Newly arrived in NY, I was confident about gaining access to reporters and building relationships with them. However, soon after arriving, the pandemic hit. Face-to-face meet-ups and coffees with journalists were over. In addition, many people, including journalists, left the city, owing to COVID-19. Everything we thought we knew about networking suddenly was irrelevant.
Still, PR is a relationship business and networking with journalists is critical. Here are some ways PR and media relations pros can grow their networks and deepen relationships during the pandemic.
Since many of us are stuck at home, people are open to virtual contact. As in all PR endeavors, when meeting virtually be authentic and personal. At this moment particularly, the human touch is key, and showing genuine interest in others is appreciated.
Did you see a tweet about a recipe that a reporter posted? Reach out and offer to have a virtual coffee, no expectations. If you meet virtually, don't discuss work and keep it to 15 minutes. These coffee dates are for building relationships, so be human and just connect with people.
If possible, push yourself to set up a coffee with reporters every other week. Re-connect with reporters you have a relationship with already. If you see a reporter is tweeting about something you're passionate about, DM her. That can help you stay connected.
Virtual Meet-ups and Classes
While networking at a virtual conference is challenging, many speakers are willing to share their contact information. Platforms like MeetUp and CourseHorse offer virtual classes where you can find people who share similar interests and want to learn something.
Online classes offer an opportunity to expand your network. Be creative and invite people you want to build relationships with to attend a virtual class with you. For example, invite a reporter to a virtual yoga session. The experience may deepen your relationship.
Use Specialized Platforms
After all the Zoom calls with family, friends and colleagues these past 10 months, people badly want to see new faces. One way to do that is through a platform like Lunchclub. Using AI, it identifies appropriate matches in your profession and sets up meetings.
More Than Specialized Platforms
Many people have moved during the pandemic. If you did and want to connect with neighbors, try an app like Nextdoor. It features people helping neighbors and doing nice things for the community.
On a professional level, these apps are great for networking. A lot of neighbors are open to a virtual or socially distanced coffee. You might be surprised how many interesting people live around you and work at companies that need PR.
Don't Dismiss Social Media
We know social media use is growing during the pandemic.
It's easy to go down the rabbit hole of news, memes and cat videos on social media. Still, social is a natural way to build your professional network during COVID-19. As noted above, follow reporters to deepen your relationships with them.
In addition, it's not a secret that the many impactful conversations, especially in tech, are happening on Twitter. Even industry titans like Elon Musk and Mark Cuban are open to interacting with strangers. Make sure to follow target reports on Twitter, and if you feel like you have something valuable to add to the conversation, don't hesitate. That kind of relationship-building has led to several tier-1 opportunities this year.
Anastasia Golovina is a communications specialist at Ditto PR