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We are in the business of relationships. Not in a Tinder or Relate kind of way, but in building purposeful connections that help engender support, create understanding and ultimately enhance reputations. It’s at the heart of what we do – as PR / communications professionals – but is also key to our own organisation’s success.

We rely on good relationships with our own stakeholders – our team and our clients along with our suppliers and the wider community.  Building and nurturing these relationships is something that we pride ourselves on, ensuring we create a two-way partnership built on trust and transparency. And, it’s also a key route for us to build our own networks and new business pipeline.

So, when the pandemic hit and we were confined to our homes, my initial thought was that the opportunity for ‘new’ connections was off the table.  In the absence of any kind of app to swipe or match with likeminded professionals, perhaps we’d just have to use our existing communications channels to try and catch someone’s eye or gain an introduction?

Fortunately, the business network community was a little more optimistic about the opportunity for connecting, despite the lack of physical connectivity.  For example, I’m a member of B4 a business network in Oxfordshire.  Over the summer I was impressed with how they adapted their offering in light of the pandemic, bringing members together through virtual events and sharing knowledge via a series of webinars. As well as boosting my own learning I gained some valuable new contacts.  We are now collaborating further in designated industry groups or hubs – it’s early days but I’m excited to be ‘meeting’ new people and look forward to building mutually beneficial relationships.

I’ve also joined OxLEP’s peer network progamme.  In a nutshell this brings business people together – from a diverse range of organistions – to share experiences and offer support in a confidential space.  It’s run as an action learning set, something I’ve encountered before thanks to my leadership development learning via QuoLux and I found it extremely beneficial.  However, the thought of taking this honest and frank dialogue online with people I’d never met before, was a little daunting. I’m only one session in but so far my expectations have been exceeded, and I surprised myself at how comfortable I felt – perched at my kitchen table, listening and learning from others and making new connections.

So, as we settle into our second lockdown, I’ll continue to embrace the virtual variety of networking comforted that in doing so I’ll also be, as Zig Ziglar says, developing my own purpose…

“Part of your purpose in life is to build strong and fruitful relationships with others, and your work setting is a perfect place to start.”

Authored by Sam Kandiyali.