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.

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