By Berenise Solorio
“Call it a clan, call it a network, call it a tribe, call it a family: Whatever you call it, whoever you are, you need one.”
This is especially true in the field of public relations. Simply put, networking truly is invaluable. Just how important is networking for us PR folk? I asked director at large for the SF Public Relations Society of America’s (PRSA) and diversity chair for the New Pros section, Carolina Madrid and here’s what she had to say.
1. What value have you seen through networking (specifically in PR)?
PR is all about networking. Whether it’s for your own professional development or on behalf of your company or client, connecting with people on personal levels paves the path for work relationships that flourish in a way that’s critical to the PR industry.
2. Have you found that networking has helped with recruitment to bring in top talent?
Of course. I have never personally worked in recruitment but have seen talent acquisition – especially for more senior positions – happen through organic conversations more often than I’ve seen it happen through cover letters and resumes. During a networking conversation, you are your own resume and cover letter and nothing conveys your professional competence better than yourself.
3. Were you introduced to new job opportunities through networking?
Absolutely – it’s how I got my current job! To trace the opportunity to its original root, it was college friends from PRSSA that helped secure the position I now hold. Had I not networked at PRSSA events, I wouldn’t know them today nor had their recommendation for my post. Similarly, I have also helped friends land internships or jobs through strong endorsements or encouraging them to attend events where “so and so” would be present.
4. What would you say are the top 3 benefits to networking?
1) The opportunity to expand and enhance your own professional rolodex;
2) The opportunity to practice your public speaking and people skills; and
3) The opportunity to make long-lasting friendships – you’re naturally inclined to befriend those with similar interests.
5. How does social media play into networking these days? (Positive/negative?)
Social media will never take the place of connecting with someone face-to-face, but it will – and already has – transformed our ability to identify whom we should be connecting with and build deeper connections. For example, would you have known that a conference-goer in Florida lived in the same city as you had you not checked out their Twitter profile? Social media allows you to define and refine who you want to network with. It also provides an easy way to stay in touch with those connections that matter most (e.g. LinkedIn!)
6. What advice would you give someone who is just starting a career in PR?
I have only had about four years of PR experience, but already I’ve noticed three core areas that have been invaluable to my success thus far:
Focus on how you can help others: It will always – hands down – get you farther than focusing on how you can benefit from them.
Read, read, read: Read the news, read books, read the back of your shampoo bottle. This will not only keep you abreast of current affairs but improve your writing, which is critical in our field.
Don’t be so afraid of failure: You learn most from mistakes and sticky situations that you’re forced to maneuver out of, so embrace that awkward feeling when you mess up and know that when it’s over, you’ve added one more lesson to your portfolio.
7. Is there anything else you’d like to share about networking and its importance in our field?
Networking shouldn’t be looked at as something that is done specifically at a professional mixer or conference. You should always be networking and that’s not to say that you should always be selling yourself but rather always trying to establish genuine, kind, friendly relationships with others – even if it’s at a gas station! You never know when you’ll come a valuable connection. And lastly, networking should be fun!
More about Carolina Madrid
Carolina is a PR professional working in corporate practice. She has been involved with PRSA since January 2011, after graduating from college and jumping into the San Francisco PR scene. She was previously involved with the Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA) at Arizona State University, where she attended two national PRSSA conferences and held the Treasurer position. She became involved with both the student and professional organizations because she recognized the value of being part of an organization devoted to furthering her own profession as well as the industry as a whole. She is now director at large for the San Francisco PRSA chapter as well as the diversity chair for the new professionals section of SF PRSA.
You can follow her on Twitter at: @CarolinaMadrid