Networking was always easy, said no one ever. It has been made even more difficult with the ongoing pandemic. Communication is a key component of business in the digital PR industry, finding clients, connecting with people, with resources, and making friends. With the pandemic changing the way we live, we have had to become flexible in order to keep social connections strong during these hard times. These new challenges have changed the PR industry dramatically and there are a variety of things we can do to make networking easier for ourselves. In particular, involving yourself in the interconnected world of the Internet.
Research conducted by Balazs Kovacs in the article: Social Networks and Loneliness during the Covid-19 Pandemic shows that professional and personal networks have shrunk to 16% during the pandemic. This indicates a lack of networking can be detrimental to finding a job, hinder career paths and tougher to get promoted. People with fewer connections, have a decrease sense of belonging and less likely to identify with the work organization, implementing the risk of turnover and negligence. Under normal circumstances, our networks don’t simply shrink; they’re more likely to churn. Rather than slowly losing friends over time as we move, change jobs, or have kids, we usually forge new relationships to replace the ones we’ve lost. What’s unusual about the pandemic is that old relationships aren’t being replaced by new ones. At a time when many people are struggling with loneliness and feeling disconnected from work, it’s more imperative than ever to be intentional about maintaining connections to casual acquaintances.
The essential items that make it easier to network online is utilising social media.These platforms are free to access and use to connect with industry professionals. Actively reaching out to people and engaging with their content is a great way to network. These sites are a lucrative market to connect with people, platforms such as Instagram can showcase a gallery of work, facebook has the biggest connected global reach, LinkedIn is built to present greatest achievements and to connect with people you meet etc.
Initiating a call can be stressful and anxiety inducing. However, instigating the call, practicing actively reaching out to others will help maintain your networking skills. It is tough at the moment as people are experiencing the world differently but, if you have the energy to enact, be the one to set up the calls. Whether that call is personal or professional it is the first step into ensuring long-lasting networks during a pandemic. Additionally, it will enable many people to gain their confidence being on camera and speaking on camera will become more natural.
Another great way to network is to join events. There are various events often advertised via social media platforms and business websites. Although we may not be able to go to physical events any time soon, online ones are a great way to network and to learn something new about the industry you are in. Fortunately, these events can be found advertised on platforms such as LinkedIn groups and often are free.
Completely virtual conferences are a relatively new concept. Obtaining attendee lists may not be feasible, but you can easily get the details of speakers and panel representatives, along with their company names. Consider emailing these individuals after the event, to ask questions or offer feedback. And connect with them on LinkedIn. Finally, consider how you can bring value to a conference – if you or one of your clients participate in a session or panel, it could open new opportunities to expand your network.
As technology and society grow together, communication also evolves. Video conferencing, messaging, collaboration tools and document sharing are a few examples to facilitate remote work and maintaining network connections. Interact with your new connections through social media such as LinkedIn to strengthen these networks remotely.
Networking is an essential part of business. It's important to effectively strategise and utilise the tools you have in order to maintain connections to future jobs or client opportunities. Even with the struggles of current events that have slowed down the world, thanks to the online digital world the ability to network and connect with people hasn’t stopped.