The Importance of Networking for PR Pros

As public relations and communications professionals, we’re no strangers to speaking with new people. Whether it’s clients, reporters or influencers – we are constantly networking.

However, when was the last time you networked outside of the usual “people you kind of already know?” I’m talking about walking into a room and not knowing anyone. Does the thought alone make your hands sweat? If so, you aren’t alone! In fact, one in four professionals admit they don’t network at all. But let’s change that.

Networking is a vital skill for PR and communications professionals. I’m a firm believer in stepping out of your comfort zone and the minute you do – you’ll see growth. Here are four reasons why you need to find a networking event ASAP and sharpen your skills.

Job opportunities.
It may be hard to believe, but most millennials actually love to network, as there can be hundreds of job opportunities that come from it. According to Virgin Wireless, 85 percent of positions are filled through networking alone. So, if you’re unemployed or unhappy in your current position, explore various networking opportunities. You never know what they may turn into!

Helpful tip: As a recent college grad, I found my success in networking after collecting business cards and emailing those who I met the next day. It shows your connections that you are serious and interested in the conversation. With this process, you’re guaranteed to make an impression. Plus, it allows you to stick out of the crowd. Not everyone, nor even half will email their new connections the next day! 

Gaining new ideas.
It’s common for mid-level employees and professionals to enjoy networking, but the end result can sometimes look different. Instead of seeking job opportunities, they like to connect to share ideas and gain new insight. For example, you may be having a difficult time reaching an audience in a thought-provoking way. However, if we are networking with other like-minded professionals, your connections may have insight on how to better reach the audience in question. 

Meeting professionals who have the same challenges but are willing to share their solutions is a great form of encouragement. Learn to rely on your network when things get tough. Sharing information is a key role in communications careers, and I challenge you to share ideas at your next networking opportunity. 

Finding new business opportunities.
Networking can also bring upon fresh business opportunities in places you might not expect. Typically, this is where the big bang on ROI kicks in. People you meet networking can often help you to identify new market opportunities you might not have thought of previously.

For example, are you a freelancer wanting to tap into the nonprofit market? Research nonprofit networking events near you and make those connections.

Finding the right mentors.
When I was in college, I was grateful enough to be placed with a professional mentor and I truly believe through that professional relationship, I was taught valuable skills. I was able to make more connections, gain real-world knowledge and have a professional reference at hand if I ever needed it.

You’re never too young or too old for a professional mentor. The key is to find someone who can teach you and advise when things get tough. I recommend finding someone in a position higher than yours, as they often have already navigated those rough waters and paved the way.

Already have a mentor? Consider becoming one yourself. While at networking events, connect with younger professionals or students. Not only will they be thrilled to learn from someone with more experience, but those relationships can even grow into life-long friendships.

Networking is vital in our profession, and you should treat it as such. Research local groups in your area for networking opportunities. A good place to start are chambers of commerce, professional associations and more.

A few of my local Indy favorites are below!

Grab your professional blazer and practice your handshake, because you are officially ready to network!

Want to professionally network with our Dittoe PR staff? We meet with local students and professionals often to grab coffee and chat about opportunities. Check out our team page – we’d love to hear from you!

Signs a Career in PR Might Be for You

I wasn’t one of those kids who knew exactly what they wanted to do when they grew up. Some kids want to be doctors or veterinarians or teachers from the first time they’re asked that question until they graduate from college with a job lined up. What I wanted to be when I grew up had something to do with reading and writing and books – and to be a princess, of course.

Skip to college admissions time, and I just knew I wanted to be a music teacher… but you can’t be a music teacher if you aren’t accepted to the school of music. Then, I just knew I wanted to be an English teacher… until I realized I didn’t actually want to teach at all. One English literature degree, graduate certificate program, and internship later, I knew what my career was going to be: non-profit marketing.

As I write to you on a PR agency’s blog, it’s clear that non-profit marketing was indeed not my forever career. However, my education and experiences did lead me to public relations, and I can trace the breadcrumbs of my interests and skills that make PR the perfect career for me – and maybe for you, too. Here are four signs a career in PR might be for you:

1. You like to write.
Writing is a rewarding, if challenging, pastime. Ask any author on Twitter and they’ll let you know how much of a challenge it can be to get the right words on paper. When you get to tell a compelling true story, though, and it results in national media coverage, it’s hard not to be delighted to write every day. Whether it’s a press release for a client’s latest capital fund raise, a blog post for a product that’s changing kids’ lives, or even an award nomination so a client can receive deserved recognition for the amazing company culture they’ve built, the reward for touting all the amazing things our clients do far outweighs any challenges.

2. You are addicted to NPR, morning radio shows or evening news programs.
I used to have a 45-minute commute around Indy. On the fifth day in a row where I heard the same three songs and 10 commercials in a 20-minute window, I had to do something to stimulate my brain during rush hour. I found Indy’s local NPR station, WFYI, and I haven’t changed my radio since. I feel lost if I don’t know what’s going on in the world, in the US and here in Indiana.

