A US lesson on why global networking is alive and well

Rewind roughly two and a half years, pandemic and homeworking still a novelty, I’ll admit to questioning whether the PR world I was so new to could return to its former networking glories. Less than a year into my first post university job, I’d received a taste of the sociable working world I’d joined. Daily office life learning from talented colleagues, lunches or drinks with journalists, big production company events – it was all incredibly exciting. So from a selfish perspective, having lockdowns take it all away so quickly was a tough pill to swallow.

Biased I know, but Brands2Life did a fantastic job of keeping all of us engaged through such a challenging period. But as restrictions eased, my doubts persisted on the industry’s ability to return to the thriving social world I’d had a glimpse of. I’m certain I wasn’t alone in continuing to harbour these concerns.

Back in the present, networking in our industry is very much alive and kicking – and I’d go as far as to suggest making up for lost time. Any lingering doubts I had were emphatically squashed by my recent trip to America to spend time with our Brands2Life US colleagues.

We have an amazing initiative here that each UK star of the month’s name gets put into a tombola at the end of year Christmas party, and whoever’s name is pulled out gets an expenses paid trip to see our colleagues in the US. To say I was shocked when my name was pulled out and announced at our famous EABAs is one of the bigger understatements I’ve made. And wow did the trip surpass my already extremely high expectations.

I was lucky enough to spend a week with our New York team, followed by a week split between Minneapolis and San Francisco. The trip was made by how welcoming my colleagues were – there was even a little competition running to see which city I would have the best time in. Having worked with the US team closely across various accounts in my time here, I had previously only ever been able to chat to them over video call. So I absolutely loved getting to know them all better in person and seeing how they worked – I even discovered one is a part owner of a US soccer team with friends from his high school.

The importance of building these in person relationships should never be underestimated. PR is fast paced – it’s one of the key elements that makes it such an exciting job. But to operate well as a team, especially a global team, trust and strong relationships need to be built by connecting on a personal level. This doesn’t just apply to the colleagues you work with on a daily basis, but your partner agencies, clients and journalists too.

The challenge now is to keep up this networking momentum we’ve built. While we are all so delighted to be able to spend time with our colleagues again, we can’t run out of steam. The world of hybrid working is here to stay, so a conscious effort needs to be made to keep our sociable careers in full swing. That means making the extra effort to see the people we work with whenever we can.

I promise it doesn’t require an incredible trip to various American cities to come to the realisation of the importance of networking in our industry… but take it from me, it certainly doesn’t hurt!