I have been writing for over ten years and have more than fifty-five published articles on leadership, professional skills and diversity in some the leading Indian newspapers. Nothing has contributed to building my brand as much as writing has. In the early days, each time my article was published, I would cut it out, file it away carefully and feel good about it. And nobody beyond my family and immediate team at work would learn about it.
But later I started the practice of sharing my published articles with people in my network—current and potential clients, business associates, friends, acquaintances and family. This not only helped me position myself as a subject matter expert, but also contributed to my brand recall. But writing has not come easy to me. All through my formative years, I remember having struggled with essays, frequently falling short of both words and ideas. Even today when I look upon a piece of my writing, I wonder whether it is actually my work! It has been a slow, arduous journey, entailing a lot of sweat and hard work. So, the point is that if I could do it, I am confident that there are a lot of others whose talent is just waiting to be discovered. I would strongly advocate people to unravel their writing talent and leverage it to enhance their personal brand.
What did I just do? I promoted my talent and achievement by relating a story around it; and probably this did not come across as bragging or tooting my horn for three reasons—first, there was an element of humility because I spoke about an achievement as well as the related challenges in the same breath; second, I just stated facts, leaving the evaluation to the reader; third, the communication was contextual since we are discussing the concept of self-promotion and the reader is likely to be looking for insights and examples of ways to promote oneself effectively.
Research shows that by igniting multiple spots in the brain of the listener, stories tend to be far more appealing and memorable than a mere statement of facts. Therefore, weave a story around a problem that you had encountered and the smart thinking and hard work it took to resolve it, lacing it with real life characters, suspense and drama, and most importantly making it relevant to the audience. Ensure that the audience has a learning or a take-away from your experience.
Be prepared to tell your story
You bump into your visiting practice head in the corridor or the elevator and she asks you, ‘What’s up?’. How do you respond to this question?
Having raised this question to thousands of people, the quintessential answer I have invariably heard is:
These responses don’t mean much. In fact, they represent a sad loss of an opportunity to promote oneself and make a positive impression on a senior stakeholder.
Share an achievement
You could leverage this opportunity to your advantage by sharing a quick achievement. For example:
Make an impact
While the above statements send out a positive message, the impact of the message can be enhanced by fortifying it with data: For example:
Your response can be tailored to build rapport or just establish a connection so that the person remembers you. For example:
Ask a question
“Whom do you recall from the last town hall, conference or panel discussion you had attended?” is a question that I have posed to a number of people.
“The speaker and the people who asked questions during the Question and Answer (Q&A) session,” is the answer that I invariably hear. Evidently, you gain visibility by just raising your hand and asking a question, simply because the majority does not.
What does it take to ask a question? Some preparation in terms of identifying the speakers, reviewing the agenda, thinking on one's feet and, most importantly, overcoming the inner voice that holds you back with doubts like, “It may not sound smart”, “It does not seem like an intelligent question”, “What will people think?”, “What if...what if...”
So, the next time you go to these forums, go armed with some questions and determination and the readiness to take the plunge.
An excerpt from #YOU: Build Your Personal Brand by Charu Sabnavis, published with permission from SAGE Publications India.
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