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Networking Tips for PRs: MeetUp, CamUp, and 'Fess Up
By: Jeannine Wheeler
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Do you feel you’re stuck in a rut? Need a few new ideas? Has your business network gone stale? Chances are if you are a PR, you have a natural ability to connect with many different sorts of people and an innate curiosity to learn more about any situation. Use this quality to get out there and network. Here are a few tips.

Love the One You're With
PRs are inherently interested in what other people think and are doing. Use your vibrant personality and enthusiasm to find out what other professionals are working on, thinking about, and who they are connecting with. Whether you’re looking for new employment, additional clients, or a more extensive social group, networking can be very fruitful and fun. But how do you find new people?

Meetup.com is a great place to start.

Based in New York City and started in 2012, Meetup is an online social networking portal that facilitates offline group meetings around the world. Meetup allows members to find and join groups unified by a common interest, such as politics, pets, hobbies, skill sets (tech is a big one), and careers. You simply enter your postal code to see what is out there. Reportedly, there are 98,869 meets happening in any given week.

As of April 2013, Meetup claimed to have 13.4 million members in 196 countries and 125,247 groups. Surely, there is one for you.

Network After Work is another excellent opportunity, especially if you want to meet people outside of your industry to increase your leads. Network After Work is a national business and social networking event company with more than 500,000 members. Events are hosted every one to two months in 42 locations throughout the U.S., with plans to go international later this year. Network After Work events take place in the host city’s top nightlife destinations and range in size from 100 to 1,000.

It’s in the CamCards
Are you still collecting business cards? There might be a movement to banish cards, but they seem to still be very much in use. As techno as we all get, we still do relate to seeing someone’s name and title on a card. And it makes it a lot easier to connect on LinkedIn the next day, with a personal note on how and where you met.

Technology, however, can be very helpful in helping to catalogue your new contacts. Check out a really handy app called CamCard, a professional business card reader that allows you to take a picture of a business card with your smartphone, automatically storing the details in your contacts.

CamCard is a free app, although there is a paid version with additional features, such as sync across all your devices and additional security. Launched in Shanghai by Intsig in 2009, CamCard now boasts 10 million monthly active users, with 50 million registered. About half of them are outside of China.

Take the Most Direct Route
Don’t’ be afraid to tell people what you really want. Be direct. Whether it’s expanding your network, eliciting new clients, or growing your sector expertise, let people know what you are looking for. Chances are, they will be happy to help, especially if you are very specific. It might not be tomorrow or next week, but people will get back to you when they come across information that they know you are looking for.

Networking takes time, and it can be expensive (with conference, admission, and entertainment costs), but it is well worth the effort. Not only will you expand your business, establish new contacts, and make new friends, but you will also grow your knowledge base of PR trends, business practices, and accounts.

It’s a win-win situation.

Take it from Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor: “Sometimes, idealistic people are put off the whole business of networking as something tainted by flattery and the pursuit of selfish advantage. But virtue in obscurity is rewarded only in Heaven. To succeed in this world, you have to be known to people.”

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About the Author
Jeannine Wheeler is a PR Director who has worked in three countries, including Russia, the US and the UK. She is currently Sr. Vice President of Pure Energy PR, a full-service boutique communications firm with a focus on the energy, healthcare, technology, construction, real estate & land development, tourism & hospitality and food & beverage industries. Jeannine is in the firm's Austin, Texas office.
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