How Important Is Networking, Really?

Inspiration has come at inopportune times this week. I’ve suddenly felt very inspired, for example, in bed or at the checkout in Sainsbury’s. I felt extremely full of genius and wit at work, on my own, the other day but was obviously unable to suddenly start bashing away at a keyboard, pouring all of that intelligence into a post or three. Then, on Wednesday morning, I took some time off the ‘day job’ to focus on doing something for I had been invited by O PR, a creative communications agency based in the north east, to attend their latest #Ocademy workshop; the Brands & Bloggers Breakfast held at Café Royal on Nelson Street. The event, as the name suggests, was hosted to bring together brands, businesses and bloggers to network a little and hopefully learn how to get the best from each other, over coffee and bacon. Nicely done O PR. You clearly know how to pull a crowd. Both breakfast and Café Royal feature high on my long list of Sarah’s Favourite Things so agreeing to attend was a no brainer.
I’ve been to a fair few similar events over the last couple of years, but this time I’d also been asked to join four other bloggers/marketing pros on a panel to showcase some of the region’s blogging talent (trying to write this without sounding like I have my head up my own arse is a challenge in itself) and provide some of the As for a Q&A sesh. The other panellists included Hannah Parker, Sandra Tang, Graham Soult and Jen Walshaw.

I must admit when I first got the email I had some initial doubts. I suddenly wished for the anonymity that I had so fiercely protected when I first started writing online. It’s one thing to sit behind a computer screen and type your jumbled thoughts into structured sentences when you can pretend no one is listening (though your steadily climbing stats may tell you otherwise) but in a room full of people you’re suddenly putting yourself out there. It was supposed to be a casual thing but by agreeing to be a panellist I’d be acknowledging the hard work I put into this site and saying. “Yeah, okay, I think I’m getting good at this. I’ve got something worth saying. Listen to me. Heed my words because apparently they’re super important.”

I am an opinionated person but I usually don’t affront strangers with the full force of that without them asking. If you find your way here and stay a while, reading my jibber jabber until you’ve had your fill, that implies that you’ve made the choice to do so. I haven’t just popped up on your screen and started ranting at you about where I ate dinner last night or a dress I really want. You chose to read on. In a room of real live human people I couldn’t be sure whether they wanted to hear what I said or not.

Then I remembered that I’d built this myself. I have worked hard and I have earned any respect you want to throw my way. Try not to imagine my head up my arse again but I haven’t made this up. Any friends/acquaintances/connections I’ve made because of have been through making myself break the ‘work, home, bed’ routine and go out there and represent my own brand. No one else is going to sell for me. No one else is going to hand out business cards for me. No one else is going to write these articles. I set the foundations, I built the walls brick by brick, I designed and decorated the joint and now I’m being asked to show people around a little and I’m considering saying “no”? I haven’t got this far by saying “no” and pretending networking is for other people. I like meeting new people, I like doing new things. It’s one reason running this site suits me so well. So I said yes. And I obviously enjoyed myself. I had breakfast, I chatted to some new people, I sat up there with the other panellists and answered some questions, and I think it went relatively well. I’m under no illusions that I’m big cheese but I’d rather like to do more of this kind of thing in the future. It’s lovely to have a little recognition from your peers now and then.

One thing I can honestly say is that if I’d stayed hiding behind the computer screen I wouldn’t be offered half as many opportunities. I’m still a long way from world domination (no one’s ruling it out just yet, thank you very much) but networking is key to moving forward. Of course online networking is just as important as reaching out but you can’t beat face to face for a memorable impression. It’s thanks to home-grown teams like O PR that there are events like this to attend in the north east now. The mingling between the businesses and the PR guys and dolls, and us motely (albeit fashionably dressed) bunch of ‘social journalists’ is priceless. They get to meet us en masse and learn how best to approach bloggers and get what they need from the situation and we get to remind them that we’re not just out-for-nowt blaggers, but rather creative people willing to work hard to promote their brand given the right opportunities and incentives.

You also can’t beat a face to face presentation, which was something that O PR had set up from a few of the businesses in attendance, including Dr Martens and Rust-oleum. I enjoy being introduced to new ideas, and even to new products (and thanks to Katie Read’s passionate introduction to the Lakes Distillery I now fancy a trip back up to Cumbria to join her for nosy around and a few glasses of gin…) and with any luck the representatives from brands who attended felt they gained something from our answers to their questions too.

Everyone likes a goody bag…

On that note, if you’ve come across this post and would like to chat regarding any future work, collaborations or features please don’t hesitate to get in touch. Bear in mind that not everything will be suitable for and I reserve the right to decline anything I don’t feel is a good fit and would benefit neither of us, but on the whole I’m pretty friendly. I think so anyway.

And finally, in the spirit of… er… bigging myself up, there’s a link to the voting bit for the NE Blog Awards on the right there, the top round button with the big blue ‘ME’ in it. No pressure, I’m not expecting to win – I’ve seen the calibre of the competition, but if anyone fancies winging me a vote for Best NE Lifestyle Blog then please, be my guest. Your cheque’s in the post.*

*Disclaimer: no actual cheques will be sent. But my non-tangible appreciation knows no bounds.

Casual OOTD here for you, Sarah Fans, incase you were wondering what I wore to the #Ocademy:
Top, blazer and floral slacks all H&M (loving their stuff at the mo)
Shoes are nude suede heels from Next
Bag is the large ‘Selma’ Saffiano tote by Michael Kors

Leave a Reply