So you rocked out PRAdvanced, you scored tons of business cards and made a lot of connections. Now what?
The follow-up to networking functions and the maintenance of the relationships initiated there are just as important as making the contacts in the first place. Without proper maintenance those budding connections will fade away and no longer be of use.
Create a database of some kind to store all of your new-found contact information. Business cards are great, but they are small and can be easily misplaced if not logged carefully. A good way is to use a Word document or Excel file. Entering all of the information from the business cards makes your contact list more organized and also makes it searchable (command F). If any of the people you met have a Facebook or LinkedIn profile it is helpful to copy and paste their profile photo into your document so as to better remember which faces go with which names. Another useful tool to keep those business cards organized is the business card reader by SHAPE services. You can “import contact information from a business card directly to your iPhone address book” simply by snapping a photo of the card. You can download the app on iTunes or right here.
This should have been done before the networking function but it is always good to double-check. Make sure your personal website or blog is running smoothly, that your Facebook profile is cleaned up (privacy settings thoroughly set in place) and that your LinkedIn profile is up to date.
Add Contacts to Your Social Media Network
If the Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter information is listed on the contact’s business card, now is the perfect time to connect to them on your social media network while they still remember who you are.
You have a few options in terms of how you want to approach the actual follow-up itself. The most standard way to go about it is by sending a simple email. However, you want to make sure to personalize the email by including references to discussions you may have had with the person throughout the night or a joke you two shared. This will jog the memory of the contact and will set you apart from the many other people they met that night.
The hand-written Card
If you really want to stand out from the pack, you can send hand-written notes to those with whom you connected most during the networking function. Including the same sort of information you would in an email, the card lends a more personal, polished touch.
In initiating and maintaining the connections that you make at functions like PRAdvanced, you are well on your way to developing the most important tool for any PR professional, your network.