by Taufeeq Mohammed
On September 25th, late in the night, I signed the contract for my next book and heaved a sigh of relief. It had been a long journey with many twists and turns. Everyone thinks that writing a book is a challenge, but what’s more difficult is finding a good publisher for the book. So when I signed the contract, I was joyous and relieved, but alas! It didn’t last long. A long-time friend called me and told me that what’s more difficult and more important than getting published is marketing, branding and public relations. To become a successful author, he told me, one needs to focus on branding as much as writing. I disconnected the call as he was saying something I didn’t want to hear, but as I pondered over his words, it slowly dawned upon me that what he was saying was indeed true. In turn, I decided to learn more about branding and public relations.
As uncanny as it may seem, I received an email in my inbox at the moment. It was from the Secretary of PRSSA, sharing information about a session by Kasandrea Sereno, about why building a personal brand is important and how one needs to go about it. I didn’t think twice and made up my mind to attend the session.
Fast forward to September 29th, I was there in a room full of enthusiastic students, awaiting to imbibe the nuggets of wisdom that would be shared by Kasandrea. I joined them silently and took a seat in the last row, and the session began.
I was skeptical about how the session would be, but boy I was surprised. Kasandrea was brilliant throughout the session. By the end of it, I only wished it lasted longer. Though there were many things to learn from it, I would like to write about a few key takeaways from it.
1) Having a good online presence:
Instead of beginning with telling us about how important it is to have a good online presence, Kasandrea asked everyone in the room to google their own name and see what results appear. As soon as students began the exercise, it was fun to see the shocked look on everyone’s faces. Kasandrea flashed a mildly smug smile, as if she knew it all along. Candid and personal photos from Instagram, Facebook and the rest of the internet popped up in search results. Going by the looks on most students’ faces, some of the photos seemed embarrassing.
Kasandrea then went on to tell how employers wouldn’t want to choose someone whose online presence doesn’t show professionalism. It was eye-opening and the simple exercise made everyone understand the importance of maintaining a good online presence.
When students in the class googled their own name, their results page had one thing in common. The LinkedIn profile of whoever had an account appeared prominently in the first page.
It is said that LinkedIn is the Facebook of the professional world. It’s one of the most important tools for building a personal brand and connecting with prospective employers. Kasandrea explained how degrees of separation have diminished, thanks to LinkedIn. She then went on to tell how to have a neatly curated, professional looking LinkedIn profile that would impress employers and make them consider you for a prospective job. Other things discussed were about making connections, having an impressive description and interacting with people on LinkedIn.
3) Importance of having a Website:
If I had to choose one of the most impressive fact of Kasandrea’s style of presentation, it would be that she follows the rule “Show, don’t just tell,” to the spirit. Instead of just stressing the importance of having one’s own website, she showed the website of one of her students who had interned at a popular news channel. Had website was quite professional, having details of her profile, accomplishments, contact details, awards won etc.
I learned that having a good website plays a very important role in building a brand and bought a domain name for myself the same day. I learned that a good website facilitates you to provide all the information about yourself at a single place. The better your website, the better your initial impression will be.
Thanks to social media, the entire world has now turned into a global community and anyone is just a tweet away. While the social media behemoth, Facebook, is more personal and contacting someone there seems intrusive, it’s a different case with Twitter. There are stories of how small-time entrepreneurs have pitched their ideas to potential investors on Twitter, and eventually received a handsome deal.
Kasandrea then went on to explain about how one can participate in twitter chats to interact with new people and build networks. It can also show that you are knowledgeable and you might get noticed by the people who are looking out for hiring worthy candidates.
5) Dress to Kill:
This takeaway doesn’t have so much to do with the workshop and is a purely personal observation. As I entered the packed room to attend the workshop, I looked around and realized that I was seeing almost everyone for the very first time. Subconsciously, I was judged people based on how they presented themselves. It dawned upon me slowly that when someone who doesn’t know anything about you meets you for the first time, the way you dress automatically creates some impression in their minds. It’s quite important to create a favorable first impression.
This simple nugget of wisdom made me understand how wrong I was all my life as I usually dress shabbily and never gave so much importance to dressing. I told myself it’s time to change. If you’re reading this and are like me, make sure to always dress for the occasion. The results will be surprising!
There are many other little but important things that Kasandrea shared in the suggestion and I would like to extend my heartfelt thanks to her, for her time and for sharing invaluable insights. I hope she will give more sessions in future. Thanks to Vanessa, for encouraging me write this article. And thanks to Morgan, for sending out emails to keep members like me informed.
Finally, signing off with one of the quotes that Kasandrea spoke during the session, which I will always keep in mind when I think about my personal branding – “Value is 100% perception.”