Monthly Archives: January 2016

Why we’re generalists (and why you should be too!)

I just got off the phone. I was speaking to a man with a booming new business, who’s looking to raise the profile of his firm. He asked, “Have you got a package you can offer me?” I told him no, we don’t. I explained that each client’s situation is unique, each looking for a particular outcome or set of outcomes, and so we don’t take a one-size-fits-all approach to PR, or anything else.

The prevailing thought for consultants is to find a niche and dig deep. There’s a lot to be said for being an expert in a particular area.

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However, there’s an equally strong argument for having a broad range of skills, and avoiding being pigeon-holed. Let me explain.

With the downturn in the oil industry (which I believe is temporary — but that’s a subject for another day), PR and other firms devoted to serving the oil industry are being hit — and hard. For our colleagues around Aberdeen, it’s been clear for some time that things are on a downward trajectory. Their response to this has been to cast their nets a bit wider, and see if they can find work in other industries. So the first reason to take a generalist approach is because it protects you from the vagaries of one particular industry.

There’s a second reason Bruce Public Relations takes a generalist approach to PR. And it’s not because we aren’t specialists in what we do. It’s more enjoyable to work with a broad range of clients. And the bonus is: we are able to parlay the wisdom we gained from working with a diverse range of clients, to a broad range of client needs. By never having specialised exclusively in health care  — or petroleum — or IT —  or tourism — we have become adept at seeing the common threads in our clients’ situations, and addressing wide-ranging demands with tried and true principles.

So no, we haven’t got an off-the-shelf package to sell you. But if you want a solution that is tailored to fit your business and its particular needs, I am pretty certain we can help.

If that is the kind of thinking that would benefit your business, please get in touch. We help a small number of exceptional businesses to improve their performance. Can we help you? There’s one way to find out: get in touch today.

 

There’s more to successful networking than meets the eye (but not much more!)

A recent networking event hosted by Highland Business Women was hugely popular

A recent networking event hosted by Highland Business Women was hugely popular

During a break at a workshop last autumn, I was introduced to a man who provides a service my business requires and that I had been wondering how I would address. I was delighted to meet him. “Excellent timing!” I said, “Have you got a card?” He confessed he didn’t have any with him, so I gave him mine and he promised to follow up. It’s been three months, and I haven’t heard a peep. Unable to progress the sales process with him, I will look elsewhere. More than simply losing my business, he’s also lost out on accessing my extensive network of contacts.

Tip: if you want to reap the rewards of networking, Pick up the phone and follow up with a new contact

Tip: if you want to reap the rewards of networking, Pick up the phone and follow up with a new contact

How many times have you come away from a networking event loaded down with new business cards . . . but without any plan to do anything with them? You return to your office, and empty your pockets. Maybe you put an elastic band around the newly-collected cards before throwing them in your desk drawer. Perhaps you look up one of two of the people you just met on LinkedIn, maybe even send an email. Either way, I am sure you would agree, your follow-up could be characterised as a bit hit or miss.

When it comes to building an effective network, making a new contact is – literally – just the beginning. It’s what you do with that contact that determines whether the relationship will bear fruit. The problem is, you’ve no way of knowing at this stage, which contacts will lead anywhere.

Two years ago I attended a seminar on being more productive. I didn’t realise it at the time, but a handful of the attendees would become key members of my network. Four have become good friends, and two have become clients.

I didn’t attend the event with a plan. In retrospect, it was sheer luck than enabled me to transform these initial contacts into what are now close working relationships. What I am recommending to you is that you do not leave it to chance. Be purposeful. Do something systematic in the wake of these occasions, something that will ensure that each event becomes a catalyst to enrich and extend your personal network. What I urge you to do, is to follow up.

Not everyone you meet will become a client. Not everyone you encounter will be in a position to give you a job. But everyone you come across has the capacity to be of assistance to you – if they are so inclined.

To make the most of networking, start by shifting your thinking about the duration of the networking event. The conference or course or seminar – it doesn’t end when you leave the room. I propose that you’re not truly finished with it until you have captured the information on the business cards you collected, and done something with it.

Getting a business card and leaving it on your desk is akin to planting a seed, but not watering it. You’ve taken the first step by meeting someone and asking for their card. That effort will be meaningless unless you take the next step.

What I am suggesting is that there’s more to successful networking than meets the eye – but not that much more.

Let’s say you attend an event which lasts an hour and a half. You’ve already invested 90 minutes, not including travel time. I would wager that it will only take another 15 minutes – 30 minutes at the most – to dramatically boost the effectiveness of that initial 90-minute investment.

By spending just 15 minutes on follow-up – less time than it probably took to travel to and from the event – to send an email or a connection request, you have catapulted your initial investment to the next level, and are now in the arena where that investment has the potential to pay dividends. It’s once the follow-up is complete, that you have set the stage for something to develop with a contact you have made. It’s the watering after the planting, that will ensure that this new relationship has the conditions to grow.

As you can see, being an effective and successful networker only requires a marginal additional input of energy. Don’t let yourself down by not closing the circle after your next networking event. Proper follow-up will ensure that you not only extend your network, but that you get the maximum benefit from the time and money you invest in attending business events.

P.S. Next time you go to an event, make sure you bring more cards than you think you will require.

Laura Bruce is the founder of Bruce Public Relations Ltd. A talented networker, she would be happy to help you maximise the benefit of your networking.