PRmoment Leaders PA Mediapoint PA Assignments PRCA PRmoment Awards Winners North Creative Moment Awards 2024 PR Masterclass: AI in PR

How to network with authenticity

Being ingratiating can be a bad move in PR, if you want to get in with the right people, you need to be friendly without appearing too desperate and creepy. Sarah Hall, managing director of Sarah Hall Consulting and CIPR president-elect 2017, says that successful relationship building comes with authenticity and business acumen. “Schmoozing might get you in front of key influencers, but it doesn’t mean there’s any reason to maintain contact. First impressions are so important; choosing the right type of meeting and venue all have a part to play.”

Hall says that working a room is only going to get you so far. She adds: “If there’s a genuine reason to build a relationship, meeting one-to-one is much better. Personal introductions by joint friends or colleagues are always going to be received more favourably than a cold-call or email.”

But how do you chat to influential people without appearing to brown-nose? Alastair Turner, managing director of agency Aspectus PR, says: “I think social climbing and schmoozing are two different things. I think social climbing as a trait would actually put many people off. As a business tool schmoozing is fine. But don’t make the mistake of using niceness to hide a lack of ability. It’s great if you can work with a client that likes you and the chemistry is good. But you won’t win or retain business on that alone. You have to walk the walk. And much more important is gaining a client’s respect. You do this by doing a great job for them making them look good in their organisation by adding value, providing strategic advice and delivering fantastic results. If you aren’t doing that well ‘you schmooze, you lose’.”

Rebecca Wagstaffe, business development director at PR firm 3 Monkeys Zeno, points out that with everything becoming automated and programmatic, human connections are more important than ever before. “People buy people first and as people tend to live in the real world that's where we go to meet them. If something commercial is uncovered as a result, all the better, if not we've still practised the art of the chat. Never a bad thing. So even though AI is now a reality for all of us, we'll continue to build our networks and talk to like-minded friends in the real world and long may it reign.”

Being charming is never a mistake, and social networking is vital in PR. That’s why Wagstaffe concludes: “Is schmoozing dead? Never!”

Tips to schmooze and win

From Emma Grace, joint managing director of PR agency Pretty Green:

Prepare! “Research the person you want to nurture, what do you have in common? Do they have kids? What football team do they support?

Learn the art of conversation. “Think of conversational icebreakers such as congratulating them on a pitch win, or asking their advice. Also, make sure you listen! They are just people after all, let them lead the conversation. Don’t try and be clever and quote from the last business article you read.”

Go to the right places. “Visit industry events. Try to join judging panels.”

Start small. “Don’t try and say everything in one meeting. Just ensure you make a good impression.”

From Sarah Hall, managing director of Sarah Hall Consulting:

Be clear on any potential mutual benefit. “Shared contacts and collaboration opportunities are both good reasons to meet.”

Show you vulnerability. “My biggest tip is to show vulnerability. When I finally got time with someone whose advice I really wanted, I admitted my areas of weakness. They offered to help and the relationship has continued to go from strength to strength since then.”

If you enjoyed this article, sign up for free to our twice weekly editorial alert.

We have six email alerts in total - covering ESG, internal comms, PR jobs and events. Enter your email address below to find out more: