Posts Tagged ‘Faculty’

Building your network while helping others is a two-way street

January 20, 2016

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The first month of the New Year is an excellent time to meet new professionals or to reconnect with those individuals we have helped or who have assisted us.  During January and February, I will find room in my calendar for at least two dozen meetings over coffee, lunches or happy hours.

I might be one of the luckiest guys alive or the biggest sucker for meeting new people, hearing their personal and professional stories and trying to see how I might lend a hand.  I have been doing this for decades, and I think it is the “curiosity” of being a former news reporter and Congressional  staffer.

These networking / mentoring sessions have made me a smarter, richer person.  More times than not, I receive far more than I offer.

No matter how busy you are, I encourage you to make time for others.  It will benefit you in many, many ways over the years.  Instead of deleting those invitations to trade association, alumni or office happy hours, take a chance and put your best foot forward.

The benefits of networking are endless, but here are some specific ways I am richer for meeting new people or staying in touch with my associates:

There are people I have met over the years who I enjoy getting together with for coffee or lunch and comparing notes about current events, the state of advocacy and communications, or other topics.

  • I needed a contact at a specific pharmaceutical company for a non-profit client and I turned to LinkedIn to see who might work there or be connected to the firm. I emailed a connection (a former client from the past) and within an hour I was emailing with the pharmaceutical company executive in charge.
  • I visited a Congressional contact from some years ago at his current place of employment, and it turns out my agency had a solution to some specific needs of his organization. They are now my second-largest client.
  • People I have helped when they graduated from college or who were between jobs are now hiring managers and I am able to refer promising professionals to them for job opportunities.
  • I went to lunch with a grassroots professional as a favor to an associate who wanted to know if he was experienced enough to teach an online course. I was blown away by his talent. He is now teaching in the program and we have partnered on several projects that benefit the government relations profession.

Here are some of the ways you can get involved in networking and mentoring:

  • Take a chance and attend a happy hour or event with an organization you have wondered about and might like to join.
  • Exchange your business card with interesting people there and follow up via email to see if a follow up meeting might be warranted.
  • Contact your alma mater to see if any students or young alumni need some career guidance or a guest speaker.
  • Tweet or post your professional insights so others might learn from you and your experiences. One of my friend in PRSA is actually tweeting a “mentoring tip of the day” throughout January.

There seems to be a new awakening after the holiday break and a newfound enthusiasm to start off 2016 with some resounding successes. It is not too late to get started.

Mike Fulton directs the Washington, D.C. office of the Asher Agency (www.asheragency.com) and teaches Public Affairs IMC 638 at the master’s level for West Virginia University’s Integrated Marketing Communications (IMC) program.

Connect with Mike at mikef@asheragency.com; @hillrat1156 or on LinkedIn.

Quality Service: 10 Steps for Winning and Keeping Clients

January 7, 2016

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This article originally appeared in the January 2016 issue of PRSA Tactics and was authored by Mike Fulton. He teaches IMC 638 – Public Affairs for the WVU IMC program.

One of the most common questions that new PR and lobbying professionals ask me is: “How do you find clients and how do you keep them?”

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© Sarah Jones/Ikon Images/Corbis

I have been in this profession for more than 25 years and am blessed with some fantastic clients whom I love to work with. You have to love what you do and give 100 percent, every hour of every day.

During the first few years, when I worked for a PR/government relations agency, I serviced the clients that my boss sold. All of the pressure was on the back end, as I sought to exceed expectations in achieving each client’s objectives. As the firm grew and more senior executives joined our team, I had to build my own book of business on which I would be judged and compensated.

Although I am a hard worker, I had never been the lead dog on the sled, so to speak. I was anxious and apprehensive. However, I soon learned that business development is more of an art than a science.

Through the years, I have learned many lessons that led to some solid professional guidelines. Here are some highlights:

1. Pursue specific clients where you have relationships, experience, and knowledge first. This can include alumni from your alma mater, former business partners or coworkers and organizations with needs that are in the news and have deadlines for solutions.
2. You cannot network with enough people. People sell people — not websites, brochures or videos.
3. Be thoughtful in your follow-up with prospects and do so immediately. Every day that passes after a successful meeting with a prospective client significantly reduces the chance that you will work with them.
4. Even if you get a “no,” say thank you and keep in touch. Many people have come back to me for various reasons after they told me “no,” “not now” or initially hired someone else.
5. Doing great work for current clients is just like selling. You always want to retain the clients and seek ways to expand your business with them as you offer spectacular service.
6. Do not chase other consultants’ clients; there is enough business for everyone without cutthroat tactics.
7. Never skip over the fees and expenses to get to the work. Execute a signed agreement before you start work.
8. Send out invoices with a part-personal and part-business note, and always thank clients for the opportunity to work with them. If you delegate this important task, then you miss a valuable opportunity to interact with your clients and let them know you value their relationship.
9. Be transparent. Be honest and forthcoming on fees, expenses and other aspects of your work. When you try to bury something and the client learns, or even suspects, that something is awry, they will never trust you again.
10. Do not hesitate to ask your current clients for help in expanding your business. If they really like you and consider your work meaningful, then they will want their friends to work with you and your agency.

There are many other finer points to selling, servicing and retaining clients, but these are the ones you need to build a solid foundation for achieving success, for both you and your clients.

 

mikeMike Fulton directs the Asher Agency’s Washington, D.C. office and teaches Public Affairs IMC 638 at the master’s level for West Virginia University’s IMC Program. Connect with Fulton at mikefulton.wv@gmail.com or @hillrat1156, or on LinkedIn.