You are who you know
I have just finished binge-watching the second series of the BBC/HBO collaboration Industry. It’s about a group of bright young things working in finance in the City of London, with money to burn – mostly on booze and drugs – and status to chase. The characters are almost all hateful, and never seem to do anything normal, like laundry or getting the tube. But the sequences of high-octane trading scenarios are thrilling, and the plot is wholly addictive.
This second series sees the main protagonist, Harper Stern, a third-year analyst on the cross product sales desk, hook a billionaire client, Jesse Bloom, and then blow up her career in an attempt to hold on to him. While she is ‘covering’ him, she is an asset to any institution in the Square Mile, and can dictate terms to other banks when she falls out of favour with her fictional employer, Pierpoint. It soon becomes clear, though, that Bloom has been two steps ahead the whole time, profiting off Harper’s inexperience and then dumping her to jet off back to New York far richer than he was when he arrived in London.
A lot of the filming locations are in Broadgate, a short walk away from the Roxhill offices in Bank, so I could imagine bumping into the cast in the pub after work. However, Industry reminded me of real life in another way, too. The success of the main characters depends on their client relationships going deeper than just a workplace exchange. They need to be able to get them on the phone and fundamentally understand what makes them tick, something that rings true for those of us in the media today.
Making connections with individuals, on a human level, goes beyond email exchanges, or working on a short-lived projects together. Jobs come and go, and clients change even more frequently, but in the media, especially in travel, the main players tend to be lifers. It’s because it’s such a great gig.
So, if you can build a personal relationship with someone in the industry early – bonding with them over living in the same part of town; liking experimental cocktails; playing a sport; or whatever – that connection can serve you for the rest of your career, regardless of where you work and what stories you’re promoting.
From my time at the Sunday Times, I’ve still got a handful of contacts in Travel PR that I’ve grown up with. We were juniors together, and now they are all in senior roles at the UK’s travel PR firms, or running their own agencies. We’ve gone through lots together – incredible trips, of course, but also job moves, buying our first flats, getting married, having kids. These are the people that I’d phone for a last-minute package; an emergency place to stay; stories to add to my list before an ideas meeting. They’d phone me for testimonials, or my take on a particular client they were pitching for. And it all started, not with client lists, but with cocktails and a chat.
So next time you’ve got an audience with a journo of your generation, don’t’ make like Harper and push your work agenda first. Instead, try to lay the foundations for a friendship, then the next time they jet off to the Big Apple on a story, it could be with you.