How to network without networking

In the first of this three part ‘Networking for people who hate networking’ article, I went in on why networking is an actual thing – why it is necessary, how it can help you and, hopefully, assured you that you are already doing it.

Networking has had a bad name because corporate types with lofty egos (or hot air merchants) turned it into a ‘who’s got the bigger portfolio’ contest. The “Hi I’m Reginald Covington III and my business is turning over £18 billion with agencies in seven countries” routine. How is a start-up business going to compete with that? “Erm hi, I’m Somi and I’ve got some pretty business cards?”

Well, I have good news. The gospel is social media which has the same effect as well as some unexpected pluses –  HALLELUJAH! We can use the internet to shortcut some of the awkward parts of face-to-face networking.

Firstly, why do you need to get in touch with this person and for what reason? Think about  the outcome you want to get from contacting this person. Then satisfy yourself that they are the right person to answer your questions or partner with.

  • How accomplished are they at what they do – check articles they have written, awards and recognitions, endorsements by their peers, are other people in their industry following them, etc.?
  • How accessible are they – often the biggest names in your industry are the least available, so who is number 2 & 3 in that circle? You might have more luck going slightly further down the list.
  • What do you have to offer them? Some people will gladly give you a paragraph or two of advice for free. Most people remember what it was like to start in their success journey. They might recommend a book or website that can answer your questions.  However, if you are looking for something more like a partnership or working together, first understand how that could actually work for both of you to benefit. 
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image source: sentraloker.net

Here are three effective ways of networking which don’t involve feeling too nervous about awkward questions.

Stalking

There’s nothing wrong with approaching someone on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc. Think about it. The reason why they have created a profile that you can see is so they can be seen (although not necessarily to be approached). So begin by doing reasonable research on them. You don’t need to know about their family or where they went on holiday.

You can find out more from forum discussions, a panel on the area you are interested in and wild card searches on Google. The more specific you can be, the more helpful your research will be. Just typing ‘success’ in a Twitter search is less helpful than ‘success + Nigeria + UK + female + media’, for example.

Fishing

Yes you guessed it. It’s just like the first but instead you ask your contacts, friends and followers to recommend someone. Post a simple message on your status asking for an expert in this or anyone with experience in that. Your contacts will give you a shortlist that you can research at leisure. You can also find out who those people follow and engage with.

That’s the best part. The hard work of vetting someone has been done for you. People will suggest contacts from their own networks that they are proud to endorse. No one wants to endorse a wasteman (unless you are actually looking for someone to collect your waste). We are most likely to suggest the best people we know rather than the worst. You’ll have no excuse to be stuck for leads.

Blogging

Just by setting out your stall and sharing your story, you attract people to your corner of the internet. Here’s how it works – as you talk about what you’re doing, you use words that come up in other people’s searches. Most blogging platforms either suggest ‘tags’ and keywords, or ask you to add them yourself. Those words are used to suggest to other people blogging on the topic that they might like to read your stuff. The internet does the work for you. All you have to do is just write or record your experience. That could be on YouTube or Soundcloud as well as Tumblr, WordPress or any of the many platforms available.

The same rules apply. Once you have identified someone you would like to connect with, look them up. See what else they are into and who else is plugged into their network. Remember that everyone has something to offer – especially you. Even if someone is less experienced than you, they might just be able to contribute something that you hadn’t considered yet.

Right. So you’ve got the right person. They aren’t Richard Branson or Bill Gates so they are likely to get back to you. Finally, you’ve worked out what you need from them and what you have to offer. Great! Now what? Let’s approach them.

PAUSE!!!!!!

The difference with Social Media Networking vs. Face-to-Face is… you often get one hit to make the right impression. One email, one approach, one message. The other person forms their opinion based largely on the five or six lines you send. Imagine if you get a message from someone you don’t know who is being over familiar about something you’ve spent years and sacrificed much to build; or they are sound vague and wishy-washy. Delete. Delete. Delete. Here are some tips to help you out:

Have a Social Profile. Before you send make your move, be sure you can be found online. That’s you as a person rather than a brand. People value interacting with people. As much as you want to get your logo and company out there, make sure people can find YOU. Nine times out of ten, the first thing I will do when I get a message from someone I don’t know is type their name into a search engine. I use an about.me site with a brief resume as well as LinkedIn. It means I can keep my Facebook profile private – i.e. no embarrassing holiday photos for my potential business partner to see, thanks.

Don’t be too personal. They are not your friend. They are an accomplished individual with feelings. Be respectful and polite. Before your send your message to them, ask a COUPLE of friends (and a mentor if you have one) to look at it for you. Someone else’s perspective is always helpful.

Be a bit knowledgable. It pays to understand what you are talking or asking about. For example, if you are looking for a distributor for your music and you’re asking another artist, research who their current distributor is. Then ask them what it was about that company that made the artist choose to work with them.  Give them an opportunity to engage with you on something they know about which isn’t easily available on the internet. Speaking of which…

Never ask ‘why’. Asking why someone did something or not is actually not very helpful. What you’re getting is an opinion. When journalists ask why, it only gives them a headline. What you want is their strategy or motivation – so not ‘why’ but ‘how’ or ‘what’. Asking someone how they became successful is not the same as why they became successful. Why can also sound a little aggressive. Avoid it if you can.

