PR Grouch’s guide to power networking

Some clients are keen to take journalists out for lunch, which is fine, as long as they don’t bore them to death.

I was lunching at Threesixty° with a client and a trade journalist the other day, practically begging the client to stop droning on, and start listening. I could see the journo’s eyes wandering around the room, he was obviously bored. But as there were no A-list celebs around, there was no great distraction to be had.

Being charming and entertaining are obvious benefits for those who work in PR. Basically, our job is getting on with people. I know there are other bits and pieces – coming up with great campaigns, making the clients money, blah-di-blah – but if you don’t get on with your contacts, you ain’t going anywhere.

Well, there might be a place for you in one of the larger firms, or perhaps a financial institution? But assuming you do want to get on with journos and clients, here is my guide for sparkling conversation:

1. It’s all about them. They don’t really want to know too much about you, so as fascinating as your life is, keep it short.

2. But don’t be secretive. There’s nothing more off putting than having a heart to heart with someone who doesn’t reveal any juicy secrets.

3. If they have kids, be incredibly interested in them. Never fails.

4. If they don’t have kids, find out what their passion is. If you don’t know anything about who should be running the country/cricket/IPL 2013/the latest Bollywood movie/the Gandhi family, then what’s wrong with you? You need to know about this stuff!

5. Don’t talk about work. It is okay to allude to it a few times, but when you are entertaining, no one is interested in in-depth strategy.

6. You know what they say about religion and politics. Don’t mix them. With good reason. Stay clear. Unless of course you are right of Narendra Modi, or the Shiv Sena then you won’t be able to help yourself.

7. If in doubt, get them drunk. Then it doesn’t matter what you say, with luck they won’t be able to recall it…

8. But be sure not to get too drunk yourself, as you will want to remember any stuff they let slip. It could come in useful one day.