Networking: It’s not just an online thing

This evening, I had the pleasure of speaking to The University of Southern Mississippi’s chapter of  the Public Relations Student Society of America. The coordinating professor had the foresight to plan for the arrival of spring conferences, and thought it appropriate for the group to discuss preparing for these events. She asked me to speak on networking – something that I’ve been involved in as long as I’ve been in the profession. By no means am I an expert, but when it comes to the basic what-to-do and what-not-to-do, I can speak for days.

Hello my name is AnxietyHere’s a brief recap of what we discussed:

  • It’s okay to be nervous about jumping into a networking event. Many people are. It’s probably right up there with public speaking with things that make people anxious.
  • Remember, this is work, not a party. Treat it appropriately.

Do this:

  • Set goals before the event. How many people do you want to meet? Is there anyone specific? In PR we (should) always set goals before approaching a project – networking is no different.
  • Have plenty of business cards. Even if you’re a student. These days business cards are so easy to create and pretty inexpensive – there’s no reason really not to have one. Check out VistaPrint, tinyprints, Minted, and many more.
  • Have your elevator pitch prepared. While you’re likely not going to walk up to someone and pitch them, you need to be prepared for a good, full introduction.
      • Include something unique about yourself – a conversation starter. I like to run marathons/half marathons, I work full time and I’m a student – these are all things that I can include in my elevator pitch that could help drive conversation.
  • Today at an event, I got my first limp fish handshake. I didn’t realize how awful it was. Please, for everyone’s sake, practice your handshake.
  • When you’re talking with someone, ask questions. People like to talk about themselves, and you could possibly learn something about the person that you hadn’t considered asking.
      • Be sure to LISTEN!!!
      • You don’t know anyone at the event you’re going to? Hint: You’re probably not the only one. Try to find others who are in your same situation. You can find them doing the same bad habits you’re doing or good habits you’re attempting to pick up.
  • After the event, make notes on the business cards you collected from those you met. Follow-up with those connections; this is a great opportunity to incorporate social media into your networking. LinkedIn is a powerful tool (check out this previous blog post) – use it!

Don’t do this:

  • Try to wing it. Preparation is paramount. Some people just naturally succeed at everything when they wing it. I haven’t met that person yet, but I’m sure they’re out there.
  • Treat the food/beverage like an all you can eat/drink buffet. In addition to looking like a glutton, eating and drinking while networking is really difficult. You only have two hands. Use them wisely.
  • Stick with only people you know. You went to a networking event to meet other people. If you wanted to chit-chat with your friends, you shouldn’t have wasted your time/money/effort into going to a networking event.
  • Play on your phone or read the event program the whole time. They’re easy crutches when you’re feeling anxious about getting out and meeting people. Don’t use them. Hint: If you see other people doing this, these might be the other people like you that you can approach like mentioned above. 

Additional Thoughts:

  • Name tag goes on your right side.
  • Check out this Ted Talk by Amy Cuddy on body language and Power Poses. In fact, check out all the Life Hacks Ted Talks – they’re very interesting (a collection available on Netflix).
  • If you’ve met someone before, but they don’t remember you, be kind, but remind them of where you met before. On the other hand, if you don’t remember someone’s name, be honest. Apologize for your forgetfulness, and try not to do it more than once.
  • Volunteer to help out at the event. It’s a great way to meet people and gives you a task to ease your nerves.
  • Find a wingman. But that wingman can’t be equally anxious about networking – they need to be the kind of person that can help get you out of your shell.

Remember, practice makes perfect. If you’re new to the networking world, fear not, it will get easier will time. This is just a small collection of thoughts, and by no means a comprehensive list. Every person is different. Every situation is different. Get out there, give it a shot, and let me know about your experiences.

Advertisements

ATTENTION PR JOB SEEKERS

Are you looking for a job in public relations in the great state of Mississippi? The Public Relations Association of Mississippi now has a job bank for job listings in public relations right here in Mississippi! They may have had this before, but I just found out about it and wanted to make sure you knew too.

Check out the link here, scope out the jobs and get your application materials ready!

Need someone to review your resume or portfolio? As someone who has hired recent grads, I’ll be more than happy to help out. Just send me a note!

Know of any other great resources? I’d love to hear about them to share with everyone as well.

