Networking Success: It’s not WHAT you know, but WHO you know

Loren Duran networking for BosparThis article first appeared in O’Dwyer’s.

As Richard Branson once said: “Succeeding in business is all about making connections.”

This is true in every line of work, but nowhere is it truer than in the world of public relations, where both the success of your business and that of your clients depends on your ability to make connections with busy media in a crowded, noisy space when hundreds of other PR professionals are also beating down their doors. Or, more precisely, their email inboxes.

Of course, there are several ways to do this. One way is steady, measured persistence. This may yield results, but it is a long road. Another way – a way that has proven especially fruitful for me personally – is through personal connections. No path to communication is as efficient as a mutual friend. So then the question becomes how to acquire such friends. For this, I recommend networking events.

Networking events are invaluable. They are where you might meet your next client, future colleague or  key reporter covering a client’s vertical and acquire a lifelong friend in the process.

Here are four reasons why you should pencil some networking events into your social calendar, stat:

Connections: Networking provides you with opportunities to talk to influential people you wouldn’t otherwise be able to talk to or find easily. Once those initial connections are established, you also have a foot in the door to their social networks.

Opportunities: New opportunities are the main reason people attend networking events and join networking groups. You can’t always be sure what form these opportunities will take; all you can be sure of is that they require being in the right place at the right time. So be there.

Reputation: Make sure you regularly attend business and social events that will help to get your face known. Surrounding yourself with positive, productive, professional people contributes to your own credibility as an expert/professional.

Confidence: By regularly networking and pushing yourself to talk to people you don’t know, your confidence will increase, which will serve you well in conversations with potential new clients, business partners and members of the press.

The Key to a Successful Top-Tier Placement…Patience

Bospar PR advice on Patience for Top-Tier MediaThis article first appeared in O’Dwyers.

Every client’s wish and goal is for their PR team to secure a top-tier media placement. We constantly hear how important it is to receive coverage in Fortune, Business Insider, Forbes, TechCrunch and so on.

One of the most challenging and rewarding aspects of a PR professional’s career is to actually make this happen. Hearing the cheers and excitement around the room (or on the phone) in a client meeting once a top-tier placement hits is what makes the hard work worth it.

However, one of the key factors to a successful top-tier media placement is patience.

Generally, the feature story in Fortune does not happen overnight; in fact, it could take upwards of six months of scheduling meetings, gathering collateral and working with key journalists at top-tier publications to secure a dream placement.

There’s a high level of patience and expectation-setting needed in these situations.

In addition to patience, there are many other key factors that play into securing a dream placement, such as:

  • Get to know the right reporter for your story at each publication
    • Lots of research should go into the identification of the right reporter for your story – this alone will increase your chances of having your pitch read and responded to. The Guardian reported figures provided by the U.S. Department of Labor that there are 4.6 PR professionals for every one journalist. Be sure to focus your efforts on the on the right targets, or you risk getting lost in the shuffle.
  • Make sure your story is timely and newsworthy
    • Tie it to an event or even newsjack onto other breaking news that is relevant.
  • Be real and to the point
    • There’s nothing worse than a pitch so full of jargon that an editor can’t even decipher what your client does.
  • Provide data
    • Data always wins – whether it be internal stats or third-party commissioned research.
  • Share a visual
    • Do you have a report, graphic or video?
  • Be persistent
    • Reporters receive tons of emails each day, so there is a chance they may have missed your first pitch – follow up, and don’t be afraid to pick up the phone.

And lastly, again, be patient. Any good-quality feature story in a top-tier publication will take time. You just have to do your homework first! If you don’t, an ambitious goal will become an impossible one.

Does Location Matter in PR?

Bospar PR Advice on LocationsThis article first appeared in PRNewser.

As recently as June 26, 2009, the New York Times’ William Safire probed the etymology of the expression “location, location, location.”  The investigation into the phrase’s origins started when a wedding announcement submission claimed that the three most important rules in real estate came from the late British real estate tycoon Lord Harold Samuel. But Safire reported the expression likely wasn’t a British invention but rather a local Chicago expression, with the earliest example dating back to a 1926 real estate advertisement in the Chicago Tribune.

