By Rachel Peck
Networking, like many of our usual business functions, is looking a little different these days. By this time last year, we had no doubt traveled to many industry events, and spent many evenings swapping stories and sharing ideas with like minded individuals. Now the idea of ordering from a bar, let alone eating from a buffet with a few hundred other people, seems impossible. Especially in the public relations and marketing industry where many clients might be national or internationally based, we often rely on those larger industry events to make new connections and reconnect with old ones. The lack of face-to-face networking leaves us with a sticky situation of trying to maintain and gain new relationships.
So, is networking still possible? The short answer is yes. However, like many of our job functions, we’re being forced to be more creative with how we go about it.
Make the most of your social media
While the COVID-19 pandemic has isolated many of us from friends, family and coworkers, it’s also shifted the way we interact with one another. While more isolated, we’re going through a shared experience. Having this shared experience with other professionals is a good opportunity to reconnect with old colleagues, classmates and mentors through social media. While LinkedIn is the best social networking channel, you should also spend some time cultivating relationships through Twitter and even Instagram. Though they are less formal, they still offer plenty of opportunities to connect.
Attend virtual events
No doubt we’re all tired of meeting online – whether it be through Skype, Zoom, Microsoft Teams or any other video conferencing platform. However, we’ve definitely moved beyond just meeting in a virtual space and into the realm of virtual events. With the majority of large tech industry events being canceled in 2020 – including CES moving their 2021 show to a virtual format – it’s clear that this will be our normal for an indefinite amount of time. While it’s yet to be seen how exactly these events will play out, we shouldn’t ignore them as options for networking. Many events will continue to have workshops, discussion forums, webinars and myriad of other ways to connect with fellow professionals – whether they be in PR and marketing, or for your clients.
While many of us in the public relations and marketing world work with a national and international client base, it remains important to maintain relationships within our local community. Without the option to travel in the near future, right now is a good time to start investing time into your local chamber of commerce and other professional groups. Not only do they have valuable resources for those running their own businesses, but they offer insights into the local processes and operations. Additionally, making connections closer to home offers more opportunities for socially distanced meet-ups and offers the chance for professionals to contribute locally through volunteering, or joining the board of a local organization.
While these suggestions still can’t measure up to the value of meeting in-person, they are good placeholders until we can all gather together again. In the meantime, we shouldn’t be afraid to reach out and continue fostering relationships with those near and far.
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