We (public relations professionals) seem to talk a LOT about the importance of networking. Or, at least, I do. As I told my Curry College students before, and now hammer into the heads of my students at The University of Tampa, “Networking is sophisticated fishing. You find the location(s) where you have the best chance of connecting with someone who might be able to help you, and you ‘fish’ there.”
To succeed, though, you have to do some advance work. You have to do your research and figure out which “fishing holes” will be luckiest for you.
In just about every major city where I’ve lived and worked, there have been at LEAST two or three professional organizations serving the communication profession and, of those, at least two specific to public relations. And each one of those offered a wealth of information, contacts, and possibilities.
But, again, you have to do some research…usually involving attending meetings of each organization to see which one(s) “felt” the best and seemed to offer the most opportunities.
“How do I get started,” you ask? The simple answer for current students is, “Talk to your faculty adviser or your PR professor or anyone on faculty who’s also connected to the local PR community.” He or she should be able to provide you with some initial contacts.
If you’re a recent…or even a not-so-recent…grad, do some research to see which organizations are in your area. Here in the Tampa area, we have the local Tampa Bay chapter of the Public Relations Society of America, the local chapter of the Florida Public Relations Association, and the local chapter of the American Marketing Association.
My advice? Check ’em all out…you never know where you’re going to run into that person or those people who can point you in the direction of professional opportunities.
And, once you identify the organization(s) that you sense will benefit you in your search…get involved.
You don’t have to join a professional organization to attend its meetings and do your networking. Granted, you’ll usually pay a different price than members, but the end benefits will be more than worth it. And, when you do find the right organization for you, you’ll completely understand the benefits of actually joining.
Finally, I said “get involved.” That’s how I got my start both in public relations itself and in my now nearly 40 years of membership in PRSA. I attended meetings in Boston of the local PRSA chapter and the Publicity Club of New England. Both were..and continue to be…amazing networking resources, and I have made a gazillion friends over the years in both.
But PRSA really clicked and, at one of the first meetings I attended, the then-president urged attendees to volunteer for some committee positions. I raised my hand, was given a spot on a committee, and the rest is, as the saying goes, “history.” Active involvement at local chapter, wider district, and finally national levels. And I continue to this day here in the Tampa area with the Tampa Bay Chapter, PRSA. I also occasionally attend local FPRA events when the guest speaker appeals to my “gotta learn more” nature.
But you have to be proactive. You have to seek out the opportunities. You have to “fish where the fishing’s good.” And professional networking truly is “sophisticated fishing.”