How good networking can benefit your PR programme

How good networking can benefit your PR programme

Fiona Hughes

Fiona Hughes

When I was asked to speak on one of the Bright Festival’s speaker panels, by James Uffindell Founder and CEO of Bright Network, I did what I always help my clients to do pre event: I did my homework.

And I found out via social media that the day’s host, Oli Barrett is a friend of a friend – such is the connected world that we live in.  What’s more, I found something in his Twitter profile that really resonated: a comment that “life is a search for people”.  This statement is very apt for my career in PR and the lessons I have learned, and also provided a huge amount of inspiration for my speech preparation to be part of the “How I Made It” panel.

The “How I Made It” panel discussion was just one of a huge host of events that the Bright Festival organisers had put together in an event attended this week (on 17th September) by 35 employers (including Booz & Co, innocent and Goldman Sachs) and over 1,000 members (from Times Top 20/Russell Group universities).

I spoke on the panel along with a Managing Partner from Ernst & Young, a Managing Partner at Bain & Company, and a Principal at Booz & Company.  We were chaired by Katie Ledger, who spent 12 years working as a news presenter for Five News, ITN and BBC and is now a communications consultant and presentation coach.

From all of us, our audience of around 200-300 recent and future graduates wanted advice based on our own career experience.  As I prepped for the session, front of mind was of course how to best make use of the audience’s time and on the impression I wanted to leave behind.

I am now twelve years into my PR career. And I am back at the agency that I started at, but having worked at four other agencies along the way.  In this time I have learned a lot about people – but more importantly I have learned a lot about networks.

And this at a time where networks have become social, and the likes of Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google Plus, Pinterest and more makes networking an altogether different, easier (I would say, if more time-consuming) ball game.

So it will come as no surprise that I turned to my network, to help me to prepare my answer to such a big question as, “How I Made It”.  And I received back some gems from my supportive and inspirational friends and contacts.  These included:

  • From Jon Cope, Associate Dean at the School of Creative Industries at the University for  the Creative Arts, a reminder that in client services you must always be on the same “side” as the client
  • From Lynsey Morris, Account Director at Freud, the importance of good attitude, high enthusiasm and (my favourite) developing contacts
  • From Chris Whitaker, agent to Olympic and Paralympic athletes, a humbling statement that he has not made it and will never believe he has
  • And last but not least, from freelance journalist Claire Coleman a flag to a fabulous quote from the inimitable Joanna Lumley, who advised a group of students to “say ‘yes’, be on time, look gorgeous, show willing and be savagely polite”.  As a professional writer, Claire – like many PR professionals – would add learn to spell and punctuate, and then you’ve got the full career development armoury!

Sharing such great advice, along with my own insights, I hope added colour to my presentation for my audience; not to mention more value than just one set of insights and advice.

Unsurprisingly perhaps, James Uffindell – the CEO and Founder of Bright Network – is someone I have known since university; a real case in point of a contact, nurtured!  And we have a new intern joining us this month, as a result of seeing Firefly Communication’s name on the speaker panel and getting in touch; so a real case of a network expanded!

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