The following is a guest blog from James Patrick.
Part of my morning routine while I sip my coffee is to bulk trash the daily flurry of e-mails I received from various social networking websites. There will no doubt be about 20 friend requests, 5 people asking for recommendations, and about 70 people asking me to click a button to publicly prove that I “like” their club, business, group, whatever.
It is an enslaving temptation to lose yourself in the illusion of networking via a bevy of digital social media channels. If one were so inclined, or addicted, they could spend several lifetimes swimming in an ocean of wall posts, tweets, and fan pages. Since I’ve sat down to write this article, I’ve managed to check my Facebook status feed three times. Okay, now four times.
Despite the countless hours you may spend online; orchestrating a successful personal brand cannot solely be achieved by simply starting a Facebook Fan Page, LinkedIn or Twitter profile. I only wish it were that easy.
Yes, these are massively powerful channels that permit us to communicate in a way never possible before. And yes, these tools can be extremely useful. However, the problem with online social networking is that it is far too easy to be ignored.
Constructing your personal brand is about being seen (literally). Identity. Visibility. Ubiquity. Business is still rooted in human connections, so get comfortable with the idea of being an active participant in face-to-face settings.
One of the most fruitful endeavors to exponentially grow your personal brand is the involvement in professional associations. This is a paramount opportunity not only to network; but also to share and learn best practices, to grow, to connect, to contribute, to build a culture, to stay atop of industry trends and developments, and to devote yourself to enhancing the viability and professionalism of your field.
Each professional association, and there are a lot of them, is founded based upon an idea. That “founding idea” can be as simple as supporting the niche community or as powerful as organizing a group of people to enact change in an industry.
First, explore which association to join. It doesn’t take long to discover that there is an association, organization, or coordinated group for just about every niche of every industry imaginable.
Thus it ends up looking something like this; you have the commercial photographers over here and the editorial photographers over there. You have the professional service marketing people over here, and the marketing people that work for agencies over there. The reality is, you can find a very specific niche group of people and connect with them; because you want to be connected with them. To determine out where to invest yourself (and yes, this is an investment both personally and monetarily), you must decide what you hope to achieve through your membership.
If your goal is to learn more about your specific work field, collaborate with like-minded individuals, or support the overall direction of your industry; then seek out a group of professionals within the same genre as yourself.
Another option is to seek involvement in organizations that your clients support. This helps you stay abreast of the current issues and challenges affecting their business (and subsequently your business) on a day-to-day basis. Keeping informed of their business will prove mutually beneficial and can give you that needed leg up on your competition. Additionally, this will afford you the opportunity to garner bonus face time with your clients which can often be hard to achieve.
Secondly, participate. Participation within organizations you are a member of is imperative. The only thing worse than not being a member, is being an inactive member – an empty seat. This can have quite the negative impact on your personal brand.
Here’s why: An empty seat is easily forgotten. The last thing you want is for you to lose your personal brand. You want to stand out and be remembered but in order to do so you have to be active.
Throughout my career, I all too often encounter individuals who would much prefer to hide behind their desk. Those who would rather send an e-mail than pick up a phone. Or pick up the phone before meeting in person. It is an ineffective, vicious cycle and all too common. The more we hide, the easier it is to be forgotten. When circumstances become harder, the more we are compelled to hide. We need to break out of old habits and establish a new paradigm.
When you attend a meeting, seminar, workshop, networking event or the like, your mission (whether or not you choose to accept it) is talk to someone new; someone you have not yet had an interaction with. A quick introduction today can lead to a mutually beneficial relationship tomorrow.
If the meetings are during lunch, sit next to a new group of people each time. Reach beyond your comfort zone and make the effort to grow your web of connections. Imagine if you were able to meet one new person at each meeting. Think of how those connections could multiply over the course of a year, two years, five years, and so on.
Communicate your ideas with fellow members as well as the board of directors. As a paying member, it helps ensure that you are personally getting value out of the membership you paid for. Often times there are opportunities to serve as part of committees. This is a fantastic opportunity to collaborate with others in an effort to achieve a common goal and to reach beyond your comfort zone in a solid attempt to visibly brand yourself. Or better yet, look at the potential of serving on the board of your favorite organization. What better way to stand out and be heard?
In writing this article, I keep thinking to myself that whoever reads this is going to be sitting at their desk thinking, “well of course, all this is common sense. Anyone in business would know this!”
Perhaps you’re right. In that case I’ll look forward to seeing you at the next meeting.
James Patrick, ACB, ALB is a professional Marketing Coordinator for Stantec Consulting Service’s Tucson Office and possesses a degree in journalism from the University of Arizona. He is a recipient of the Inside Tucson Business Up & Comer Award in 2008 and the Gold ADDYÒ Award for Color Photography in 2010 from the American Advertising Federation. James also works as a commercial and editorial photographer and a public speaker on topics including marketing and business development. He can be reached at email@example.com