After working in public relations and marketing for many years, I’ve come to realize that relationship building is not just a handy skill or a tool in your PR toolkit that’s cultivated for the brands and companies you represent. Although it’s a huge part of your work, it also marks the cornerstone of a successful career in PR. Recently, I watched a Revolution episode with Brian Solis interviewing Porter Gale, who is a speaker, entrepreneur and marketing executive. Porter discussed her new book, “Your Network is Your Net Worth.” Although I haven’t read the book yet, just listening to the interview and reviewing the book summary, you can certainly relate to the value of an individual’s network.
In PR, we have the opportunity to build relationships with so many different groups. Our work creates the opportunity to engage the public; from the community groups, associations and partners you work with to the media, bloggers, and customers you help. At the same time, it’s your ability to not only make these connections, but to also cultivate and manage them for the long term. What you do for your company or for your clients is critical to apply to yourself. If you want to advance and grow, whether it’s in PR or life, your contacts are paramount.
Having a vast network helps you to create greater opportunities; ones that you wouldn’t necessarily be able to create on your own. When you commit to relationship building as your career and not just a part of your PR role, you are making a commitment to yourself that you will evolve your relationship building to a new plateau. Here’s what you need to keep in mind as your progress forward:
1. Keep your contacts sacred and don’t just share them freely with anyone. If you share a contact, then it’s only because you truly believe that you can create synergy between the professionals you know, and they will benefit and grow as a result. If you continue on this path, then your contacts will appreciate you as someone they can trust and regard you as a professional who creates great opportunities and impact.
2. Maintain the attitude that you will give more to your contacts than you will take from them. Having great connections means helping people, not because you have to but because you want to … it’s a part of your mantra to give back to the universe. Do this enough and the universe starts to give back to you.
3. Cultivate and stay connected with your contacts over time. The best relationships are only as good as the time you put into them. With collaborative technology there are no excuses. You can Skype or jump into a Google+ hangout. Technology allows us to cross borders and to be present at anytime.
4. Keep up with your networking. You shouldn’t place limits on growing your contact database. Just because you have many great relationships doesn’t mean you have to stop finding valuable connections. Not only will you continue to meet interesting people to involve in your next innovative initiative, but you will also be able to stay up-to-date with industry information and insights from your peers.
5. Realize early on that not everyone will be in your inner circle. This is where you learn to scale your relationships. Understanding which contacts are your closest and most beneficial confidants vs. those who will participate with you on a different level. I have contacts that I will visit when I’m traveling, and there are also those who I love to chat with on Twitter, because we share incredible insights. Knowing the dynamics in a relationship helps to frame out the different and valuable outcomes that can result from each relationship.
Some may see relationship building as a part of the communicator role. I see relationship building as my career, critical to everything that I do in business.