Last week, I shared some insights into meeting people during the industry events. This week, I’ll tackle something much more challenging and requiring much more boldness — meeting for, as I like to call it, networking coffees.
I’ll start with one of my favourite pieces of advice, shared in the weekly #4PRQs series. Mary Whenman said something that I entirely agree with and that is one of the most important things to remember, when willing to meet new people.
Never be afraid to DM or email somebody direct. It always surprises me how few people do this. I assume they don’t do it as they think everybody’s doing it, but they’re not. It’s also tells you a lot about somebody if they respond or not.
— Mary Whenman, @marywhenman [#4PRQs]
If you can go to event and meet people there, why not asking someone busy for their fifteen minutes? There is not much to lose, but the advantages of meeting someone in this way are mammoth — the person you’re meeting with is going to give you their full focus, and you’ll surely get remembered.
Networking coffees are definitely my favourite way of networking.
Firstly, you need to identify who you’d like to meet. I’ll repeat myself here, but do your research. If you have an interest in the particular agency, you can reach out to someone that works there. If you loved piece in the PRWeek of the particular practitioner, why don’t you meet with them?
How do you reach out to practitioners? It’s easier than it seems. We live in the age of information and social media. In my humble opinion, our generation makes a big mistake taking excessive care of their strong Snapchat game, while underestimating Twitter. This is my absolute favourite medium, because it’s never been easier to reach out to so many great people. And it’s not just me being fond of Twitter! The absolute PR luminaries can be found on this platform. In the most cases, it only takes one tweet to arrange a meeting with someone.
Our generation makes a big mistake taking excessive care of their strong Snapchat game, while underestimating Twitter.
Apart from Twitter, you can use LinkedIn too (I assume you have an account on this platform?). There is nothing wrong with the traditional email. The latter has probably been the most common way of arranging my meetings.
Remember about basics
When reaching out, do remember about basic manners. Introduce yourself and say why this person should give you their precious fifteen minutes. Being a media student is a great excuse to be reaching out to industry pros and use the fact that you are studying, and seeking advice, as an advantage. Also, make sure you know, where the meeting is and be on time!
Being a media student is a great excuse to be reaching out to industry pros.
Let me share a really embarrassing story with you. I managed to set up a coffee with an MD of leading agency and we were supposed to meet at 8. I’m still not sure why, but for some reason I assumed this would be at PM. With this in mind, I was planning to go and meet this person in the evening. In the morning, however, I found out that I made them wait and this meeting was actually at AM. I was lucky that the MD was a wonderful, understanding human being and understood my incredibly silly mistake. This misunderstanding turned out to be only a shameful moment in my career and luckily not a burnt bridge. We met the following week. Since then, I always make sure that we’re on the same page, when it comes to the timing of the meeting.
If you already are taking someone’s time, make sure you make most of it and get something more from it, other than ‘making connection’ itself. Have at least three questions prepared. Know their background and where they worked. You can also bring some value to the conversation by expressing the opinion about the campaign that practitioner’s agency executed. You can also share your insight into the academic life and your university course. But remember — this meeting is not about you. As I’ve mentioned in the previous networking guide, don’t talk — listen and learn instead.
Make sure you make most of it and get something more from it, rather than ‘making connection’ itself.
Repetition from the last week’s series again, but this is even more crucial than previously. Do follow up and do thank the person for their time. It could be tweet or email, but the most remarkable way of showing your gratefulness, is sending a thank-you note. There are not many things, in the digital age, that would be more valuable than traditional letter. This approach is also highly encouraged by Sarah Stimson.
Do follow up and do thank the person for their time.
As you may have realised, one-on-ones are an incredible way of getting to know people that really inspire you and that you look up to. I do recommend getting out of comfort zone and writing to at least one person a month. Getting insights from someone you admire is invaluable. It can really help you in understanding the industry and shaping your future career too.
You can also read the previous part of the guide, where I wrote about the industry events.
‘Networking for students’ is a three part mini-series on my blog, where I share my experience of meeting new people during the industry events, or while grabbing networking coffees. Part three is coming up in the following week.
If you have any suggestions, would like to guest post or give me a feedback, feel free to email me at kl.marcel [at] gmail.com, tweet me @marcelkl or connect with me on LinkedIn. Thanks for stopping by, have a splendid day!