PR Smarts Article: Get Out of the Office: The PR Value of Networking

Is social networking replacing in-person business networking?  Hardly; they are, in fact, complements. An introduction that includes a handshake and eye-to-eye contact makes a big impression. People meet online and schedule face-to-face meetings. Or they meet at events and join each others' social networks.

Face-to-face networking remains one of the most important elements your company's PR strategy and your executive and personal growth. It's also is a great source of fresh ideas and a productive break from your
daily routine. But where do you find the time to attend events? You don't. You make the time. Here's

1) Know the terrain and be picky.  Find out which events your peers, prospects and competitors attend and put those dates on your calendar. If you are in the DC area, for example, see the Network DC! links in the right-hand column. These organizations host multiple events every month.

2) Get everyone on your team into the habit of business networking. Which good organizations do staff members already belong to? Be more active in them. Or, divide the team into groups and join 3-4 of the best organizations. Join committees, for example.  Go for quality connections over quantity.

3) If you go to an event with co-workers, split up. Get out of your comfort zone. Networking --- despite the drinks and food -- is work.

4) Bring a compelling message. Your "elevator speech" at events should reflect benefits, not features, of hiring your organization.  It should make clear "Here is what I can do for you."

5) Make sure your business card says exactly what you and your organization do. A business card with only a logo, company name, title and contact information is useless. Add some version of your elevator speech to the front of the card.

6) Follow up with good connections by phone or email within a couple of days while their memory of the event is still fresh. The first time you then see the person in his or her office to talk business, it will, in fact, be your second meeting.

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