The question is whether that expression should be a consideration in selecting a public relations firm. Should CMOs and vice presidents of marketing look for agencies in San Francisco for high tech? Similarly, should agencies from New York be considered the best when trying to find an agency that represents finance or advertising?

In a word: no.

But with caveats – both from marketers and journalists.

“When we evaluate the right PR agency partners at Glassdoor, we are much more concerned with strategy and execution versus location,” said Scott Dobroski, corporate communications director for Glassdoor. “With the advent of technology today, location is not a leading factor, though we think about where the agency has power. For instance, if they have team members geographically located on the East and West Coasts, that is very helpful for early morning East Coast news chasing and West Coast news chasing if something hits much later in the day. A local presence is preferred, as face-to-face interactions do add value, but the right fit is more important.”

Katie Belding, who oversees partner portfolio services for Norwest Venture Partners, is frequently sought out by companies looking for PR agency guidance. “It really comes down to the firm and the people, because location doesn’t matter if your people are out there networking with the necessary audiences,” she said. “Whether the media is on the East or the West Coast – it just matters what your PR team can do.”

Sheila Dahlgren, CMO of Viewpost, agrees. “I have worked at several startups that were not headquartered in Silicon Valley, San Francisco or New York, with great PR success. It is really about choosing the right PR team, one that understands your industry, the problem your products or services solve and, most importantly, has the knack for elevating your company and brand with a unique point of view that sparks interest with the media you are targeting.”

“Location matters less than availability,” said Cliff Edwards, director of marketing and communications at Searchmetrics, Inc. “If you’re a global company, you’re by default relying on an agency to be your eyes and ears on the ground. If you’re at a smaller company, you value knowledge and contacts. With either, you want your agency to be available when you need it.”

“If your objective is to hire 10 percent more engineers than your company brought on last year in your Silicon Valley headquarters, then having a Bay Area-based agency may make sense if you’re looking to place stories and generate awareness in your zip code or if you want your agency to be able to have easy access to your current pool of engineers as they craft their strategy,” said Krista Canfield, vice president of communications for Food Water Shoes. “On the other hand, if your objective is to increase awareness of your sporty new coupe your car company has among working women between the ages of 25-34 from 10 percent to 20 percent, you’ll want to consider which influencers and publications that demographic pays close attention to. If those outlets or influencers live in Austin or New York, not in the city your car company is headquartered in, having your agency within your city limits may not help you as much as you hoped it would.”

Matt Lindner, a journalist with 10 years of experience across print, broadcast and digital, says that from his point of view, location matters entirely on the outlet PR is pitching. “For my full-time job at Internet Retailer magazine, location absolutely does not matter because we write about retailers and vendors that are based around the world. If there’s an interesting story angle, I don’t care where they are, I’m interested in learning more about it and setting up an interview. For my freelance work with RedEye and the Chicago Tribune, that’s a different story. RedEye’s audience especially tends to be Chicago-based and within the 18-35 age range, so pitching me a story about a company or individual that doesn’t have any Chicago ties isn’t going to interest me.”

Annie Gaus of the San Francisco Business Times has a similar opinion. “Location isn’t a deal-breaker for me; I’ll consider pitches regardless of city. However, I have found that local PR folks have a better understanding of the local nuances to a story, which tends to be a pretty significant factor in my tech coverage. And as is the case with any professional relationships, it’s always nice when you have opportunities to meet and greet in person, whether that’s a PR contact, a source or any other relationship that’s important to your beat.”

But Chris Matyszczyk, who writes for both Inc. and CNET, has concerns that trump mere geography. “I can’t say I even notice where PR firms are based when they contact me.  I do, however, notice when they spell my name wrong, ask me to write about the same thing I wrote about last week, or tell me that the widget they’re representing is magical and revolutionary and will change the world.”