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Personal Branding: Treat Your Blog as if it was a Gift

Mary Rosenbaum | May 26th, 2010

If you are like me you have probably received countless birthday or christmas gifts that were not what you wanted or even needed. What did you do with those gifts, put them in the back of your closet, returned them if you could, re-gifted them to someone else? One thing is certain, you didn’t use this gift or benefit from it in any way. In fact, you probably forgot about it as soon as you put it away.

If you want people to read your blog or newsletter you have to think of these communications as a gift. All too often I receive newsletters or blog postings that either rehash old news or reword something either they or someone in the industry has already written about. What they don’t include is anything of value for me. Value can be defined in many ways. For example, it can provide me with a new way of looking at something, or a new approach I can apply to my business or life, or even a story I can relate to.

If you have read my past posts on the value of a strong brand, writing a blog and the rules of blogging then you know that providing your target audience with some added value is more important than just getting something out there with your name on it. Your blog or newsletter should convey your opinions in your area of expertise. One of the benefits of writing a blog is to communicate your thought leadership (your personal brand) in a way that exhibits your expertise in a “show” and not “tell” fashion. Distributing a blog or newsletter that doesn’t provide valuable content can only hurt your personal brand – your reputation. Why? Because people will immediately delete your emails based on their past experience with you.

Just like everyone else, my email inbox is filled with newsletters, email blasts, and blogs. With the limited time we have and the surplus of information we receive make sure the communications you send out are worthwhile. Let’s make sure the delete button is reserved for someone else. If you follow these rules they just might help you keep your audience and grow your following.

1. Know what your target audience wants and needs. Look at the responses (if any) you get from your postings and determine how they can be better focused to improve the content you provide and the engagement you develop with your audience. Research the work of other thought leaders in your industry. Read the comments they receive, see how you can address some of the issues that are being raised, but with a different point of view.

2. Make sure you are not underestimating your readers’ sophistication or knowledge. There is nothing worse than providing information that is so “been there, done that, old hat”.

3. Are you addressing the right target audience? I know I receive emails from companies and individuals providing valuable information on hi tech products for large businesses, classes on becoming a fashion designer, and courses on passing the bar exam, among others. Just because you have someone’s email address it doesn’t mean they want to receive your gift of communication and knowledge.

4. Don’t overuse the send button. Unless you have something worthwhile to write about, don’t write. I know I have said in the past that consistency and constancy in communication builds credibility as well as a following. You should write at least one time per week to maintain that following. But having said this, there is nothing worse than writing just to publish – because you dilute the value of your blog and of your brand.

5. Connect with your readers in a way that resonates with them not only on a business level but on a personal level as well. The more authentic you are in your writing, the more your ideas will resonate with your audience.

Having the right formula – original ideas and content, well written text, reader connection and engagement, – will result in a growing targeted following.

What tools do you use to keep their finger off the delete button? Please share them with us.

Utilizing her experience of over 25 years Mary Rosenbaum helps careerists and entrepreneurs position themselves so they can stand out from the competition. Get her free report Top Strategies for Getting Visible and Getting Ahead.

Follow me on Twitter @Careersguru


What do Three Cups of Tea and Relationship Building Have in Common?

Mary Rosenbaum | May 20th, 2010

Make building relationships an integral part of your personal brand.

I had two very different experiences that made me think about writing on the topic of relationship building. One was an article I read in the NYTimes magazine section this past Sunday. It focused on our fixation with statistics. Watching our stats on social media sites is becoming as ubiquitous for social media marketers as the Dow Jones Industrial Average is for Wall Street professionals. But what are they really measuring? Are they measuring commitment, professional curiosity, respect or search or exchange of knowledge? What they are not measuring is relationship building. And relationship building is a critical underpinning to building your career, your business, and your personal and professional life.

The other prompt to writing this was an event I attended in support of the American Place Theater (www.americanplacetheater.org) where Greg Mortenson, author of “3 Cups of Tea”, spoke. He told a story that clarified what the reference was for the title of his book. It all started when he found himself disoriented and physically weakened from his hike up Mt. Kilimanjaro in Pakistan. When he descended he was taken in by a village elder who offered him a cup of tea. Over time the village elder described what the offering of tea symbolizes:

The first time I offer you tea it is as a stranger.

The second time it is as an honored guest.

The third time it is as a friend.

Unlike major cities, relationships in these small villages develop with time moving at a glacial pace. When the shift from honored guest to friend finally occurred Mr. Mortenson understood the value he derived from the time he spent in building these relationships – personal and professional growth and satisfaction.

