It’s the little moments that count

There are so many things I love about this profession I’m in, no matter the winding road it took me to get here. When I first started j-school, I was a print major. That is, until I discovered something I knew absolutely nothing about but believed in wholeheartedly: public relations. As I took classes and started to really delve into what my major was all about, I came to realize the importance of building relationships within the field. 

In her blog, Heather Yaxley wrote a post on small moments in PR, and how those moments can define a career. After attending an annual “Meet the PR Professionals” event she attended, Yaxley was thanked for an introduction she made to a consultancy, Automotive PR – where the grateful writer successfully undertook work experience over the summer.

She writes, “it is interesting how someone’s career can depend on such small moments – but at the heart of this connection is something that I love about PR.”

Whether we realize it or not, these small connections are vital to success in the PR profession. Yaxley goes on to state that a small percentage of invited 1st and 2nd year undergraduate students to the annual meeting actually attended, which could have seriously helped them secured a job or internship possibility, as well as provided them with ample contacts for future opportunities.

As PR practioners, we need to value the importance of being connectors. The more people we know and establish relationships with, the more successful we will inevitably be. Knowing that there is a valuable contact to  call when you are in need of help is more than piece of mind, it’s healthy PR.

We need to seek out people’s trust and expertise. Yaxley’s role in helping the writer at the conference certainly didn’t have to be about an immediate exchange result for herself. But in the future, Yaxley may be able to use that contact for anything from help with a question to vital communication on a project.

“Helping others – even with no instant benefit for yourself – is essential in relationships, especially if you wish to build trust. ”

What can we do as undergraduate students to start building relationships with professionals in our field? How can we make those “little moments” memorable? Do we realize the importance of helping others and establishing trust with our relationships?

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14 Responses to It’s the little moments that count

  1. glindsay says:

    I believe this idea to not only be one of the pillars of PR, but essential in everyday life, too.

    As humans, the idea of “bartering” is hardwired into our personalities. The idea that, you help me with this area that you are knowledgeable in and I will return the favor with something I specialize in has been evident since the dawn of humankind.

    It’s an incredibly (and sometimes hilariously) small world out there and the idea of Six Degrees of Separation is most definitely true. There’s a strong possibility that someone you help today might return later in your life as someone able to help you.

    I think as undergraduate students we should do what we say we will do, to the best of our ability and work as hard as we can to best build those relationships now. My coach in high school used to tell us the only thing we needed to do to make him happy was to “do our best and leave everything on the field.” He didn’t mind that we weren’t perfect, that we didn’t always execute our plays flawlessly or that we didn’t win every game (which was good, because we were far from being able to do that!).

    I think this idea of doing our best and leaving everything on the field can be utilized in our coursework, jobs and internships now to successful build and cultivate relationships after we graduate.

    • wwillis says:

      I like that a few of you have highlighted the importance of connecting with people not only in the PR world, but in everyday life as well. As far as what we can do as undergrad students, I completely agree with you Greg. We know and understand that we aren’t perfect, but completing tasks to the best of our abilities is a great way to get noticed. My dad always says to me about my internship, “Work like you’re getting paid and soon you will.” By putting all of our efforts into the work we do, we can make lasting impressions and utilize connections we make while in school.

  2. sdoyle says:

    I know that this is something I need to work on a lot. I need to be making those connections with professions. There are some situations I feel very comfortable in and am free to be more outgoing but in others I am very timid and keep to myself. If I’m at an event where I know I have to step up and be outgoing, I can be without much problem, but just day to day that’s not who I am. I know I probably lost a few connections by not venturing too far out of my PR bubble in my internship and missed building those connections with marketers or other people in the office that could have given me a leg up in the future. Little moments do me so much too. In my sorority is a place where I really notice that a lot. We often hang out with people who perhaps aren’t our best friend but are still sisters. Especially with younger and older girls, we share our first memory of each other and how much a simple act that wasn’t memorable to an older girl meant so much to a younger one. It’s those moments that really impact someone without much thought going into it at all. Being a part of more of these moments is a goal for me not only in the PR world but in life in general.

    • wwillis says:

      I think it’s an especially great quality that during an event you can step up and meet lots of people! It’s always scary at first, and takes lots of practice. However, it’s SO important to leave a lasting impression on professionals you come in contact with. On a more day-to-day level, it is also vital to make connections with those we meet. Not only is this great practice, but builds an incredible contact/support net for us to fall back on when times get rough.

  3. Thanks for picking up on my post. There is also another saying which I think applies – remember who you meet on the way up as you may meet them on the way down. Relationships with others vary depending on the point we are at in our careers, but we never forget those who are either helpful or horrible to us. Not to say that we should pay back unkindness, but it is only human nature to be less helpful in return to those who didn’t help us in the past. Likewise, remembering to say thank you and appreciate support we get means that we are on the way to building a longer term relationship than that initial contact.

