Networking is arguably the most important practice in the world of public relations. Everyday we are given opportunities to grow our networks with peers, colleagues, and professionals. Organizations such as PRSSA and GrandPR are excellent ways to initiate these connections. My time with PRSSA has taught me the importance of networking and how beneficial it can be. When I joined PRSSA the thought of introducing myself to the Kelly Rossmans and Andy Hetzels of the world terrified me. I had no idea what to say or how to say it, and when I did say it; did they really care?
Today, my position as Vice President of Professional Development with PRSSA requires constant networking. Scheduling and organizing agency tours with some of Michigan’s most prominent names does not happen overnight. As part of my position, it is necessary that I make connections and continuously maintain my networks. Through this, I am able to connect PRSSA members to area professionals.

The following are my suggestions when it comes to networking:

Step 1
Initiation: When you are presented with a networking opportunity, take it! These opportunities can be in the form of mixers, agency tours, lectures, and event volunteering. Be active while you’re in attendance, standing on the sidelines watching other people shake hands won’t expand your network! Chances are, professionals are there for the same reason you are.

Make sure you have your name rehearsed (I’m not kidding, this comes from experience). It helps if you have a reason for connecting with this particular person. Are you trying to land an internship with their company, schedule a job shadow, or simply to make a connection?

Example: “Hello my name is Kelsey Manas, it’s so nice to meet you! I was considering applying for your internship this winter, would you mind telling me more about this?”

The person you are speaking with is either going to:

  1. Tell you more about it
  2. Connect you with someone who can tell you more about it
  3. Schedule a time where they can tell you more about it

Step 2
Follow-up: Congratulations! You have expanded your network. The next and most important step is to maintain this connection. Introducing yourself once and exchanging business cards does not warrant a connection.

  • Send a quick e-mail following your interaction
  • Be sure to note your name and reference the topic you discussed during your first meeting
  • If it seems appropriate, suggest a time the two of you could meet for coffee

Keep in mind the schedule of a PR practitioner; most of us are lucky to sit down for dinner once a week. If they are unable to schedule a time, don’t take it personally.

Step 3
Stay Connected: Occasionally check in with your connection following a second meeting. A great way to do this is through social media. Connect with them on the most popular platforms, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook. By interacting with them via social media, your name stays top-of-the-mind without becoming creepy or annoying.

Once you know how to network, it is easy and fun. I suggest starting with your class and PRSSA/GrandPR peers. People love to talk about themselves, so start there. You truly never know when you will need the expertise or help of someone in your network. Do not discount any connection, and don’t let any go to your head.

-Kelsey Manas
Vice President of Professional Development