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  • Personal Branding Interview: Diane Danielson

    Today, I spoke to Diane Danielson, who is the founder and chief social media strategist for the Downtown Women’s Club, an author and a blogger for Entrepreneur magazine. In this interview, Diane talks about how she built the brand of her company, how she got on the speakers circuit, how social media has fueled her business, and more.

    What is the Downtown Women’s Club? How did you come up with it and how have you built it’s brand?

    The Downtown Women’s Club (DWC) was founded in 1998 when friends and I tried to join some of the existing women’s business networks and were told that we were too young. Realizing that we were being left out of the men’s networks as well, we decided we had to start our own. The DWC began as casual lunches and cocktails in Boston and focused on peer mentoring. In 2003, I co-wrote a book, Table Talk: the Savvy Girl’s Alternative to Networking (with Rachel Solar-Tuttle). In the back of the book, we included a section about how to start your own Downtown Women’s Club. Calls from LA and NYC quickly followed and we suddenly had a national presence.

    Since running the DWC wasn’t my “day job” I turned to technology to manage it, setting up websites, blogs and eventually a social network. In 2007, I co-authored my second book, The Savvy Gal’s Guide to Online Networking (or What Would Jane Austen Do?) with Lindsey Pollak after realizing that businesswomen were not recognizing the power of the Internet. That was when the DWC started focusing less on “women’s issues” and more on getting women the technological skills they need to have a competitive edge in the workplace.

    Today we now have about 25 local clubs that use Meetup.com to arrange local gatherings and online we provide our members teleclasses, ebooks, e-newsletters and numerous other networking resources and opportunities.

    How did you get started on the speaker circuit? What lessons have you learned from your various speeches?

    I started speaking when I realized that was the best way to sell books and promote the DWC. Having written speeches for other people, I knew how to put together presentations, although it was a little strange to be the one giving them. I was fortunate that I had a strong network of colleagues who were willing to take a chance and invited me to speak about networking at industry associations and women’s organizations. I then used that feedback to create workshops and keynotes for corporations and women’s conferences for which I am now able to charge a fee.

    Lessons learned:

    • Find your own style and stick with it. For example, I’m much better off-the-cuff and telling personal stories. That wouldn’t work for everyone.
    • Prepare for every disaster, especially the logistical ones. If you have good content, then that will never be the problem. But, getting lost on the way and technological failures are what can really throw you off. For tips on how to minimize these, I highly recommend Scott Berkun’s book: Confessions of a Public Speaker.
    • Develop a thick skin. I realized early on that not everyone is going to like my talks or my style. However, I do ensure my success now by wisely tailoring my topics to fit my audience (i.e. “Networking for Introverts” is not going to go over well at a sales conference).

    How important has social media been to operating your business and building your brand?

    Social media is the backbone of the DWC. We have never advertised and have relied solely on social media and word of mouth to expand. It helps our members connect regardless of geography; and, as mentioned earlier, we also make it part of our goal to educate our members about social media.

    I view it as a win-win. Many of our members work for companies who have yet to embrace social media. This way we teach women (and men) to use social media by participating in our teleclasses, reading our eBooks, blogging, joining our LinkedIn group, commenting on our Facebook page, and hopefully they’ll promote the DWC via their social networks and our new affiliate program.

    You’ve written a few eBooks. How has that helped your brand?

    We recently started a program for members where we’re providing them eBooks about networking. Because many of them focus on social media, we found the eBook platform much more viable than traditional publishing. We can update these books quickly and get that information to our members.

    How did you get started in your career?

    I started the DWC while I was working as a VP of Marketing in Commercial Real Estate. I kept it going even as I was doing other things like consulting, writing, and speaking. Along the way, I learned more and more about social media and how to apply it to the DWC, which led to opportunities to do some social media consulting for others. These days I spend about one day per week on the social media aspects of the DWC and the rest working with clients as the VP of Business Development of Convengine, a company founded by my good pal and social media expert, Lena West.

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    Diane Danielson is the founder and chief social media strategist for the Downtown Women’s Club. She is the author of: The Downtown Women’s Club Guide to Networking at Conferences ebook (2010), The Downtown Women’s Club Beginners Guide to Facebook ebook (2009), The Savvy Gal’s Guide to Online Networking (or What Would Jane Austen Do?) (2007) with Lindsey Pollak. Diane’s blogs — www.womensDISH.com and for Entrepreneur magazine (Top Shelf Book Reviews) — have both received national recognition and awards. She frequently speaks at conferences, for companies and academic organizations on networking and social media. She is a former vice president of business development for Spaulding & Slye Colliers, a vice president of marketing for Meredith & Grew, Inc./ONCOR International, and an environmental attorney.

    Dan Schawbel is the Managing Partner of Millennial Branding, a Gen Y research and consulting firm. He is the New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestselling author of Promote Yourself: The New Rules For Career Success (St. Martin’s Press) and the #1 international bestselling book, Me 2.0: 4 Steps to Building Your Future (Kaplan Publishing), which combined have been translated into 15 languages.

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