Starting out in the public relations industry in a big city can be intimidating. Cher Lee has done it, in two major Canadian cities, and even recently started her own agency, Story PR. We spoke to Cher and asked her about how she got started and how she makes, and keeps, those important PR connections.
Cher Lee is a career communicator, building connections for global brands ranging from Labatt, Sony, and HP to CBC and Hootsuite. A transplanted Torontonian, Cher is now a West Coast convert and recently returned to her agency roots with Story PR. When she s not busy strategizing on a client’s next big campaign, Cher spends her time contributing to lifestyle blogs, creeping Rihanna’s snapchat, or on the seawall with her spaniel.
How and where did you form your most significant contacts? How have these changed over time?
Most of my professional network has stemmed from connections I made while in university or throughout different jobs in my career. My industry is actually quite small so people I met in my PR program are now potential job referrals and past co-workers have become clients! Despite studying and growing most of my career in a different city, I’m constantly surprised by how many of my contacts there have led to opportunities or new connections here in Vancouver.
What does networking look like in your world? What are some of your top tips for successfully networking in this city?
Accept invitations! When I first moved out West, I accepted as many invitations to events or social engagements as I could – you never know who you might meet or what you might learn.
Ask questions! It can be intimidating to network at an event where you don’t know many people, but we have all been in the same boat. Even if someone doesn’t appear to be an influential contact from first glance, they could turn out to be a really valuable contact down the road. As an independent consultant, some of my business referrals have come from loose connections that I never expected… so be interested in others and ask questions about themselves, their work, etc.
Put the social in social media! Social media can be a very effective tool in networking. Twitter is great for starting conversations with influential people you’d like to connect with… you can access anybody! Linkedin, Twitter, or Facebook make staying in touch with new connections you’ve made easy and are a low maintenance way to keep updated on any opportunities or happenings in extended networks.
What advice do you have for the Vancouver woman who is just starting out in her career or considering a leap to a new career?
I’d encourage them to spend some time in the field they re interested in to learn more about it and narrow down their focus. This could mean approaching someone you don’t know for an informational meeting over coffee after researching them online, or volunteering/interning at a company in that industry. Interning at different agencies early in my career helped me to see the reality of the path I was going down, get hands-on experience, and really double-down on the type of PR I wanted to practice. Plus, getting close to the field you want to be in helps grow your connections even further, and hopefully lead to opportunities down the line!
Spoken like a true communicator! Thanks for the tips, Cher.
For those of you just starting out in your public relations career, and are looking for those information meetings over coffee with someone in the biz–we have just the tool for you! Sign up for Elletourage and seek out a mentor (and get a free copy of our eBook with plenty more advice from women like Cher Lee).