The Importance of Follow Up in PR

A peculiar thing happened to me last week. Something that caught me off guard and made me wonder if the majority of us truly understand the value that people place on following up.

by Svadilfari

I attended a career fair on behalf of my employer to collect resumes and meet prospective job candidates who were seeking employment. At the end of the day I had in-depth conversations with about 35 potential candidates (some of whom were working and others who were currently unemployed) and handed my business card to each one noting that our company vigorously participated in social media and I was the point of contact for follow up. Following the conversations, every single one of the candidates firmly shook my hand, looked me in the eye and said they were very interested in working for my company. Nearly a week later, I have received follow up messages from exactly two of the candidates via email. Two.

I don’t want you to think that I don’t know the drill. Between my detailed conversations with these candidates and the days that followed they may have:

  1. Decided that they weren’t interested in working for my company
  2. Immediately received multiple job interviews to fill their schedule
  3. Decided that after reviewing the potential employers of interest at the fair, their current job was satisfactory for now

I have to think that due to the spirited conversations that I had with each of the candidates, a dozen of which came back to my booth to ask additional questions after our initial conversations, I would have at the very least received 10 – 15 follow up messages. Nope. I got two.

In case you haven’t checked lately, the current job market is still dismal. It’s slowly recovering but at last check, employers still receive approximately 50 – 100 resumes on average for each open position. Furthermore, most recruiters spend less than 10 seconds reviewing cover letters and although estimates vary, less than 20 seconds reviewing resumes.

If you want to stand out, be noticed and get attention, you simply must take the time to follow through after initial contact with an employer at a job fair even if it’s a quick note to say. “Hey thanks for the conversation, but I am pursuing other options at this time.” Who knows? Maybe someday you may seek out that company for a partnership or as a client. Sure makes it easier to get your foot in the door if your last point of contact was a thoughtful follow up note showing courtesy, respect and the foresight to keep the lines of communication open.

This post is about more than job seekers following through. Can PR professionals take a lesson from this? As the power and influence of our own networks grows increasingly more important to succeed in the modern PR world, following up with new contacts demonstrates a level of conscientiousness that makes people want to work with you. Follow up strengthens reputations and although especially critical after meeting media contacts, it extends to everyone we bring into our network. Even if it’s a quick follow up email or tweet, the art of follow up should be an important tool in all PR utility belts.

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  • Anonymous

    Very true, John. I share a similar experience when I was at a “Meet the Pros” event on behalf of my alma mater. I was a guest speaker on the subject of social media and there were about 50 students in the room. Of those 50, 10 came up to me afterward and said they wanted to come into to the agency at which I am currently employed to learn more, and I walked away with 10 resumes to review and provide feedback on that night. Here’s the clincher: no one followed up – card, e-mail, tweet, nothing. And on another note, it’s important to remember that people remember things — so if I were to meet one of those students later on in their career, I’d remember they never followed up and still wouldn’t have the best impression of them. Hopefully, at that time, they’d be wiser. 

    However, for those that do follow up, thank you cards that are clearly “form” and don’t carry much thoughtfulness are a clear indicator that you’re shopping the job market, not necessarily passionate. Just desperate.

    • Thanks for sharing that story Tim, very appropriate example. I just can’t fathom why someone in today’s job market wouldn’t want to get an edge by following up with a personal note to everyone they discuss job opportunities of interest with.

      And you’re right, there is a distinct difference between passion and desperation. Someone once told me that you should try to learn one personal thing about a person you come into contact with about a job and include something about that in the follow up. Helps to differentiate yourself.

  • John, this is a dilemma that I face practically every day as I counsel young would-be practitioners studying public relations at Curry College.
    1. They eagerly send out resumes with cover letters that end with “I look forward to hearing from you.”
    2. They attend professional meetings at my encouragement and show up with zero business cards or any other means of leaving their contact information with a possible employer.
    3. They don’t…as you say so clearly…follow up after a meeting with a possible employer or networking contact.

    I’m not giving up…yet! But it DOES get wearing after a while.

    Thanks for a great post!

    • Thank you for sharing that Kirk and for stopping by to comment. Needless to say I was floored at the number of candidates who never bothered to follow up, and to make matters worse, one sent me a note today — almost a week after the event — as a follow up. Not only do you need to be thoughtful in your follow ups, but extremely punctual as well.

      Hope your students improve in this area!