Networking isn’t just for professionals either. Aspiring PR practitioners would be wise to start building their network prior to graduation. Networking can lead you to internships, scholarships and even that first job out of college! Follow these tips to make the most out of your next networking opportunity.
Do Your Homework
Oftentimes an event’s guest speaker’s names are released prior to the affair in the form of promotional material. Take some time to read up on these individuals. A quick search on Google, Wikipedia or the speaker’s company’s web site can reveal a great deal of valuable information. While reading up about the individual, take note of her or his achievements and unique experiences. Think of questions you’d like to ask the person. This alleviates some of the pressure of making small talk and makes the chat ultimately more rewarding for you both. On top of that, you’ll be viewed as a well-informed person of substance.
Join Groups (Like PRSSA)
Getting involved in groups, such as PRSSA, offer great opportunities to meet industry movers and shakers of both today and tomorrow. Working as a team the way EMU PRSSA’s executive board does builds a unique relationship with peers. The people who are your peers today will be your colleagues tomorrow. Building a relationship with them now is prudent. Perhaps that guy or girl who graduated a couple years before you will have the scoop on an entry level position within the company of your dreams. You’ll be glad to have them in your contacts upon graduation.
A pre-professional organization such as PRSSA will also host events like the Student Development Conference, Speed Mentoring and take trips to professional settings such as PR agencies. These are invaluable opportunities to build relationships and make yourself known to the people currently running the industry.
Online groups count too! Did you know that on LinkedIn there are several groups that cater to PR students and interns?
Be An “Other-Oriented” Conversationalist
Once you’ve engaged the person you’re interested in, don’t dominate the conversation. Be inquisitive and attentive. Every sentence shouldn’t begin with, “I…” It’s OK to share your own experiences and thoughts when they are relevant, but make sure the conversation doesn’t become all about you. Don’t let your hungry eyes wander around the room, sizing up other networking opportunities either. Maintain eye contact and mind your body language.
Now that you’ve dazzled the professional you’ve been eying with you charm, wit and well-informed opinions, you must follow up. Within the next day or so, check back in with them. Send an email and follow him or her on Twitter. Tell the person how much you enjoyed meeting them and that you’d like to keep in touch. Every so often (Maybe a couple times per semester) you should check back in with her or him. Send an email briefly listing what you’ve been up to and something you’re most proud of. Ask about him or her and what exciting things may be happening with her or his company. Keep it professional and brief. This person’s schedule is probably jam-packed.
Good networking opens doors that would be otherwise closed. You may be the best candidate for a position, but what good is that if no one knows who you are? What you know may get you to the party. However, who you know will get you invited to dance. By following these tips you will be a networking superstar in no time.
VP of Community Relations