Relationship building takes time because it’s built on a foundation of mutual trust. And mutual trust develops through a shared spirit of generosity. And yes, relationships can be developed through social media online (and then nurtured offline whenever possible). But that takes time and what the village elder was saying, as was the NYTimes article, rushing through life adding up your numbers won’t get you what you want in life – friends and colleagues who support one another.

If you are out looking for a job or career change or seeking to grow your own business chances are that your first outreach is to people you know, rightly so. Those people can be considered your first degree of separation – you know them, they will pick up the phone when you call, and you can ask them for something. You have a relationship with them.

Now let’s take a look at our connections through social media. It’s easy to confuse large numbers of followers on Twitter, LinkedIn, or Facebook as something more meaningful than what they really are: people who think you have something to say and they want to keep abreast of what you and perhaps thousands of others are saying. It’s all very flattering and makes us all feel good. And in some situations, these online connections can grow into real relationships, whether they remain online or move offline. But it’s important to keep your eye on the ball – creating more relationships that can fall into the category of first degree of separation – and not focus on just the stats.

We all know how to make friends – get to know them, share some laughs and good times and generally support each other. Building relationships around business is pretty much the same. You want to:

1. Maintain a spirit of generosity. Give without thinking about how you can personally profit from it – whether it’s information, time, assistance. I have always talked about the Law of Reciprocity. Whenever I give to others I know that whenever possible that person will try to give back when they can. It’s not always a quid pro quo but it never fails to result in a positive experience.

2. Take time away from the computer and make sure you are meeting up with people in the real world. Transactions usually take place in real time and in the real world, whether face to face or on the phone. There is nothing that can replace the connection you make when you can personally shake hands and look them in the eye or hear the tone in their voice during a conversation.

One way to take your online friends offline – create a meet-up in your own town. Out of town? Let your contacts know and make time for some face to face.

3. Call even when you are not selling or asking for anything. In fact, call because you don’t want anything from them. By continuing to maintain contact you are gaining more insight into the other person, learning more about their business, and understanding their needs. Sharing information when you are not looking to gain something helps build a level of trust over time. And trust is what relationships and friendships are based on.

So take the time and move toward that third cup of tea and enjoy the status of friend.

What other pointers do you have for taking relationships into the real world?

Utilizing her experience of over 25 years Mary Rosenbaum helps careerists and entrepreneurs position themselves so they can stand out from the competition. Get her free report Top Strategies for Getting Visible and Getting Ahead.

Follow me on Twitter @Careersguru


Career Management and the New Reality

Mary Rosenbaum | May 12th, 2010

For many people who lost their jobs it has been a difficult two years. There is a new reality when it comes to jobs and careers. Pure and simple, job security no longer exists. You are in charge of managing your own career. Career management has to start early and be ongoing throughout your working life.

What the new reality also means is that you have the ability to take control of your career. I have already addressed several steps you can take in past postings: developing a strong personal brand, getting more visible at work, and spreading your personal brand. Another important step is to periodically evaluate what you are doing, where you want to go, and how you plan on getting there.

Here are some steps to keep you on track and in control.

1. Reassess and redefine your career goals periodically. As the economy changes and industries restructure and regroup do a reality check to see whether your goals need to change as well. Additionally, career goals should be moving targets, as you get closer you need to set your sights higher. This way you will be sure to continue moving forward.

2. Assess the work you are doing and the skills you are employing. Are you still enjoying what you do? Are you still learning? If you have redefined your goals are there additional skills you need to move you further along on your career path? Are there courses that would enhance the work you do and perhaps enable you to stand out more? By continuing to grow professionally your job becomes more interesting and you become more fully engaged in your work. The more engaged, the better the work product.

3. Continue to build and nurture relationships with others inside and outside your organization. Extending your reach and exposure is a critical aspect and should not be limited to times when you are involved in a job search. Increase your social capital by being generous with your contacts. Introducing others to people you know helps them and reflects positively on you. Social capital is bankable and the interest it bears is priceless.

4. Stay abreast of changes in your industry. You can create opportunities for yourself when you have a better understanding of the needs of your organization. Always remember that the definition of luck is when opportunity meets preparedness. Be proactive in seeking out opportunities, not reactive.

What other steps do you employ in managing your career?

Utilizing her experience of over 25 years, Mary Rosenbaum helps careerists and entrepreneurs position themselves so they can stand out from the competition. Get her free report Top Strategies for Getting Visible and Getting Ahead.