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Building a peer network

30 July 2012

I recently undertook a survey on lone communicators in charities; it became apparent that the majority of respondents feel quite isolated in their role. Whilst they enjoy autonomy and not having to go through hoops to have things signed off, they yearn for peers to share ideas with, to act as a sounding board or, simply, lend a sympathetic ear.

So as a sole communicator in a small charity, how do you build your peer network? Here are my five Top Tips:

1. Be brave – introduce yourself
Yes we’re all communications professionals but introducing yourself to a complete stranger can be daunting. Not all of us are social butterflies but it’s really important to make connections in order to build your peer network. At your next seminar, conference or event, introduce yourself to the people sitting next to you by starting with something conversational, like, “I’m really looking forward to this session. I hope it’s going to help me with a project I’m working on.” Hopefully the conversation should follow on from there. Do the same during the coffee and lunch breaks and remember to exchange business cards so that you can keep in touch.

2. Get introduced
Ask your peers to introduce you to someone they know via email, LinkedIn or Twitter, and do the same for them. My CharityComms mentor recently asked me to get in touch with a peer of his, via LinkedIn, to offer social media support. I did and now I have a new marketing peer.

3. Join Twitter
if you’re not on Twitter personally, sign up today! Twitter is an excellent way to meet charity people and engage with them through tweets. Follow @NFPTweetup to find out about their free events for people working in the voluntary sector – you then get to meet your Twitter friends in real life.

4. Join Groups
There are an abundance of groups specialising in communications, PR, social media and marketing on Facebook and LinkedIn that you can join. Once you’ve joined, get involved by contributing to discussions, answering a poll or creating your own discussion. The Guardian Voluntary Sector Network has regular Live Q&As where you can get involved in discussions as well as regular guest blog posts.

If you follow these simple tips, you will build up a strong network of peers in no time. And when you find yourself needing help, advice or someone to bounce an idea off, you’ll know exactly where to go.

Kirsty Marrins

copywriter, trainer and consultant, freelance

Kirsty is a copywriter, accredited trainer and consultant working in the charity sector. She has a regular column in Third Sector where she writes about all things digital. Kirsty won a CharityComms Inspiring Communicator Award in 2016 and was named one of the 100 most influential people in the charity sector in 2019. She was previously a trustee of the Small Charities Coalition.