In PR, this is a huge asset. “Newsjacking” is an opportunity we take advantage of often. If we hear an interesting story and one of our clients has a timely counterpoint to share, we can reach out to that reporter with our client’s unique viewpoint. And newsjacking doesn’t only apply to serious news. If a client has a fun event coming up and you know that your favorite morning DJ would love to attend, reach out! It could be a win-win for the client and the station – not to mention all the people who will want to check out the event when they hear about it during their own commute.

3. You’re bored by cyclical or repetitive projects.
Non-profits are ruled by the fundraising calendar cycle: Spring drive, summer event, fall drive, Giving Tuesday, holiday giving, repeat. Finding new ways to spruce up fundraisers can be a fun exercise, but once you’ve done it three, four, five times, the repetition can be draining. Hands down, my favorite thing about working at a PR agency is that no two projects look the same – even if you think they are on the surface. Creating a strategic social media plan for two clients may sound like the same project, but when one is for a hospitality client and the other is for a utilities company, those plans are going to look completely different. Having clients from multiple industries located in multiple states all with varying needs means every day at Dittoe is different, and so is every project.

4. You’re results-driven and tenacious.
I wouldn’t say I’m the most competitive person in the world – or in the Dittoe office, for that matter. But I do strive to exceed my clients’ expectations when executing projects. When a client hires Dittoe to secure coverage, I am driven to ensure they get the coverage they want, and then some. This can mean sending more emails in a day than I could have dreamed or spending time researching topics I don’t know much about. At the end of the day, though, when all that research and all those emails result in national coverage, stellar social media metrics, or a really great story, every minute is worth it.

These are by no means the only skills necessary to work in PR. If you’re entering the workforce for the first time, or looking at changing up your career, take stock of your interests in addition to your skills and education. You never know when having a favorite “All Things Considered” host or a penchant for local business newsletters might come in handy.

Five Life Skills Gained Through Public Relations

There’s no denying that my skillset has grown vastly since I began my career at Dittoe PR back in 2015. From starting as an intern to now leading our intern program, I have my all-star team of coworkers to thank for teaching me the ins and outs of public relations. I’ve learned how to be proactive, how to think like a journalist, how to navigate a PR crisis and several other areas of expertise that you can’t really learn in a classroom setting.

 

While there are several things that can be taught, other life skills that come naturally by trade. Over the last few years, I’ve been fortunate enough to gain (and grow) the following life skills through my time working in public relations:

 

Adaptability.

One of the first things I learned when I first started in the PR world is how to be f-l-e-x-i-b-l-e. Being able to adapt to other’s schedules or navigate a change of plans it imperative in our industry. I can recall on several occasions where I’ve sent something to a client for approval, only to be told that the core details have since changed. Being able to adapt quickly will not only help you grow in the fast-paced world of PR, but with our ever-changing lives.

 

Awareness.

I’ve learned how important it is to be aware of what’s going on in the world and around me. This stems back to my high school and college journalism classes, where we were required to take current events quizzes. While they were slightly annoying at the time (sorry Professor Bridge), I’ve realized how vital it is to know what’s going in our world. In our industry, I’m constantly following trends and reading up on current events, which can help with newsjacking efforts for clients.

 

Being up-to-date of current events is a life skill that you can carry throughout your life. It can expand your general knowledge and can help you make more informed decisions. Plus, knowing what’s going on in the world can help your general communication skills when it comes to networking events or chatting with your peers.

 

Confidence.

I had to grow pretty quickly in a small office setting. With a team of less than 20, I’ve been assigned tasks in the past that were new to me. I had to build my confidence and sometimes put on a “fake-it-‘til-you-make-it” face. My first in-studio segment? I obviously had never been to one, let alone attended one by myself, but I had to muster up the courage and confidence and act like it was my twentieth time going in-studio with a client. I’ve been faced with several similar instances since and will likely continue to for the rest of my life, but being thrown into these situations has helped me gain the confidence I’d probably never have if I worked in a different office setting.

 

Persistence.

In the world of PR, you have to be persistent. Emails get buried in inboxes and often go unseen by the media. Don’t give up if you haven’t heard back, and don’t be shy following up or tweaking your pitch! Sometimes it can take several follow ups before a reporter agrees to do a story. While this is a more obvious skill for our industry, this is something that has translated into other areas of my life (planning a wedding, hearing back from a consultant, etc.). If you don’t hear from someone right away, don’t give up!

 

Time management.

Deadlines. We all love them. After joining the Dittoe PR team full time, it took me some time to figure out a good time management system. There are several tasks we must complete during the day, but it’s ultimately up to us on how we divvy that time up. Giving yourself and your team internal deadlines and setting expectations on how long a project should take will help when trying to figure out how to manage your 40-hour work week. This goes outside of the office, too – setting goals for yourself, like finishing a book once a month or working out three times a week, will help give you a better understanding of how to manage your time wisely.

 

While I can go on and on about all the life skills I’ve learned while working public relations, I feel like these skills have not only helped me grow professionally, but personally, too. If you’re a student interested in an internship at Dittoe PR (and gaining some of these skills), please send your resume with references, cover letter and three diverse writing samples to vanessa [at] dittoepr.com.