Why are we all cobbler’s bairns? (or what can PR people do to stop being rubbish at networking)


Why are we all cobbler’s bairns? (or what can PR people do to stop being rubbish at networking)

Stewart Argo


I’m troubled by some folk thinking I’m a weirdo when I ask if they’d like to have a coffee.

It’s understandable that certain people might take against the idea because it’s me specifically.

But the bothersome bit is that there seems to be an undercurrent of it being odd that someone should even ask; I’ve had reactions such as: “Why?”, “What do you want?” and even “Can you not just email me?”.

How some PR professionals can think that the latter response especially is acceptable is beyond me, and beyond what I can cover in this post.

So, for the purposes of today, I’d like to just take it as read that we’d all like to be forging relationships for business and (personal) professional reasons, rather than battling an overflowing inbox.

And instead of trying to diagnose what’s behind a general malaise in PR networking (as I see it), I want to put forward a a 10-and-a-half point plan for what we might do about it.

1.      Remind ourselves that we would advise clients and colleagues that relationships are everything, pretty much, in PR.

2.      Also remind ourselves that there’s nothing so transparent as the call from the blue when someone’s looking for a favour, lest any of us should be guilty of that ourselves!

3.      Get on the front foot: figure out who you need to have relationships with and act (again, sound counsel that we would happily dispense to those we serve).

4.      Get involved. Professional groups, online forums, events etc. only happen because people make them happen. And those poor souls always need extra hands.

5.      If you can’t find a network that works for you, create one.

6.      Turn up to events, gatherings, meetings etc. If everyone thinks that someone else will go…eventually nobody goes.

7.      Take a colleague, friend or anyone you grab to events if you don’t like going on your own.

8.      Realise that, 99 times out of 100, the other singletons in the room at an event are probably as desperate as you are for someone to start a conversation, and are only pretending to be fully occupied with their mobile, delegate list etc.

9.      Make it easy for people to find you and your contact details (and remember to take your business cards when you do turn up to events etc.).

10.  Be persistent. I organised a casual festive tipple a couple of years ago, and it was an abject failure. Some may think I should have taken the hint; instead, I’m getting ready for another charge at the brick wall…

10½.  Go halfers on the bill. Perhaps it was just me, but I used to worry about inviting people out and then not footing the whole bill. Now, I reckon that everyone’s happier just splitting the costs and not getting hung up on hospitality.

This could be a longer plan, and it could also deal with the inevitable ‘yes, but…’.

For now though, a final thought: someone I work with is fond of the expression that “we’re all cobblers bairns”, i.e. like the shoemaker whose children are poorly-shod, communications professionals aren’t always the best at applying their own practices and advice close to home.

Maybe it’s time we gave our collective PR networking a size-11 boot up the backside!

Stewart has 15 years’ commnunications experience, beginning with the BBC and followed by spells at NHS Grampian and the Scottish Environment Protection Agency. He has been the media relations manager at the City of Edinburgh Council since June 2007. Stewart lives in Dunfermline with his wife and two-year-old son. He supports Aberdeen Football Club but is finding that painful to talk about at the moment.

Stewart’s personal blog, Embargoed, can be found at http://stewartargo.wordpress.com.

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