By Nancy Marshall, The PR Maven® 

4 Tips for Using Content-Based Networking to Build Meaningful Relationships at Work (And Beyond)

  • Names matter! The success of your content depends on your audience’s ability to find it — so use keywords that make sense.

James Carbary may not be a professional athlete, but his career was set in motion by a football game. In his early twenties, James was lucky enough to join his then-roommate as a guest on an ultra-luxe trip to an NFL game as part of a sweepstakes. There was a private jet, a guided tour around New York City and — of course — prime seats at the game.

But it wasn’t the flashy game day trappings that made the biggest impact on James. Instead, it was the rapport he struck up with a man named Jeff, who he eventually learned was the CEO of a global logistics company. Jeff spent the day with James and the two men connected about faith, family and work. At the end of the day, they swapped business cards… which James says changed the course of his life.

Two years later, Jeff offered James a job in Orlando, helping him run the helicopter division of his business. A few years later, Jeff’s entrepreneurial spirit had inspired James to start a business of his own.

Connecting with Jeff all those years ago may have been what sparked James’s eventual move into entrepreneurship, but more than that, it taught him the power of building relationships in business. “I credit so much of where I am today based on that serendipitous relationship that I created with Jeff,” he says on Episode 109 of The PR Maven Podcast.

The power of those kinds of relationships is the basis for the work James does today as the founder of podcast agency Sweet Fish Media, co-host of B2B Growth — a daily podcast for B2B marketing leaders — and author. His book “Content-Based Networking: How to Instantly Connect With Anyone You Want to Know” outlines his philosophy about the principle of professional relationship-building that has changed his life: content-based networking.

4 Tips for Using Content-Based Networking to Build Meaningful Relationships at Work (And Beyond)Stop waiting for serendipity: Seek out the relationships that will be impactful in your life and business

James defines content-based networking as “The idea of content collaboration. Instead of just randomly meeting Jeff, what if I could proactively invite people to be a guest on my podcast or video series or blog series [or] whatever type of content [platform] I’m creating?”

His fateful meeting with Jeff years ago was so impactful for James that he wants to encourage others to take serendipity out of the equation and seek out potentially life- and career-changing relationships on their own. Based on his experience, leveraging content is a top-notch, often underutilized networking strategy.

“What if we didn’t need a serendipitous event to change our lives?” he says. “What if we could actually reverse engineer relationships with the exact people we want to know?”

James has learned a lot about this reverse engineering process and how it can be used to make meaningful, impactful connections. Here are some of his tips.

1. Stop shying away from friendships in business

Let’s get one thing clear right away: there’s absolutely nothing wrong with building friendships in your professional sphere. In fact, James is a big believer that we should be using the word “friendship” in business more.

“This strategy of content-based networking and creating content [and] collaborating with people you want to know… it’s allowing me to initiate friendships with people that otherwise it would be really hard to connect with,” James says. “If I start some sort of content platform and I make that platform about their expertise, then I can go after those types of people and… shine a spotlight on [them].”

Content-based networking gives you the power to engage with people you admire by inviting them to be part of the content you create, whether that’s a podcast, video series, blog or something entirely different. In doing so, you give them a chance to share their expertise with a broader audience and show off what they know! And if you’re lucky, you might even become friends along the way.

2. Put yourself in a position to connect with people who can help you reach your goals

James breaks down the process for building relationships via content-based networking into three key steps.

  • Get clear on your goal. Your goal may be to grow your customer base, network your way into a new job, establish yourself as a thought leader… the list goes on.
  • Consider the kinds of people who might be able to help you reach that goal.
  • Figure out a content platform that will allow you to “eliminate serendipity” and empower you to engage with the people you identified in step two who might be able to help you reach your goals from step one!

Take James’s own podcasting journey, for example. James and his team at Sweet Fish Media wanted to learn more about the B2B companies that were their ideal clients. With that in mind, they started the B2B Growth daily podcast, which has since amassed a whopping 1,600 episodes. It’s also given James the opportunity to build meaningful relationships and grow the Sweet Fish Media customer base.

“We figured out what our goal was, we figured out who our people were and then we went about creating a podcast that positioned us to interview those people every single day,” James says. “That’s the system that has allowed us to bootstrap a seven-figure business in a few years.”

3. Focus on the value you can bring to your professional relationships

Content-based networking isn’t just about getting what you need out of a relationship. It’s a two-way street. James takes this aspect of networking very seriously.

“I’m always trying to add more value to [people] than I take,” he says. “I want to share their voice. I want to make them look like the rock star they are to our audience. I want to ask them smart questions. I want to figure out what their unique and differentiated point of view is. Doing that and positioning them in a really good light and giving them a platform to share that message… I know that’s enormous value to them.”

Let people tap into the content platform you’ve created so they have something to gain from your relationship too. The connection can build from there!

4. Names go a long way

When asked about the keys to success for the B2B Growth podcast, James says he thinks it has a lot to do with the name. By using the phrase “B2B” in the show title and the phrase “B2B marketing” in the show tagline, the team behind the podcast ensured that it would be easy to find for people searching for B2B-related resources. It all comes down to SEO.

“The way you name your show really matters in terms of being able to rank for what people are searching for,” James says. “I would say that the name of our show is legitimately the reason that we’ve been able to amass the audience that we’ve been able to amass.”

When you’re creating your content platform, get into the mind of your target audience and consider what search terms they might be using to find the information you’re trying to communicate. That should help guide your branding!

This is based on episode 109 of The PR Maven® Podcast, a podcast hosted by Nancy Marshall. Weekly interviews feature industry leaders, top executives, media personalities and online influencers to give listeners a peek into the world of public relations, marketing and personal branding. Subscribe through Apple, Spotify or wherever you listen to podcasts.