Recently though, I embarked on something new and completed a two-year, part-time stint helping to run and manage The Athena Network, a networking organisation for female entrepreneurs, It was uncanny how similar the process was to get results from networking and PR, particularly regarding people’s attitudes towards both.
Those with a long-term, positive approach would make great connections or attract press coverage while those who were impatient and took an ad hoc approach would miss out.
Here are the most important similarities:
1. Getting results requires a long-term strategy
People who expect instant results never achieve what they want to. You wouldn’t meet someone at a networking event for the first time and then expect them to give you the huge contract you’ve been waiting for (if this has actually happened to you, let me know so I can eat my words!) The same goes for getting results out of a public relations campaign.
I’ve so often heard attendees at events say, “this isn’t for me; I didn’t meet any customers/clients for my business during this event”. With PR, we hear the same thing – “can you guarantee immediate coverage for my brand?”
Both involve building gradual relationships to develop credibility and trust. When you meet someone once, it doesn’t mean they will recall you when you meet again six months later. But meet them on a regular basis and you’ll be far more likely to be referred for future business. Public relations takes the same approach with media, gradually build profiles from the ground up so clients can be remembered by the press and called on for comment or invited to panel discussions on a regular basis, not just covered for one article and never thought of again.
2. Attention to detail is a must!
With networking, try and have a system that works for you to remember people and all the details surrounding what they do, or the project they’re working on. This helps when trying to establish a firm rapport, which not only opens up the conversation, but shows you’re truly interested in them.
With the press, remember what they’ve covered recently – chances are they won’t want to cover the same content again soon. Remembering these small details sets you apart and sets the stage for the next meeting.
3. It’s all about the art of storytelling
In a networking scenario, your introduction about yourself or your company is called an elevator pitch. With the media, it’s referred to as a story angle. Either way, what you do and why you do it is greatly improved through the art of storytelling. Answering a ‘what’ question with a ‘why’ answer is the best way to do this.
For example, if someone asks what you do, instead of replying with a simple, “I’m an accountant” why not give some more context about your story?
“I work in accounting. I actually have always had a thing for numbers and maths, and found myself helping my parents with their tax returns at 16-years-old. I realised pretty soon after that was my calling, and I set up my own accounting practice five years ago.”
Isn’t that so much more memorable? People won’t usually remember every person’s profession, but they definitely remember a good story.
4. Repetition, repetition, repetition
Establishing yourself as an expert and thought leader both through networking and the media is not a one-step process. As mentioned, a long-term, regular approach goes a long way to build credibility and the catalyst for this repetition.
The more we repeat, the more our message is remembered. This repetition isn’t just about your words and message, its about being repeatedly seen and heard. If a potential client sees you once at an event, they’re unlikely to remember you. But if you happen to meet them at events on a regular basis, you’re more likely to become part of their regular circles.
The optimal outcome of regular networking is when other people start becoming your advocates. Likewise with the media, the more they see you being covered and hear your message and expertise, the more likely they are to call on you for your respected opinion and contribution.
5. Ask questions… then really listen
If you approach your networking and PR efforts with the ethos that it’s not all about you, you will achieve far greater results. There’s nothing more flattering than when someone is genuinely interested in you and wants to know more about your work. Rather than pushing your own agenda, take time to ask smart, meaningful questions. I know we’re all busy and really want to forge ahead with getting our call-to-action out there, but a good relationship needs to be cultivated genuinely and without false pretenses. Plus, you’ll notice most of the time that once you’ve taken a real interest in someone, that they are equally as likely to show the same curiosity about you and your work.
The key here is to listen. What problems are people facing with their work? Is there anything you can do or a service you can provide to help? But don’t jump in just yet with your pitch! Find a way to integrate your suggestions only after you’ve listened to their whole story. You never know what important detail you might miss.
With journalists, really listen to what stories they’re looking for and what beats they cover. There is no point in pitching a fashion story to a business journalist (most of the time.) Find out exactly what they want and frame your messaging to their needs.
6. Don’t leave them hanging!
There is no point taking two precious hours out of your day to attend an event if you’re not going to do your homework afterward. Make sure that as soon as you’re back at your desk, you follow up and thank them for the great conversation. This is your time to make suggestions, ask for a follow-up meeting or bring up a new discussion.
The same goes for interviews with the media. If you were invited to speak on the radio, make sure you or your PR representative is following up after by thanking the journalist for their time. Feel free to use this as a chance to suggest future topics or stories which you might be able to contribute on.
Make sure all those business cards you’ve been collecting are actually being used, rather than just lining a shoebox.
If you’d like to discuss the potential for public relations for your business, please contact us at [email protected]