Juggling it all

When you work in public relations, you find yourself getting involved in everything. Part of the job is being social and staying connected with your community. Even when you’re off the clock. At times, it can be overwhelming, but everyone has their tricks to making it work. Me, I’m learning how to say no.

Just last week, I had to quit one of my commitments. I’m not a quitter, and I hated to quit, but it was time. I have served on my neighborhood association board of directors for four years. As the secretary, I was responsible for keeping meeting minutes, distributing the quarterly e-newsletter, managing the website and just overall keeping things organized. Since I joined that board, I’ve gotten involved in many more other groups, committees and projects. When I started to get stressed out, I knew it was time for something to go – but how do you decide?

While serving on my neighborhood board of directors was good for my neighborhood and in turn good for me, it wasn’t directly related to my career path. And that’s what mattered. When I first started out in my professional career, I was joining any and every group that would take me. But as I began to find my niche and get more involved, it became time to be selective. Since dropping the neighborhood board (and still feeling guilty about it), I’ve felt a lot less stressed. Of course I gave them due notice, and finished up the projects that were on my plate.

It’s okay to say no. It’s okay to quit.

In public relations, you’re going to find yourself juggling a lot of different tasks. At first, pick up all the balls and throw them around in the air. Enjoy the excitement, the business, the fun. But after a while, elect to juggle only those things that truly matter to you, and you’ll find yourself successfully juggling it all.

How Twitter Chats can build your Twitter network

Have you participated in a Twitter Chat? Personally, being fairly new to the Twitter game (at least taking it seriously), I was a bit nervous to jump into one for the first time. Do you have to be invited? Do you announce your presence? Do you just respond at will? What if they think my answers are dumb? What if I can’t keep up? What if I commit a social media faux pas I didn’t even realize existed?

Fear not. You’re not alone. And Twitter Chats aren’t that threatening.

I recently found #RaganSocial – a Twitter Chat that meets every Wednesday at 3pm CST to discuss public relations and social media. The first time I participated I barely joined in the conversation. I didn’t realize that they posted the Twitter Chat questions ahead of the meeting time, so I had no idea what the discussion was going to be and everything went by so fast. The second time I was a little wiser and read the questions ahead of time with some answers in mind. Everyone was surprisingly welcoming, especially the moderator @SamHosenkamp, it almost felt like a face-to-face meeting. The third time, I was Twitter Chatting like a pro – joining in conversations, adding to the content – it was great!

And then, like magic, my Twitter network began to expand. Okay, maybe not like magic, but with each Twitter Chat I gain 10 or so new connections. And they’re quality connections too, because they’re in my line of work and they’re actively on Twitter, so their feeds are providing quality content to my Twitter feed.

Even though I’m new to Twitter Chats, I wanted to share some tips for some fellow newbies to get you started:

  • Find Twitter Chats that are relevant to you. A quick Google search will help guide you, but once you start following other people who share similar interests, you can catch them in the middle of a Twitter Chat and check it out.
  • If it’s a weekly Twitter Chat, spend the first week just observing. You’ll learn the nuances of the specific chat. (It’s okay to stalk, no one knows.)
  • See if they post the questions ahead of time, so you’ll know what to expect.
  • Have two windows open, one to view the Twitter Chat, and one to tweet. This way, you won’t have to ‘step away’ from the conversation to write your tweet
  • Be sure your feed is showing “All Tweets” not just “Top Tweets” – you don’t want to miss out on something.
  • Just before the chat starts, introduce yourself and let them know it’s your first chat. If it’s anything like Ragan Social, they’ll welcome you with open arms.
  • Share and reply to other people’s tweets. It’s a social network, but a Twitter Chat is even more intense socializing. You’re not on an island here.
  • When the moderator poses a question (Q1:) reply with an answer (A1:) – please don’t repeat Q1, it’s confusing and makes you look like a newbie.
  • After the Twitter Chat, follow those people who connected with you, or who provided quality input into the conversation. Now is your time to jump on that connection, don’t miss your window of opportunity. This is the key takeaway here – don’t forget this step!

So there you have it. Twitter Chats aren’t as scary as they may seem. Yes, it is very fast-paced, but you’ll be alright. I hope to see you in a Ragan Social one week!

Ted Talks for PR Pros

I love that you can find anything on the internet. Like, really, anything. And it’s pretty simple too.

I also have a newfound love for Ted Talks. The combination of a good speech with compelling imagery just intrigues me. 

