PR Tactics For Business Networking And Personal Branding

Smart public relations isn’t just for corporations, brands or tech startups. A PR-based approach to one’s personal brand can also help when it comes to nailing that next job opportunity, new client, or partner. Here are some common ways that PR principles can be used for successful business networking.

Boost your digital footprint.

One of the first things a PR professional does when ramping up for a new client is to assess its digital trail. Everyone knows the power of online reputation, but building a personal brand isn’t just about managing any negative mentions. It’s about owning page one of search results to reflect a track record of achievement, or a digital footprint that communicates expertise. Bear in mind that employers often “pre-shop” for senior candidates before meeting them.

Be a resource.

One of the most basic ways that B2B PR professionals gain visibility for clients is to present them as a resource for media – no strings attached. This is also a good rule for personal networking: in most of your meetings with contacts or recommenders, you shouldn’t ask for anything. Instead, offer insight or contacts they don’t already have. I have a colleague who saves up introductions to offer during informal meetings or contacts with members of her network. It keeps her top-of-mind, and when she needs a favor, it’s easier and more likely to meet a positive response.

Cultivate recommenders and keep them informed.

PR pros sometimes refer to the “newsstream” for a brand or company, and just like any growing company, you want to tell a story about momentum, success, or positive change to prospective employers or clients. Make sure KOLs (Key Opinion Leaders) in your industry are in the loop and ready to say the right things if they’re asked, because the most credible references are often the informal ones. Make an edcal (editorial calendar) of updates and reach out every quarter or so with personal notes or links to social media posts.

Reference your own authority.

As we say when preparing a client for a media interview, you can refer to your own track record or expertise without sounding pompous. Position yourself as a legitimate authority in your area of expertise through relevant content. Be a favorited resource on Quora – a terrific community for sharing knowledge. Or start an industry group on LinkedIn. Make connections that allow you to convey your own expertise instead of merely asking for connections or liking content.

Package yourself.

I’m not much for grandiose or silly job titles like “social media sherpa” or “experience curator.” But explanations that reflect real experience or accomplishment (“my specialty is using technology to solve problems” or “I translate great ideas into new products”) can add punch to your presentation.

Sharpen your storytelling.

Having trouble with your “narrative”? Do what the pros do: draw up a list of open-ended question or difficult questions, write the ideal responses, then edit them to be shorter and more colorful. The point is not to be canned, but to replace rambling or boring anecdotes with memorable ones. For important opportunities, consider videotaping yourself in a simulated conversation.
Remember, the near-disaster, turnaround story, or big sales win is memorable material for interviews or meetings. There are some great tips on shaping a story from books like Ted Talks Storytelling by Akash Karia and my favorite, film producer Peter Guber’s memoir Tell To Win.

PR Techniques: How To Get ZMOT On Your Side

Marketers like to talk about the Zero Moment of Truth, or ZMOT, for a product or brand. Loosely defined as the moment when a prospective buyer looks for online reviews and recommendations for a product, ZMOT follows the P&G tenets of the “first moment of truth,” when a customer chooses a product on the store shelf, and the second one, when she uses it at home.

ZMOT may be a new buzzword, but to PR professionals, it’s just another way of describing how online reputation and word-of-mouth recommendations converge to make the buyer’s habit of “pre-shopping” a make-or-break factor for a brand. Part of our job is to help manage that reputation.

What’s interesting is that ZMOT holds true for people also. With new graduates facing a tough job market, and many more seasoned professionals finding the employment picture equally challenging, it’s important to deploy classic, and newer, PR techniques and tactics to get ZMOT on your side. Here are some tips from the PR and communications side.

Revamp your online reputation. One of the first things we do in setting up a new client program is research, including listening to what’s said about the business or brand.  Of course, everyone in the job market knows the power of online reputation but nurturing a personal brand, or winning your personal ZMOT, isn’t just about managing the negative.  It’s about maximizing page one of search results to reflect a proactive, current positioning that communicates expertise.

Reference your authority. To that point, you can position yourself as an expert in your area through regular blog posts or – most underused – short videos on YouTube.  Start discussions on LinkedIn.  Become a regular part of the community on key blogs in your area.  Post in the professional groups on Quora.  Get more active in professional organizations online. Make connections but convey expertise as you do so.

Repackage yourself. That’s what we say when a certain story pitch isn’t working.  If your CV is being rejected out-of-hand, it’s time to replace dated anecdotes with fresh ones and present your skills and experience in a current context. According to recruiters, it’s best to focus on the last 15 years of your resume.  And everything – from your resume to your look to your digital profile – should be up-to-date.

Create a ‘news stream.’ Just as a growing company plans its press communications to craft a larger story of growth and success, you can look at your communication to your core network the same way.  Draw up an editorial calendar of planned updates to key recommenders.  Push them out in appropriate and personalized ways.

Hone your storytelling talents. Yes, the product turnaround, the team that jelled just in time to win the large client, or the career change can be interview gold.  But most people don’t work hard enough at it.  There’s some terrific advice on storytelling for business out there from experts that range from Steve Denning to Hollywood’s Peter Guber.

Media-train yourself.  Storytelling mastery is difficult, as are open-ended or unexpected questions. It’s not too extreme to do what the pros do.  Draw up a list of tough or open-ended questions, craft the best responses and storylines, and videotape yourself in a mock interview.  Then hone your answers and anecdotes and do it again until it’s natural and seamless.

Line up recommenders and keep them in the loop. This is another key ingredient of ZMOT. The power of reputation lies in third-party endorsement, whether implied or explicit.  Many employers “pre-shop” for senior level candidates before meeting them.  Make sure key colleagues, clients, mentors, and peers are in the loop and ready to say the right things if they’re asked because the most credible references are informal ones.

A different version of this post was recently published on MENGBlend.