Public Relations and Networking

If you follow this blog you’ll know that networking is not one of my favourite business activities. But as it is a necessary evil of the freelance life of a copywriter, I have to force myself to endure it now and then (but not as often as I should).PR and networking

As I sit here preparing myself for tonight’s networking event (eek!) I can’t help but think about how closely related PR and networking are.

For example, if I were meeting a member of the press to promote my business, there are certain things I would automatically do, which are also things I should be doing when networking.

Hmm, that’s sounds rather vague, so I’ll explain what I mean.

Whether you like it or not image matters in business. By image I mean not only how you look, but also how you come across to others and how you interact with them.

Listen and interact

A bad networker will talk at you and not ask any questions about you or your business. They see the event as a way of speaking to lots of people and an opportunity to get rid of loads of business cards – not very effective.

But a good networker will drive the conversation with lots of open-ended questions that will lead the conversation in the direction they want it to go. They don’t bully answers from the person they are speaking to, instead they chat, ask questions and gather vital information that lets them know whether they can help them or not (now or in the future).

They effectively start to build a relationship with them.

Eye contact

Not everyone finds it easy to maintain eye contact with someone, especially if they don’t know him or her. But glancing left and right or looking at the floor while speaking comes across as quite rude.

By maintaining eye contact (without it turning into a staring match) you’re showing interest in the other person and holding their attention. It shows engagement and attentiveness, which will encourage the other person to chat openly with you.

If you do find it challenging, practice in the mirror.

Dress to impress

Be smart, but be expressive. There’s nothing worse than being at an event dressed up like a kipper and feeling uncomfortable. A networking event doesn’t mean you have to be suited and booted. Just make sure you’re smartly presented; dress like you want to be taken seriously.

It’s about you not me

Whatever you do, don’t just talk about you.

We’ve all been to a networking event and been talked at by the person who just wants to shout about their achievements, their business and their goals – yes, the networking bore.

If you want to be well received introduce yourself, but then ask them about their business, their future plans and what interests them. Make an offer of help or refer them to someone who may be able to help them reach their goals, just don’t be pushy.

Networking and PR are very closely related. Listening, eye contact, interacting and image are all an important part of the networking process. It may not come easy, but practice makes perfect.

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