Put these two things together, and I figured there had to be some Ted Talks on PR. A quick Google search and I found lots of great lists, including this great release that shares a collection of Ted Talks and how they relate to the PR World. (And this one, and this one). If you don’t feel like watching all of them, I definitely recommend How to Start a Movement. It’s entertaining, informative and inspiring.

Are there any Ted Talks that you’d recommend for us PR Pros? I’d love to watch them!

PR Pros are not ‘People Pleasers’

I heard once that one of the worst things someone could say in an interview for a job in public relations was “I just like working with people!” Unfortunately, I’m pretty sure I was guilty of saying this at one time.

While I pondered why this was such a horrid statement to make, I realized that it’s not so much because it sounds immature, it’s because it is another stereotype that continues to hold the field of public relations back. Working in public relations is so much more than just working with people, or doing things that make people happy.

So now I’ve jumped on the boat of shaming the ‘people pleasers’ who want to work in PR. It may be a true statement – you may truly love working with people – but don’t let that be your “Why I want to work in PR.” More fitting reasons may be that you enjoy problem solving, like developing creative ways to reach your publics, or just plain enjoy coming up with a strategic plan and implementing and evaluating it.

Of course, this problem could easily be nipped in the bud at the beginning of a student’s college career in public relations. I don’t recall ever being asked why I wanted to be in PR when I first started school, and maybe its time professors started asking. By starting this conversation at the beginning of a student’s work, they’ll be better educated on the true work of public relations professionals, and what role they can play in advancing the field.

What do Marathons and Public Relations have in Common?

What in the world could running 26.2 miles have to do with a career in public relations? I’ve noticed there are quite a few correlations. Here are just a few notable ones I’d like to address:

You Have to Train
I’m sure there are those crazy athletic-types who could wake up one morning and decide to just get up and run 26.2 miles. For the rest of us normal (ha!) people, training for a marathon is a long, arduous process. It took me a year to get there, and that was only completing the race, not posting any respectable finishing times.

While public relations sometimes receives a bad rap for being the young, right-out-of-school, people-pleasing, sorority-stereotypes, true PR professionals have received mountains of training. Aside from a traditional higher education, public relations professionals seek accreditation or certifications, consistently attend workshops and read new literature, study the news and collaborate with other professionals. You train hard to be successful in public relations – because if you don’t, you’ll get left in someone else’s dust.

If it were easy, everyone would do it
Marathons are hard work. I haven’t yet met anyone who has said otherwise. It’s physically exhausting and emotionally draining.

PR, too, can be a physical and emotional job. The field is different for everyone, but there are days I’ve gotten home after a long day and all I wanted to do was go to sleep. Many people can say that want to get in PR, but those who are cut out for the hard work are the ones who truly succeed.

You’ll face obstacles that seem unsurmountable
This past race I completed was one of the toughest for me. I had pain in my right knee about six weeks leading up to the race (and of course it began hurting at mile 1 on race day), and about 6 miles into the race I had pain in my left ankle. Each step was a struggle that I thought would never end. Many times I wanted to utter the words to my husband (who was running with me) ‘just leave me behind,’ but I never gave up. And I finished in my fastest time yet.

Be it an unexpected crisis, unrealistic expectations from your boss, coworkers who won’t get on board, a media outlet you just can’t get on the same page with – there are plenty of obstacles you’ll face in public relations. It’s all about how you handle the struggle. Don’t give up – this too shall pass. With the right preparation (see previous note on training), you can make it past this struggle. (See next note)

You get to celebrate your successes
There is nothing like crossing the finish line of a race. That feeling of knowing that all of your hard work has paid off – you made it – and it cannot be taken away from you.

Not all public relations successes get a big fanfare at the end like a race, but you know when you’ve completed a job well done. An event well-attended and well-received, a press conference that went just as planned, a boss overjoyed with your work, a presentation that went above-par. That same feeling of success cannot be changed, and you have a moment (albeit brief) where you get to kick up your feet, smile, and enjoy the moment.

Physically exhausted, emotionally drained, I’m sweaty, hungry, uncomfortable, and all I want to do is take off my shoes and kick up my feet. Did I just finish a marathon or a day in public relations?

Rock N Roll NOLA, Feb. 2014

Pine Belt PRAM Spark Award of Excellence, Jan. 2014

Note: Have you ever noticed that some of the great public relations professionals around you are physically active? It could be a coincidence, but I think there’s some merit to this correlation.