This is a guest post from Solo PR Pro Premium Member, Janet L Falk of Falk Communications and Research. A version of this article first appeared on Bulldog Reporter. The majority of solo PR Pros gain business through referrals, so it is vital to build and nurture strong networks. Janet's post offers practical, timeless tips on how to succeed at your next networking event.
Most discussions of networking focus on how to act at the event and follow-up afterwards. With this pre-event marketing approach, you will start your networking BEFORE you go to the event.
Instead of walking into a room filled with strangers, this campaign helps you connect with the movers and shakers of the organization holding the event and therefore maximizes your networking success.
After you register for the networking event, visit the website of the industry or professional organization that is the host. Create a list of the top dogs, namely the officers, board members and committee chairs, including their email addresses. If the email is not provided, look up their LinkedIn profile; it is probably in the Contact Info tab under the photograph.
A week or so before the event, write an introductory email to each one with the subject line: “Will you attend the NETWORKING COCKTAIL on OCTOBER 3?” Describe your current situation briefly and note your work with a related business, along these lines:
Your name came to my attention as an officer/committee chair of the Organization.
I am a Public Relations professional who specializes in helping ____.
Recently, I advised Relevant Company on various projects in Specific Area of Mutual Interest. I wish to learn more about the Host Organization and how, if I become a member, I might get involved in your activities.
Perhaps we can chat at the Event, where I’m excited to meet you and your colleagues.
The leaders of the organization will be delighted to hear from you. At least half of them will write you back with a big welcome. Why? Every professional group needs to bring in new members, especially people who offer specialized expertise, like Public Relations, that their current members may need. Your email inspires confidence that you are a professional worth welcoming into the fold. It establishes common ground on which to build a future relationship.
Now it is your turn to reply warmly to them. In your note, indicate that you will wear a distinctive article of clothing so it will be easy for you both to spot each other in a crowded room. Perhaps a woman wears a red jacket and a man has a green tie. This email exchange transforms the contact into a member of your Welcoming Committee and they are prepared to seek you out at the event.
On the day of the event, review the names and LinkedIn profiles of the people you contacted. Take notes on your areas of mutual interest, to ensure a more meaningful conversation. This list of annotated names is your game plan.
When you arrive, ask the person at the registration desk to point out one or two of the people on your list. Be on the look-out for these contacts. When speaking with them, ask about the industry or professional organization itself. Learn why they became a member. Ask what they most enjoy about the group. Find out how they contributed to the group’s success. Let them promote the organization and recruit you. Only discuss yourself and your expertise in passing. As the conversation flows freely, and you collect their business cards, take out your list and ask to meet some of the others you contacted.
This introduction will enhance the reputation of your new contact in the other officer’s eyes. Imagine the group’s president thinking, “That Mary, she’s on the ball, bringing in new members!” Check the names on your list and endeavor to meet as many of the officers and committee chairs as possible.
After the event, send a follow-up email and a custom LinkedIn connection request. Note what a pleasure it was to meet in person after your email correspondence. Say how much you enjoyed learning about the organization. Did you become a member? Then, tell them they persuaded you to join. Mention that you look forward to seeing them at future events.
Was there anyone on the list whom you did not meet, because they were talking with others or did not attend? Write to them again, say that you are a new member and you want to get involved in the group. Invite them to a one-on-one coffee chat.
With this pre-event marketing campaign, you become the focus of attention of the organization’s movers and shakers. You demonstrate your interests align with theirs. You share an agenda of the benefits of membership and the group’s future activities. Thanks to that common ground, you enhance your networking success and perhaps you, too, will become one of their top dogs.
How do you network for success? Share in the comments below or on social media using @solopr. For more networking insights, join the Solo PR Pro webinar, “Three Lessons to Improve Your Networking Success,” on Thursday, April 5 at 1 PM EDT. You can register here.
Most people only associate PR with damage control or crisis management, so I really appreciate how the importance of networking is stressed in this post. Public relations can be reactive, but it is equally as important to be proactive as well. Strategy, planning, and preparation are significant components of PR, as evident in this post. I also appreciate how this discusses the importance of distinguishing yourself and being thorough in a respectful, motivated way. Inside or outside of the corporate world, most would probably believe that networking starts during or after the event, but this correctly points out that networking starts way before the event. With thorough, tailored preparation and research, you as a PR practitioner can show that you share common ground with the person you are networking with. After the initial meeting, I appreciate how you emphasized that the follow-up component is as equally important as any other component in the networking process. Networking is definitely a vital tool for PR, and this post shows that it comes with exhaustive preparation and practice.
Bethany Johnson, WKU student