This is part three of a five part series of the importance of personal branding in garnering positive word of mouth. In our hyper-connected society, word of mouth has become “world of mouth” and recommendations truly craft your online and offline persona and value. It makes all the difference between positive or negative word of mouth about you, your service, or your business.
By now I hope that you’ve had the opportunity to really discover what your personal brand is. From getting feedback from contacts, clients and peers, to making some strategic plans to create a “word garden” that highlights your strongest brand attributes – we’ve been going over much to understand what you think your personal brand is and the perception that is out there. Unfortunately, human nature dictates that perception is reality. So, if you have not really understood what the current perception is of you – out there – then do that first before you move onto the next phase. (Personal Brand and Word of Mouth – Part 1 and Personal Brand and Word of Mouth – Part 2)
The next phase
Now, it’s time to craft your communication plan. And, this is important for individuals within a company, independent professionals, solopreneurs and business owners. I’ll focus on how to create a communication plan that garners positive word of mouth. Whether you’re looking for a job or not, positive word of mouth is something that you want to encourage, nurture and know of prior to you needing it. Asking for positive word of mouth when you need it and when you haven’t nurtured it with your contacts, sounds desperate. Being desperate, no matter how you package it looks neither inspiring or positive on anyone.
You’ve heard the phrase, “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” Even now that phrase continues with, “and more importantly it’s who knows you well.” To garner positive word of mouth, it is your job to create the curriculum – meaning that you must put together the process of the way that people speak of and about you.
Why does word of mouth matter?
Word of mouth has always been considered a strong and reliable way to get information. With all of our social networks online, too, word of mouth has become the “new black”. We have greater lists of friends through online networks, friends that we’ve rekindled past high school and college relationships and friends that have become friends in a truly different definition of the word now that “online friending” is mainstream. 93% identify word of mouth as best and most reliable source for information, ideas, product, services and people. There are 500 to 1500 people we are connected with in life that are our weak ties (associates, acquaintances, colleagues). Source: Northeastern University
How do you define success?
First things first, it’s important for you to define what success means to you. To put forth a good map to success, you have to know what that first stop in the destination looks like, sounds like and feels like. What’s most important are to know the “who” needs to be involved, what numbers would measure that success and your mile markers along that road to success. Why? Because you will teach others how to recognize connections for you and it must be done in a way that is specific, portable and easy to understand.
What will people talk about?
- 32% will talk about something exciting or “buzz-worthy”
- 20% will talk about solutions to problems or great ideas
- 13% will talk about knowledge they have exclusive access to
- 13% will talk about what they’ve personally experienced
- 12% will talk about something news breaking, stylish or fashionable
Keep this in mind as we talk about the curriculum you will develop for people to speak positively on your behalf.
Creating your curriculum
It is important to teach people about positive word of mouth for you and what would be most effective. Why? Because when they ask you “how can I help you”, you want to provide a more helpful response than “find me a job” or “send some business my way.” Do you think true action would happen with that limited information?
Your communication plan is like your curriculum for teaching people how speak positively on your behalf and who to do this with.
First, identify who are some of the best people to connect with for what you’re wanting to accomplish. Are you transitioning positions? Breaking out into an entrepreneurial endeavor? Going to the next level in your current company? Focused on securing more clients? Whatever the reason identify who it would be good for you to know.
Second, once you’ve identified that list take one step higher and give yourself (and your connections) a “birds eye” view. Where do people, like you identified, hand out in droves, packs, or groups? For example, my friend, Rachel Stone, President/CEO of our local Hispanic Chamber, is a great connection for me. Taking a “bird’s eye view”, I would look to see where other “heads of chambers of commerce” spend their time together as a group. It could be in leadership groups, city planning committees, industry conferences, ground breaking ceremonies and ribbon cuttings, etc.
Next, identify what phrases people can listen to for you that would give them a clue that this person might be a good person to connect you with? It could be simply they say, “I need someone with (and then they say something related to your talent). Yet, it might be more subtle. What do those subtle comments sound like? Going back to my example, those people that are good connections for me are in a leadership role with an organization or association, and they say “we’re good at getting members but not retaining them” or “our members are really wondering what they get for membership with us” or “we’re hosting a conference”.
So, you might be thinking “well, that’s well and good when you’re selling a product or consulting service” but what about if you want to move ahead in your career/profession?
Keep the same guidelines. Who do you want/need to be connected with? So, let’s say you identify that you want to connect with upper management and CEOs. Next, where do they hang out in groups? Industry meetings, certification/training workshops, a local Rotary club. Then, what could a good contact listen for that might give an insight to who would value your authentic strengths? It might be statements like, “I’m ready to slow down and share the workload” or “it’s hard to find someone competent to delegate to that you don’t have to hand hold” or “I’ve gotten this huge project and I’m not quite sure where to begin.” What these phrases are depends on who you identified you need to meet or brought into their circle of awareness.
Kin to listening for specific types of phrases is looking for certain things. Back to my example, I look for associations with Facebook and Twitter accounts with little or no activity or worse yet, they’re the only ones “talking” on those pages, so there’s no engagement or conversation. For you what would that be? If you’re a job seeker, it might be someone who is rushing around, not making appointments or being able to return phone calls. It could be a CEO whose having to be project manager, blogger and social media specialist. What do they look like when they don’t have what you authentically provide?
Lastly, teach your contacts ways to bring up in conversation some topics that would give you (and them) and idea if this is a good contact. For example, going back to the job seeker example, it might be asking “could you use some help on that project?” or “have you thought about someone who does (whatever your talent is)?” Or, maybe, it could be this question “how do you decide who you are going to put in a position of responsibility in your team.” All of these questions will give you and your contact insight into what your best contact is looking for along with their decision making process.
Now, who do you teach this all to?
Well, the answer to that is in our next installment! In the meantime, start putting your curriculum (communication plan) together so you’re ready to teach people who to pass along great word of mouth for you in a way that honors your brand and gets results.
Maria Elena Duron is chief buzz officer, coach and speaker with buzz2bucks.com. Buzz2Bucks | a word of mouth firm serves as the community manager around your personal or business brand online and offline, and coaches community managers on how to be buzz-worthy. Buzz2Bucks is known for the talk that yields profits. She is author of the book “Mouth to Mouth Marketing” and the ebook “Social I.R.A.” She’s been quoted as a marketing and word of mouth expert by Entrepreneur Magazine and contributes to several publications and is the creator of #brandchat, a weekly twitter conversation about all aspects of branding. She broadcasts weekly as the business coach with CBS7. Duron will speak at the 2009 Massachusetts Conference for Women.