Starting out in the PR industry can feel like quite an alienating experience. A myriad of journalists, experts and potential clients are out there, tantalisingly out of reach. The names seem unfamiliar and the sheer quantity of jargon is weighing you down; you are ready to communicate, but you don’t know where to start.
Fear not! With time and lots of reading, the mists of incomprehension will clear and you will be able to start recognising target publications and journalists as well as key spokespeople and contacts. However, no matter how long ago you embarked upon your PR journey, there is no better way to understand your industry, understand the industries of your clients, and get in front of those elusive journalists than by old fashioned-networking.
Networking can take many forms. Whether you jump in at the deep end and start attending social trade events, become recognised at Silicon Roundabout meet-ups or just take journalists out for lunch, the benefits will quickly reveal themselves.
Done properly, networking will open doors with journalists, transforming pitches from uncomfortable cold calling to a collaborative, rewarding and successful process and it can consolidate burgeoning new business relationships. However, you are representing your agency, your clients and yourself. You are working. There is an enormous potential to misjudge that fine networking equilibrium which must span friendly conversation and getting what you want. No-one wants to spend an hour of their lives listening to why you think your client’s great. Try to keep ‘business talk’ to the last 10% of the conversation and, for the rest of the time, be interesting and interested.
The art of networking comes with practice. And all journalists are different – some will inevitably prefer to communicate via email alone. But taking the time to develop relationships based upon conversations will radically improve your performance and results at work. Slowly but surely, journalists will start replying to your emails, you will start using the alien language your AD uses and, eventually, you will get some purchase on the world of media relations.
As a starting point, give yourself achievable monthly targets to work towards. If you aim to have lunch with one relevant contact and attend one industry trade event a month then your little black book of contacts will blossom whilst still leaving time for the rest of your busy schedule.
As you meet interesting people and learn about interesting companies, the journey from confusion to confidence can be incredibly rewarding. Just don’t overdo it at the free bar…