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!”
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