Use a public forum first. With Twitter especially, there’s a tendency to request a DM or PM of Facebook. Think of it another way, would you ask a stranger you hardly know to go into a private room with you? If someone asked you to do that, would you? Using Google’s site search is great for finding out what’s being talked about and where [search topic + site:domain.com] to see who talking about what on that social media site. Then reply to one of their public messages first.

Act on their advice. When you reach out to someone and they take the time to respond, be courteous and give them some feedback. Say ‘thanks for recommending that book. I’ve ordered it and it’s on its way”. It makes them feel like their input is valid (and who doesn’t want that) and it also keeps you in conversation with them.

Networking doesn’t just stay online. If you do have to do the ‘standing in a room of people and mingle’ routine, check out the next part of this article for some life saving tips. They will make you feel less like you’d rather the ground swallowed you up whenever you hear the n-word.

Bernard P Achampong, 2015

Foreword: Understanding Leadership

I was recently asked to write a few words as an introduction to a book. I thought I would share it:

Like any discipline, Leadership is a journey. It is a process of time and experience, belief and will, trial after failure. The leader you’re going to be is entirely based on your unique set of physical, emotional, psychological and spiritual settings. Often it can be in spite of those same traits.

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A great teacher once said that project management is like juggling eggs. In that same context, Leadership is ensuring those eggs don’t fall. Part of your roles as a leader is directive; giving each egg enough energy and direction to go up in the air. There is also a role to delegate; to let go of the eggs with the secure knowledge that because you have understood the properties and abilities of your eggs, you can allow them to travel through the air unaided. You trust that they will come down where you expect them to. That is also the final part of your role. You are there to catch and support them when they come down.

If you have little experience of being a leader, that description may seem odd to you. After all, aren’t you the one who is in charge? Aren’t you the boss? The head honcho? The if-I-say-jump-you-say-how-high guy? Those are only effects of good leadership. You become the respected and listened-to one because you are a good leader. It’s not the other way round. Those come because you are recognised by your team as someone who can keep everyone on the winning side. Acting important without mastering good leadership is like trying to cough enough times so you can catch a cold. It’s not going to happen. You will meet those kinds of people on your journey. No one wants to work with them.

This book lays down the rudimentary foundations of the aspect of leading spiritually. So here’s the first secret… all leadership is spiritual. Managers can get away with moving tasks and targets around with money or manpower to get the job done. A leader relies on trust, hope and faith in their team and their desired outcomes. Understanding the areas highlighted in each chapter will bring you closer to mastering the full set of spiritual tools needed to be a winner. Think of these as the top line headings and use them as a template to explore deeper your own style of leadership – no matter what your beliefs are.

There’s one final thing to say about your journey into leadership. If you have to tell people you’re a good leader, you’re not a good leader. They should know what you are by the way they interact with you and feel when they are in your team. Think of it another way, do you ever wonder about the DJ in the club who is constantly telling you to get up, get on the dance floor, put your hands up, make some noise? Well, if they were a good DJ would you not be doing those things already? If they have to remind you to get on the floor and enjoy yourself, surely there is something missing.

I wish you the best for your leadership journey and pray that your ability to believe, unique personality and leadership style are so naturally fused that everyone you work with never wants to leave your dance floor.’

The Brownstone method for success.

Remember that 90s R&B girl group?  The chorus to their hit ‘If You Love Me‘ is a simple model for turning your dreams and ambitions into a success:

  • Say it – Declare it and share it; not wishful or empty words. Once you understand exactly what you want to achieve, you can communicate it – in detail, over and over again.  Got it? Good. Now you’re in the best place to begin.

  • Do it – There is nothing more powerful to making your dreams real than starting to do it. Doing it means trying, failing, and trying again.  Do it until you get it right. Do it a little bit at a time; practice, build up, save up… whatever it takes. It’s simpler one step at a time.

  • Show it – Once you’ve done it, let people know about it. It’s your testimony. Tell them where you were, where you are now and how you got here. Showing your success will also inspire others to do the same.

And now you’re ready to start your next dream.

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Making It Big In Media… with Brownstone?

What does a 90s R&B song have to do with making it big in media? Yesterday our head honch, Bernard P Achampong spoke at an event for young entrepreneurs in Media.  He has had a successful career in broadcasting, radio production and promotions; which has gained him 23 awards including 5 Sony Radio Awards (UK’s radio equivalent of the Oscars).  Here’s how he used the hit song to explain what it takes to achieve success:

  • Say it – Declare and share it, not simply boasting or talking about it.  Once you truly understand what it is you want to achieve and can communicate it – in detail – you’re in the best place to begin.

  • Do it – There is nothing more powerful to your credibility than producing the evidence. Doing it means trying, failing, trying again.  Do it until you get it right.

  • Show it – Once you’ve done it, let people know about it.  Respectfully… it’s your testimony.  Don’t ram it down their throats.  Show them and let your work speak for itself.

  • Prove it – Demonstrate that you did what you said you were going to do.  Being a person who says one thing and does something else is not good for your credibility.  In the media industry your most valuable endorsement is what other people say about you.  Let them know you mean what you say.