PR veterans can tell you that having a strong network is a crucial element of your career.
As a long-time PR consultant, I’m often asked how I’ve managed to stay independent over the years. I’ve never done traditional advertising for my business.
Instead, one of the most effective ways I uncover new opportunities is networking.
Professional organizations are one of the most valuable ways to network. Whether you’re an independent PR pro, an in-house communicator or student working
on a PR degree, joining one and getting involved can be beneficial to your career.
I can’t remember when I haven’t been involved in a professional organization. From the early days of my career when I was a member of Women in
Communications, to my days in the Bay Area where I was a member (and later, president) of our International Association of Business Communicators chapter,
professional organizations have always been a big part of my working life. I now serve on the board of two organizations, including my local American
Marketing Association chapter.
The argument for joining organizations
Professional organizations can play an important role in networking efforts for both newcomers to PR and seasoned PR pros. Being an active part of
professional organizations can:
· Help you stay current on knowledge in your industry
· Help you gain experience in an area you may want to explore through volunteering
· Add credibility—being able to say “I’m on the board” or “I’m an active volunteer in this group” can help position you as an expert
Perhaps most importantly, your involvement can:
· Help you meet and connect with others for referrals and recommendations
To those who say, “I don’t have the time,” remember this: Build your network and expertise now. Otherwise, you won’t have much to fall back on
when you’re looking for your next in-house position or client project.
Invest the time before you need the contacts. It’s always better to have your network in place so that when you have to use it, it’s there. If you
build a strong network, dry spells—or feeling trapped in your job—won’t be an issue, because your network can provide a steady stream of potential
opportunities coming your way.
Finding the right group and getting involved
When you get involved in an organization, don’t simply join and attend one event.
Attend a couple of events before you join to make sure the organization is a good fit. Do you feel comfortable when you walk into the room? Are
attendees welcoming and friendly?
Once you’ve found an organization that fits your style and interests, join—and throw yourself into it. Volunteer for something that either you’d like to do
or you want more experience doing. Volunteering isn’t only a great way to meet people—it can also grow your skill set. Skills gained this way belong on
your resume and LinkedIn profile.
Motivate employees with digital communications that inspire.
Treat your volunteer gigs with the same professionalism that you treat your job or client projects. This will earn you the reputation of being someone your
organization’s leaders remember to recommend or refer business to when the opportunity arises.
If you’re looking to expand your knowledge, gain experience, boost your credibility and build your network, try getting involved in a professional
organization. Once you start, you may get hooked.
Michelle Garrett is the founder of Garrett Public Relations. A version of this article was originally
published on Freelancers Broadcasting Network.