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Using a VA for free PR - Lesson 2: Building and Using a Network

Virtual assistant PR networking FREE marketing

In the second instalment of this PR series I am discussing examples of networking and how a Virtual Assistant can help. 

As in any form of business creating a network serves two purposes. Firstly it is useful for contacts, for getting your name out there and for helping you to find (and give) help. 

Secondly it gives you an extraordinary opportunity to learn from others, some of whom are doing something similar to you, others who perhaps are at a different stage in the process of growing a business. 

The basics

Social Media, particularly Twitter can be excellent for this, as can be LinkedIn. LinkedIn occasionally gets a bad rap from some quarters but I have always found it to be an excellent way of reaching out to people. 

Provided you display a genuine interest in them they are likely to respond. People can be a little reticent to connect if they don’t know you so, don’t just send a blank connection request. Personalise it!

 Building a LinkedIn Network:

  • Use LinkedIn search to find relevant people

  • Send a polite connection request mentioning something about the person with whom you wish to connect. Perhaps reference a blog post they have written or something they are known for. Polite flattery is great – everybody loves it.

  • If you want advice be aware that they probably get many requests. If you want to sell, then work on a relationship before pitching.

Now, none of the above is difficult but if you decide to really ramp up your network it will be very time-consuming. Some processes in building a network and reaching out can be partially automated. Tools like LinkedHelper and can work for you but go easy on them because LinkedIn may block your account if you overuse automated software. 

TOP TIP: We have had more than one customer using a VA to research contacts and send out a set number of personalised messages a day through their LinkedIn account. This can also work in recruitment.

Building a Newsletter Audience:

If you have some news (not necessarily every time you publish a blog post) it makes sense to reach out to a potential audience that can spread the word for you and create awareness about your business.

 If you are stuck for ideas on how to find an audience consider the following: 

  • Make a list of contacts for Clubs / Societies / Organisations that are relevant.

  • Make a list of Facebook pages / groups that are relevant.

  • Make a list of contacts for Publications / Blogs / Sites that are relevant.

  • Make a list of contacts for Journalists in the sector (LinkedIn and Twitter are good for this).

TOP TIP: Remember when you contact each group you should tailor your message somewhat, explaining why you are doing so and how it is relevant or may benefit them.  

Using a Network

If you want to leverage the connection to get exposure for your brand you could try asking if they would be interested in guest posting on your website’s blog. However if you do so:

  • Briefly explain the benefits for them of doing so when you make the request.

  • Don’t wait for a second email or message to explain this part because you may never get that far.

Find a cause, find common ground

In order to increase your influence or put you in front of influencers who can help promote your business you can do a lot worse than aligning your business or your business persona with a cause.  But in doing so don’t forget these three variants of the same rule:

  • Make it a good one and make it one that you genuinely believe in.

  • You also need to bring value to a relationship and this is most simply done if you have a genuine interest.

  • Don’t do something just for the publicity. Phoneys will be found out.