One of the keys to success in public relations is relationship building. And it’s not a superficial, “Let’s go to a networking event, collect some business cards, add these new ‘contacts’ to my LinkedIn account and call it a day.” No, when I approach intentional relationships, I start with, “How am I going to make a lasting difference in this person’s or organization’s life?”
Some relationships grow slowly. Others bloom instantly.
As someone who’s actively building relationships in a new market and comfortable doing so, I have essential strategies to develop a rapport with “my people.” Over the course of 20 years in PR, I’ve lived in Orlando, Austin, Fort Myers and now Philadelphia.
Before I describe how I approach this process, it’s important to define each word according to Merriam-Webster.
Foster — to promote the growth or development of
I adore the word “foster” because it speaks to how PR is a developmental process. As humans, we reveal parts of ourselves as we build trust. And trust is hard to build (I’ll address this in a future post re: Motto №9). When we’re intentional about relationship building, we must be patient. Individuals have their own bias for doing business, working with others and may be limited due to their own company culture.
Authentic — true to one’s own personality, spirit, or character
Today, we overuse the word “authentic,” however if you’ve ever had a real conversation with me, you know I’m a straight shooter. Sometimes I share bits of myself that are personal, and that’s my way of letting you in. I don’t put on false pretenses. I’m the first to be honest about my perspective, approach or experience. And I want to do business with others who are real in return.
Reciprocal — shared, felt, or shown by both sides
Reciprocation is a concept that I’ve spent hours of time studying in self-reflection. Why? I have a tendency to give with no expectation in return. Perhaps it has to do with my own spiritual beliefs, but as I’ve developed as an entrepreneur, I’ve discovered that I must be incredibly careful with my time. As I evaluate the individuals who I let into my inner circle and invest my energy, I’m highly conscious of where this person will be in my life in one year, five years, even 10 years from now.
Relationships — a state of affairs existing between those having relations or dealings
This definition sounds a bit dramatic, but it’s exactly how I see it: the complexity of human dynamics is multifaceted. And you can’t put people in boxes and think a relationship won’t involve into something greater. I’ve seen relationships dramatically evolve again and again and again. Students become dear friends; Colleagues become confidants; Brothers become colleagues. We never know how a personal relationship may evolve professionally, or how a co-worker could become your best friend.
So how do I find these colleagues who become dear friends? I go to the well of wisdom. I seek out organizations whose missions align with my own.
Just this past week, I’ve been to events or officially joined:
I’m also taking a 12-week family-to-family course offered by the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Montgomery County. And I’ve been a part of the community of WorkSpace on Bridge in Phoenixville since October 2017.
Within these organizations are individuals whom I know I’ll develop lifelong relationships. I don’t know exactly what will come, but I do know as long as I:
1) identify like-minded individuals
2) have patience through the process
3) give my time selectively — the fruits of these relationships are sure to blossom for years to come.
If it’s been a while since we’ve chatted, please reach out to me. Don’t let social media be a passive tool. Actively build relationships that are authentic and reciprocal. You’ll be glad you did!
All the best,
Ryan Sheehy-Cox, APR