Connecting with people is easier than ever before, but if we aren’t careful, our professional lives can shrink to the limitations of our immediate circles. I hadn’t realized just how hungry I was for fresh perspectives until I attended the South Shore Conference for Women, where I was honored to participate on a branding and marketing panel.
The conference reawakened a fundamental truth for me: networking is not merely a PR business tactic; it is essential for professional growth, brand vitality, and personal fulfillment. And I want to help you experience these enriching benefits for yourself.
Seizing the Opportunity
Networking begins with stepping up. My journey to becoming a panelist started with one simple decision: I accepted a colleague’s invitation to apply for a seat on a branding and marketing panel—topics near and dear to any PR professional’s heart!
I had to fill out a detailed application, which in itself was a valuable exercise in branding and self-promotion. The process was selective, and I was humbled to learn I’d been chosen to speak alongside two other professionals, each of us bringing a unique perspective to the multifaceted concept of branding.
Key takeaway: Even if you don’t think you’re experienced enough to land on a conference panel, I strongly encourage every entrepreneur to seek out opportunities to share their knowledge. I never imagined how this opportunity would broaden my professional community and shine a warm spotlight on my PR consulting firm!
Collaborating to Educate
My panel was designed to “inspire, educate, and equip entrepreneurs with the tools needed to elevate their brand and grow their bottom line”—a bold promise that challenged me to bring my A-game.
I joined my fellow panelists, photographer Saraphina Churchill and brand strategist Laura Sauter, in exploring and explaining the intricacies of branding, presenting our audience with a holistic view of the branding process. Our objective was to empower every attendee with practical steps for enhancing their brand’s impact.
Key takeaway: It’s common to assume that “everyone” already knows what you know or that you aren’t yet advanced enough to help others. In truth, there will always be people who know more and less than you. The key to any communications strategy is to find the audience that needs the knowledge you have right now.
Sharing My Story
Through a series of personal narratives, I aimed to not only educate but also to inspire. I encouraged the attendees to see their brands as living entities that grow and evolve with them, always striving to embody the values they stand for while adapting to the changing tides of business and consumer needs.
Lesson 1: Essence
I emphasized that a brand is much more than a logo or a color scheme; it’s the essence that lingers in a room long after you’ve left. To drive this point home, I recounted the early days of Goodwin Consulting, where dreaming big was the order of the day. Yet, as the company matured, those dreams had to be translated into concrete actions to create a brand that resonates and retains its relevance in the ever-evolving PR mark
Lesson 2: Perception
A significant part of my contribution revolved around disclosing the lessons learned from past missteps. I shared the story of a catering company with a costly yet comical website error—”fig wrapped in prostitute” instead of “prosciutto.” It was a powerful reminder that attention to detail can make or break a brand’s perception. (It also gave everyone a good laugh!)
Lesson 3: Integrity
I focused on providing practical advice on maintaining brand integrity, as well. We discussed the importance of regular brand audits, the signs that indicate a brand needs refreshing, and the significance of aligning a brand’s core values with its public image. The goal was to furnish our audience with a checklist of sorts, ensuring their brands would stay consistent and true to their vision.
Lesson 4: Evolution
Another lesson I learned from my fellow panelist, Laura Sauter, was the evolution of my own professional identity.
Laura asks her clients a simple question: Do you prefer a window seat or an aisle seat on an airplane? I recognized my own career evolution—transitioning from the “window seat” of a PR dreamer to the “aisle seat” of a PR doer.
This metaphor resonated with many in the room, reflecting the universal journey of growth that all brands and professionals undergo. It also highlighted the importance of adaptability and the willingness to shift perspectives as an entrepreneur gains experience.
Lesson 5: Storytelling
Finally, I delved into the power of storytelling in branding. By sharing personal experiences and PR client success stories, I illustrated how a brand can connect with its audience on a more profound level. This approach not only makes a brand more relatable but also cements it in the memory of its consumers, fostering loyalty and engagement.
The Ripple Effect of Sharing Expertise
The feedback we received was phenomenal, and the connections made in that room were genuine, promising potential partnerships and opportunities that would have otherwise remained unexplored. By engaging in this networking event, I’ve nurtured new relationships that have already begun to yield collaborative ventures and opportunities for mutual growth.
Key takeaway: Networking is more than shaking hands and passing out business cards. Networking is about engaging with new viewpoints, exchanging ideas, and expanding our horizons to better our brands, our businesses, and ourselves. Networking is about building strength through connection.
A Call for Meaningful Networking in 2024
In 2024, let’s challenge ourselves to step out of our comfort zones. Sign up for that event you’ve been eyeing, share your knowledge, and open your mind to the thought leadership of others.
In this age of endless digital distraction, the act of being fully present is revolutionary. Don’t underestimate the power of your own presence when you show up ready to learn, grow, and give back.
Get out there and find a conference, networking event, or panel that resonates with your expertise and your passion.
The connections you make may very well fuel a future of collaborative success.