In a high-ceilinged, Mexican-inspired restaurant on Orange Avenue, part of Orlando’s main downtown strip, PR and marketing professionals gathered for an evening of good conversation and, of course, good food! PAN Communications was a sponsor of the networking mixer, put on by PRSA Orlando, and discussion ran the gambit – from sharing stresses of the day to chatting summer travel plans to fielding questions from local UCF students. As the evening progressed a few key topics stood out to me most.
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Storytelling plays such a major role in how we do our jobs on a day-to-day basis, but it’s often difficult to explain to a client or non-PR professional why it’s so important to an overall communications plan. In speaking with various attendees at the networking mixer, a couple sentiments were mirrored across the board: Storytelling is something we all take pride in doing, and continuously honing our skills in this is increasingly important.
It was great to speak with various professionals – some with a few years’ experience, others with 25+ years’ experience – about the storytelling strategies and tactics that have worked best for them and how they were able to communicate that value to a client or C-level executive. Storytelling is the silent hero behind what makes us tick and what makes our work valuable and successful.
One thing that really caught my attention was the number of advertising/PR students from the University of Central Florida (UCF) in attendance at the networking mixer. I got the chance to speak with a few of them, and it turns out that part of UCF’s internship program is for students to attend an industry-specific networking event, outside of the intern events hosted by UCF, to help them build confidence and make industry connections.
As I spoke to more of the students the general consensus was clear – they crave the opportunity to meet industry professionals, engage with us and build relationships with us in more relaxed and stress-free environments. As opposed to attending intern fairs, resume workshops and more formal networking events, the PRSA mixer gave these students a chance to experience us as people, not just as professionals.
The more informal and relaxed setting made it easier to strike up conversation about more than PR and future careers. I felt I was able to get a better look into the different personalities of these students, and I could tell the pressure was off for them, allowing them to feel more at ease.
No one will argue that a career in PR isn’t demanding. Too often we find ourselves caught up in the daily grind, moving from one project to the next, but in reality, we crave the chance to shine a light – both on ourselves and on the accomplishments of others in the industry. It’s not uncommon to unload a slew of complaints and frustrations when connecting with others in your same industry, but conversation at the mixer focused heavily on sharing triumphs, hearing others’ best practices and sharing my own wins and ideas. The organizers even took a few moments to recognize those in attendance who had recently received their APR certification and/or won industry awards.
There’s a certain understanding we PR professionals have of each other – we share the same successes, struggles and more. So, when we get a chance to share with each other and elevate each other, we do.
I left the event with a stack of business cards, several new LinkedIn connections and a renewed feeling of community and belonging. My final thoughts from the night? Shrimp and scallop ceviche is an absolute culinary revelation, and PR professionals could definitely run the world. I’m very much looking forward to attending more PRSA Orlando events and continuing to foster the relationships I had the privilege of forging at the mixer.