Networking. It's a bit like marmite. But love it or hate it, if you want to stay on the industry radar, remain current and - at the most basic level - continue interacting with real people (if, like me, you work from the solitary confines of your home office) then, it's a must-do.
At a recent - and very enjoyable - networking event I attended, I found myself wondering why networking is often considered a necessary evil. Is it because we feel we have to sell ourselves and are inherently bad at self-promotion? Is it because we worry about walking into a room of mostly strangers or more precisely, worry about what we should be saying to these strangers? Is it because we're experiencing a kind of FOMO anxiety - we can't possibly talk to everyone in this room can we ? Or is it because we have to put ourselves out there - out of our comfort zone? And yet, the life coaches will tell you that this is where the magic happens, when we push ourselves out of the everyday.
So as all good PR and marketing experts would do, I decided it was time to conduct some market research. At my next networking event, I duly dropped in a few networking related questions to my unsuspecting subjects: "Do you come to these kind of events often?"; "What do you feel you get out of them?"; "What is your aim in attending these kinds of events?". The responses ranged from "I chose this particular event because it was being hosted at a brewery" (fair enough, I'm with you there!) to "I'd had enough of being cooped up in the office and needed to take a break" (yep, that too!) to "keeping yourself on the radar and building relationships with potential clients who don't need us all the time but might simply want to ask a question from time to time" (smart, one to adopt!). So, I think it's fair to say that we all have slightly different agendas and motivations when we select our networking platforms.
One of the conclusions I did reach is that it's a common misconception that networking is about the hard-sell. It's NOT. No-one wants to be sold to. Not surprisingly, no-one actually said that they were there to make a sale. OK, so we all swapped business cards and I even connected an accountant with a business owner who was looking for an accountant, so that was a prime example of the benefits of networking, right? But hands up, if you enjoy discovering new things or solving problems or what about the old saying "a problem shared, is a problem halved"? For me, this is the essence of networking. It's about being truthful about our business journeys, building new professional relationships through common ground. It's about letting people know who you are and building trust. It's about comparing notes and sharing your business headaches and maybe even finding a solution. Personally, I enjoy learning a bit more about the companies around me, sharing a moment and finding out what people's biggest business challenges are.
So with that in mind, here are my top takeaways to ease the pain of working a room full of strangers:
I recently helped a client realise a new blog with the aim being to showcase their team of experts and engage with new and existing customers. It got me thinking about how we can ensure our blogs are more purposeful. Rather than being somewhere you can post all your news, features and anything else that occurs to you as a way to generate content, your blog should have a clear objective, a voice suited to your audience and relevant, engaging content.
So, let’s imagine you’re looking to position yourself as an expert solutions provider in your market rather than simply a producer or supplier. A blog can certainly help you achieve this. It’s ideal for showcasing the breadth of your industry knowledge and your trend analyses to give customers market insight.
So, here are my top tips for a purposeful blog:
Now, it might seem logical that if you're looking for top-drawer PR you'd plump for an all singing-all dancing, full service agency, working with the top names. Makes sense, right? But, do you need all singing-all dancing? More to the point, is your budget up to it? If your answer to these is 'Yes' then maybe you don't need to read any further, but then again maybe you should....
More often than not, your independent PR practitioner has honed their skillset and experience at said top-notch agency and taken the leap to "do it their way" because of personal circumstances or to make a proactive lifestyle choice. Just because they're flying solo it doesn't mean that they can't add value to your business with the same creativity and professionalism. What's more, with minimal overheads - the majority work from home - they can certainly offer more bang for your buck.
Then, consider this: independents are dynamic individuals who are super-motivated to succeed. They absolutely have to be. Firstly, they're a business leader committed to succeeding. Like a leader, they are accountable: for every piece of advice they give, every release they issue and ultimately for ensuring they are delivering results that meet the client's objectives. When you choose an independent practitioner you're definitely getting 'what you see on the label' and there is nowhere to hide.
By opting for a freelancer, you can find someone who really matches your needs. There will be a freelancer with the sector specialisms and specific skillset that is the perfect fit for your business. But, hang on, what if there is something they don't have experience of? If there is one thing Indie PRs are good at it's networking - they'll know someone who can.
Still not convinced? Perhaps you're thinking "yep, but they can't possibly be up to speed with the latest knowledge and skills because they don't have access to the agency talent pool?" I'd argue: yes, actually (of course, I would!). Indies have to be even more committed to training and personal development to ensure they are relevant. With industry organisations such as the CIPR and PRCA, there are plenty of ways to plug into a continuous personal development programme. What's more, the CIPR have just announced the launch of an independent practitioners group, so the good news is we now have a dedicated support network. Add to this online marketplace platforms such as The PR Cavalry and The Work Crowd, which are akin to dating apps for clients and PRs, and you could go as far to say that 2019 will be "the Year of the Indie PR".
So what are you waiting for, go find yourself an all singing-all dancing, #trending indie PR!
#indiePR #CIPRindie #entrepreneur #publicrelations
Now admittedly this may not be new to most but as we've been out of the country for a fair few years the Harris + Hoole coffee shop at a nearby Tesco was a pleasant surprise. We're pretty used to finding the likes of Costa in supermarkets and petrol stations these days. But a coffee shop that feels artisan and offers exciting non-coffee drinks and has the right dash of the personal touch is a welcome discovery.
With a laid-back diner feel, plenty of light and air and a smiley, enthusiastic - not to mention talented - barista (or hooligan as they are known in-house), it felt like we'd arrived somewhere a bit different. As it was a girly indulge in some sweet sustenance between finishing school and going to an after-school activity, we were after something more than just a pick-me-up latte. We weren't disappointed! Refreshing pink grapefruit soda made with our old friends' MONIN's delicious pink grapefruit syrup was lip-smacking and works wonders at waking you up if you've had your caffeine quota for the day. Add to this a memorable mango smoothie and a delightful hot chocolate topped with the cutest foamy bear face you ever did see (courtesy of our talented barista) and we were fully recharged and raring to go again. (Did we forget the crumbly, goes-everywhere, melt-in-the-mouth Millionaire's Shortbread? We're trying to!)
Of course it goes without saying that here at hoot & holler we can't help take our hat off to the beautifully named Harris + Hoole. It was obviously written in the coffee foam that our paths would cross. Now, we've downloaded the app and are heading back for a free taste of the H+H coffee this week. Do holler if you ever need any PR!