    • wwillis says:

      Thanks Heather for the inspiring post! It certainly got me thinking about not only relationships, but the people I meet on a daily basis that I may not speak to for more than a few minutes. We can build an entire support network this way. By helping others, they may want to help us in return. We’re not only doing a good thing, but gaining support when all is said and done.

  4. bihrig says:

    I think building relationships as an undergraduate is very important. One of the things I regret most about my college experience is not doing more internships and meeting people in the industry. Building relationships as an undergraduate is a great opportunity to meet professionals who might take you under their wing and teach you a thing or two. Attending workshops and conferences would benefit students in the future. I think one thing I have learned over the years is building and maintaining relationships are very hard. Maintaining relationships is time consuming but as PR professional it is an important part of our job. Undergraduates can start this relationship building by doing more interships. I know I wish I had had the time to do so.

    • wwillis says:

      I also share that regret Britney. Building relationships shouldn’t be as hard as we make it out to be. There are so many opportunities for us to reach out and meet people in the industry that could further our careers or prove a reliable contact to maintain. I also think the school should hold more networking events for PR professionals specifically. It would be a great opportunity for undergrad students to immerse themselves in the culture of their field.

  5. ekozak says:

    Participating in multiple internships has made a significant difference in my career as a student at ASU and I believe the relationships I have formed will make a positive impact on my post-graduation career.

    For my second internship I served as a news-writing intern at a local newspaper to gain some newsroom experience. My biggest regret is that I did not take that opportunity to network and get to know my co-workers as well as I could have. I still keep in contact with my former boss and those I worked with closely, but in retrospect I should have used the opportunity to proactively introduce myself to journalists in all areas, not just those I worked with on the “crime beat”. However, now that I realize this, I have the opportunity to build relationships that will be mutually beneficial throughout my career. And I am still young, so there will be many more networking opportunities ahead.

    I don’t think I have fully leveraged my role as a connector, but I am hoping that I can use social media to keep in contact with my network and eventually be able to truly help someone, even if it does not benefit me in a tangible way. Then I can have my own “memorable PR moment.”

    • wwillis says:

      It seems like a lot of us have had time to reflect on our “little moments” during our PR careers thus far. It is hard to break out of our comfort zones and reach out to people we hardly know, but it is so worth the effort. Every time I have one of these moments, I feel so proud and accomplished for what I have done. Now that we can look back on our past work experience/internships- we can use our regrets to change our behavior. Next time you participate in an internship or even in your life in general, remember to branch out and network! Make the little moments count.

  6. sclarke says:

    This post signifies the very essence of public relations; relationship building. As I have now had a few internships, it has helped me build some relationships as an undergrad student. We don’t have to wait until we are in our profession to start meeting people and forming ties.

    Heather Yaxley’s comment to this post was very inspiring. Her quote, “remember who you meet on the way up as you may meet them on the way down” is a message we all need to keep in mind. I have never thought about it from that perspective until now. Getting over our fears as undergrad students is a must. As mentioned in the post, we need to step outside our comfort zones, as this is what our profession is about.

  7. cgharai says:

    I really enjoyed reading this blog posting. There is a lot that can be done by undergraduates to better understand their field (especially in journalism) when it comes to conceptualizing the fact that “AS JOURNALIST, OUR NETWORK IS OUR NET WORTH.” This is just a quote i hold dear to myself, due to the fact this was consistently told to me as a child by my parents, to break my shy exterior.

    I think there are more things undergraduates can demand from their institutions that would eventually proceed to making key relationships with people in “the field.” Just a few I find important are:

    1. Establishing role models as a journalist student and demand access to working journalist.
    2. Deepen the relationship with that role model, and make them your mentor “in the field” to provide guidance and possibly key contacts to future job leeds
    3. Having your school establish employment contacts/ leeds for you, notify you of job fairs etc.

    There is much more to this list, but this should give you the general gist of the opportunities offered to undergraduates, which need to be taken more advantage of.

  8. bjohnson says:

    I really like the emphasis on PR practitioners being valuable ‘connectors.’ I agree that our job has many small moments that make the over all impact of whatever we’re doing very important. I have found that the small moments in my internships and class projects ranged anywhere from remembering conversations I had with clients and journalists to being sure I was prepared for a meeting with the right pen and paper. I think we can start building relationships with senior professionals by exhibiting our dedication to the field. I think its our work that might seem small but it will ultimately build our personal reputations and allow more experienced practitioners to want to continue forming a bond with us.

  9. cgharai says:

    I would have to agree with the fact that small connections are vital to the success in the PR profession.

    “As PR practitioners, we need to value the importance of being connectors. The more people we know and establish relationships with, the more successful we will inevitably be.” — This could not have been better said.

    Along with speaking truthful and expertly, as PR practitioners and professionals, all we really have to learn is the playbook; Social media is an AMPLIFIER of your message. It is not THE MESSAGE anymore.

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