One question we’re asked time and time again in this industry is why we chose to go into the PR field. Every person’s answer tends to be as unique as the individual. Personally, one of my biggest reasons is the forming of relationships.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s not just about who you know. PR requires a lot more than that. However, a great deal of this industry involves making professional connections.
A few years ago, the idea of networking terrified me. I’ll admit it can still make me feel nervous or intimidated once in a while. I abide by the two ‘P’s: practice and preparation.
Practice makes perfect. I’ll never forget a few of my beginner networking attempts. Were people nice to me? Yes. Did they hire me? No. Should they have hired me? Oh, definitely not. And that’s okay. I gained experience and tested the PR waters by attending internship fairs and talking to professionals at PRSSA meetings.
Research, Research, Research
If you know you’re meeting with professionals, but don’t know much about them, find out what you can. Check out their LinkedIn pages. Where did they go to school? What former companies did they work for? What are their professional interests? Visit their organization’s website. What clients do they work for? What characteristics set them apart? If you can mention something specific or ask a relevant question about their brand, odds are you’ll impress them. Once you’ve established some knowledge, think about how it might relate to you. This will help when you converse.
It’s all in the handshake
Never underestimate the power of a confident greeting. Look a professional in the eyes with a smile and provide a firm handshake. Flimsy handshakes suggest you’re not ready to meet and greet. Avoid those.
Nail your Elevator Speech
An elevator speech is your go-to when first meeting someone. Hypothetically, imagine yourself walking into an elevator and finding the CEO of your favorite company standing inside. You want to introduce yourself and refrain from gaping at the person. So what do you say? Try this…
- Hi my name is….
- I’m a (insert freshman/sophomore/junior/senior) PR major at Kent State
- I currently work at… OR
- I’m really interested in…
Make small talk relevant
You may only have a minute to catch a professional’s attention. Think with a clear, level-head. Remember you’re allowed to pause for a moment to gather your thoughts before answering questions. Avoid awkward moments. You want to be respectful, but not so professional that you’re boring. Practice comes into play in this part of networking. It may come very easy, or you may need a few trial runs, but you’ll get there.
Old School is timeless
Any PR professional will tell you thank you notes are important. Whether it’s an after an interview, a meeting, or they’ve done a favor for you, show your gratitude. If you can hand-write your appreciation and send it via snail-mail, it generates a good impression. Avoid email in this case, unless it’s your only option.
Networking leads to opportunities. When you connect with others, regardless of the industry, a window of opportunity presents itself. While it can be scary, it gets easier over time. Just remember to practice and prepare.