PR Industry Conferences: Connecting, Networking, Mentoring

November 6th, 2012
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Like many of you, I attended the 2012 PRSA International Conference (as well as PRSSA—student conference) in San Francisco.  Since returning, I’ve been following many blog posts on what PR professionals (and students) learned and took away from the myriad sessions offered.  However, one post really struck me and I’d like to expand on it.

Shonali Burke posted to her Waxing Unlyrical blog that she believes the true value of these conferences has more to do with connecting and networking.  She says:

“The point is in collectively sharing, and participating in, and learning about, and growing our industry together.”  “The point is in relating to each other as people, and not just as ‘networkers,’ or ‘prospects’.  Because when we take the time to get to know the people behind the prospects, we learn what makes each other tick. We’re able to help each other out, even if there’s nothing in it for us.”

She goes on to say:

“And though we may not walk away with new business signed and sealed, I can guarantee you that the people we take the time to connect with – because we genuinely like and respect them, or we were just being nice – will remember us when someone asks for a referral, or has a job opening.”

I personally, met nearly 20 people in real life that I previously had only known through social media, as well as re-connected with a number of industry leaders that I only get to see that one time of year at a conference. It allows us to solicit feedback on our services related to the PR pros business—to ensure what we are offering is what they need. 

But, I’d like to go even one step further and encourage every PR pro (whether they are a PRSA member or not) to take some additional time and invest in the future of our profession by offering to mentor young pros or about-to-be pros (students).  Your practical guidance can complement their education, sharpening their focus on their career goals and helping them develop the professional and interpersonal skills they’ll need as they navigate the real-world. Students need your help, advice and friendship as they evolve into tomorrow’s public relations leaders. 

There is also the benefit of reverse mentoring. Ken Jacobs, principal at Jacobs Communications Consulting, recently talked about reverse mentoring in a BurrellesLuce webinar, “Managing, Motivating, and Leading Millennials,” which is available for download, by clicking the link. Your mentee very well may help you learn more about yourself and other generations.  They know things you may not and can teach you new job-specific skills. After all, we know that in this profession we never stop learning! Mentoring may even give your organization an edge when it comes to recruitment, as well as help making you a more effective manager.

The time to start investing in your mentoring relationships is now.  Are you ready? Please share your mentoring success stories here on the BurrellesLuce Fresh Ideas blog.

6 Responses to “PR Industry Conferences: Connecting, Networking, Mentoring”

  1. And let’s not forget about the fun we had at the Business Wire party. 🙂

  2. Rachel Hunsell says:

    As a soon-to-be young professional, the PRSSA National Conference as well as the PRSA International Conference reminded me that we are all just people and that developing an authentic relationship with someone is your first priority. Along with what you and Shonali Burke have both written about, I’ve heard from my peers that it is the humanity in the industry that we’re all striving for.

  3. Most definitely, Ibrey, and thank you again for the invitation! That was a perfect example of two of the points … taking the opportunity to reconnect with you and others that I seem to only see once a year, as well as being able to introduce a (recently graduated) young pro to some of the industry mainstays. Had a blast 🙂

  4. Thanks for commenting, Rachel. And you are so right. You can’t have relationships without the people!

  5. How kind of you, Tressa! But this is exactly what I mean… do you remember how you and I first “met”? You guys were my client. And then we connected IRL in San Diego (at PRSA) a few years ago… and now you and my mom are Facebook friends (!)… and because we’ve nurtured our relationship, we’re far more likely to turn to each other when we need help than anyone else. That’s the beautiful, unanticipated consequence of TRUE networking, as opposed to going to events/workshops and handing out/collecting business cards without actually bothering to connect with people.

    And I heartily second your recommendation on mentoring & reverse mentoring – I have benefitted from it (and continue to do so) and truly believe the more we give, the more we grow. You are a perfect example of that, as is Ken.

  6. Thanks for taking time to comment, Shonali. Ours is a perfect example, you’re correct! I definitely have a passion for mentoring, hopefully this will inspire more to try it out. 🙂

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