Networking + Networking = Relationship Building

By: Kate Walter

 

For the past year, the Public Relations Society of America has been engaged in an effort to modernize the definition of public relations. Through opinion polls and other research the organization officially updated the definition to read, “Public relations is a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics.” Although building and facilitating long-term relationships is the ultimate goal for a business to achieve their bottom line interests, many organizations ask, “How do I accomplish this?”

There are numerous strategies and tactics for relationship building – one of the mostwidespread and effective is networking. Despite the importance of social media, advertising, branding, etc. there is still the underlying, old school method of face time. If someone likes your business outlook or your personality, then most often they will want to know more about your product or service. Of course, the next question becomes, “How do I network effectively?” Although there are many schools of thought on this, I believe individuals should take their cue from public relations and consider the PRSA definition of mutually beneficial relationships. Therefore, the core foundation of effective networking should focus more on relationship building than on networking for networking sake.

 


For example, we have all been to those after hour meetings where you enter a room of 200 people and are immediately accosted by someone who flings their business card at you, tells you briefly about what they do and then saunters off after their next victim. This person is on a mission. They feel that they must hand out as many business cards as possible, because quantity over quality is what counts. However, if you were on the receiving end of this onslaught, most likely you will never remember this person and/or will never use their product or service.
There are always exceptions, but taking the time to talk to someone, to truly listen and engage in conversation is invaluable. Instead of spreading yourself thin, focus on one or two people at each meeting whom you have not spoken to before. You will be remembered and others will talk about how you took the time to get to know them and word will spread. The person you speak with may become a client. He may refer business to you. She may serve as your word-of-mouth marketing team. He or she might become one of your closest friends. Leave yourself open to possibilities and don’t focus solely on your destination. Focus instead on building lasting and rewarding relationships.

Father’s Day from a PR Perspective: Four Things I Learned from my Dad

Although my earliest career goals included teacher, veterinarian and newspaper reporter (like Lois Lane), looking back on it now, I was surely in training to be a Public Relations professional.  Some of that training included learning how to speak like an adult from the time I was very small, introducing people to each other when I thought it would be mutually beneficial, and finding the positive side of almost every situation.  With Father’s Day approaching,  I have to thank my Dad for teaching me four very important things that have remained essential to my professional life – I hope these nuggets will help you in yours!

 


 


1. Read, read, read!  I was fortunate to be on the receiving end of the bedtime story from day one.  That led to early reading and a never-ending reading list provided by both my parents .  They had an excellent repertoire that included the classics, great literature, history, current events and popular culture.  I followed their  lead, and still do, reading anything I can get my eyes on.  Of course, this has helped in my career- not only reading public relations-related books and journals, but extending to novels and poetry that inspire creativity. You never know what you will pick up while you are reading.

 2. Write it down! My Dad is one of the greatest unknown writers of all time.  No, he hasn’t published the Great American Novel or even the Great American short story, but he has written consistently and well his entire life.  Letters to the editor, letters to his children and grandchildren, articles in his community newspaper — all evoking deep emotions, strong opinions or family stories he prefers to write about rather than share out loud.  Yes, he’s a quiet person – but you can learn a lot from his writings.  So whether it’s a hereditary trait or something learned, writing well has always been a priority in my world.  Even though texting and tweeting are part of our everyday lives, remember to keep writing in full sentences as well.

 

3. Listen! Most of us in the field of public relations love to talk…a lot.  There’s always so much going on, so much to share, it’s hard to contain ourselves.  My Dad has always been very quiet, but a really good listener – I know that because he can repeat conversations we had 30 years ago.  I have learned from him that it’s good to let the other person talk sometimes and to really hear what they are saying.  This is especially important with our clients because we must listen intently to grasp the true meaning of their vision  – and we have to understand that vision in order to communicate it to others.  So this one is really important.

 

 

4. Embrace a strong work ethic! In my Dad’s day he came out of the army and worked for the same company for 45 years, retiring with the gold watch and everything that goes with it.  I have had three positions over the span of my career and I have read that many people can expect to change jobs an estimated seven times. No matter what your tenure is, I have learned from my Dad to perform beyond expectations, to respect deadlines and to follow up and follow through.

 

As you reflect on Father’s Day, I hope you have learned as much from your Dad as I have from mine.  Please write in and let us know what you’ve learned. Happy Father’s Day!