Building a Brand – Blogs, Sweat and Speaking
I set up Prominence in January of 2014. At that time the business didn’t have much in the way of a goal, apart from that I knew I wanted to somehow capitalise on the changing online landscape.
I set myself the goal of building a strong brand in the social recruiting and marketing space. My key objective was to be credible enough to speak at SourceCon at a similar time the following year.
I’d successfully spoken at a few events previously, but also had one very poor experience where I’d hit the stage unprepared and set about reading a script that had been prepared by our marketing team the day before (sorry to anyone at the 2012 CIO Summit!).
So I decided it was best to start at the bottom and work my way up. I spent time reaching out to a range of local universities, offering to speak about social media and how it can positively help students when they are looking for internships and graduate roles. I was very comfortable talking about this topic because of my recruitment background, and the audience was very forgiving because students generally knew less about the subject area than I did. Over the next few months I spoke at Massey University, Unitec and Auckland University of Technology, each time in different settings that included seminars, group sessions and lectures.
Building a Voice
Whilst I was working with the university graduates, Prominence was growing and we began to refine our expertise. I decided that the best way to initially establish our brand was to blog regularly (I was writing a long-form blog every week to start out with). The subjects varied, but for each I had to spend a significant portion of time researching a new subject area, which aided our learnings as a business.
Having written a number of initial blogs, I realised the importance of picking a specific area and becoming known for content in that space. I purposely chose not to write heavily opinionated articles, as I had no ambition to become a paid blogger or industry celebrity. Instead I focused on the quality of the content and providing our audience with information that would truly help them to be better recruiters. Importantly I also guest blogged, sharing my content with a number of relevant industry publications including RecruitingBlogs, Recruiting Daily, hr.com, ere.net, SourceCon, ATC and others. This increased the reach of my posts and also helped to grow the audience for the Prominence Blog. If you’re interested in getting started with blogging you can read our guide here.
Eight months after launching Prominence I started to explore the possibility of speaking at a local recruitment event (thanks to Phil Tusing for giving me the opportunity). This was slightly different from my university work, as the audience consisted of a hundred or more of my peers, many of whom had been recruiting before I was even in nappies.
I chose to focus on how finding candidates was no longer important and how it was now more important to know how to engage candidates, a topic I was pretty familiar with. At the end I left the stage confident I hadn’t totally bombed, but I knew that I’d learnt a few lessons that would make next time easier. These included simple things such as knowing the setup of the venue in advance so you know if your slides will be visible to you, and whether you will be close to the audience or in a larger, less intimate setting.
Since that first conference I’ve pushed on and spoken across a range of topics, each time refining the content so it was as close to my specific areas of expertise as possible. I also organised and ran several Webinars in partnership with the RCSA and HRINZ. Partnering with these organisations provided me with the opportunity to get my content out to a far broader audience than I could manage alone.
After seven months on the speaking circuit I received my first invitations to speak (rather than soliciting for a slot), one overseas with the RCSA in Melbourne and the other for SOSU in Sydney. I also managed to secure or organise several private talks with industry groups.
Finally, having been blogging for 18 months and spoken at 10 different events, I approached SourceCon to see if they would be interested in having me along to their Dallas conference. September came around and I found myself in Texas speaking alongside Katrina Collier. The conference had over 600 attendees and a range of well-known bloggers and speakers such as Dean Da Costa, Glenn Gutmacher, Jim Stroud, Shannon Pritchard, Aaron Lintz and Johnny Campbell.
It was a fantastic experience, but oddly enough although I’d always had some degree of nervousness going into each talk, here at the largest sourcing conference in the world, I can honestly say I didn’t have any. I’m putting this down to having had plenty of practice, being very confident with the material I was now delivering and just being very happy to have achieved my goal.
What’s the Point of this Blog?
I’m firmly of the belief that a person’s industry reputation is now one of the most significant influencing factors on the success of their career. It is no longer sufficient to just be good at your job, you have to be known in your industry in order for the best opportunities to present themselves to you. If you’re in recruitment, HR, or another area of talent, personal branding is not only key to your personal success but also your success at finding and attracting talent.
I probably would have stopped at month six had I not started to notice results from speaking at conferences. Most significantly they have been directly responsible for securing three of our largest client accounts, plus lots and lots of ongoing enquiries. Outside of this sometimes simply meeting new people or business partners was enough of a result for me to keep going.
I’ve also had multiple job offers, travelled to places that I wouldn’t have necessarily gone to, developed new skills, refined the services that Prominence offers and happily been invited back by the Universities to continue helping graduates, something that I really enjoy doing.
Before 2015 ends I’ve still got at least two more conferences, after which I plan to be a little more selective with those that I either attend or talk at. Partly because I’m sure people are now bored of hearing from me, but also because I’ve now firmly got rid of any apprehension of speaking and lastly we’re now focused on building the business brand rather than my own.
If you’re thinking about speaking my advice is as follows:
- Don’t do your first talk in front of your final target audience, I’ve seen this done a couple of times and the results aren’t pretty.
- Practice in smaller venues, preferably where people haven’t handed over their hard earned cash to see you.
- Ask for feedback, in particular from the conference organiser (they are generally pretty honest) and review the conference recordings.
- Talk about something you have done, not theory or what other people have done.
- Don’t MC, it is one of the toughest jobs that has very little in terms of personal rewards. Well done to everyone I’ve seen do this, it is such an undervalued component of any conference.
- Give it a go, audiences are generally very supportive to speakers that are genuine and brave enough to try.
About The Author
Chris has worked in the recruitment industry for eight years, where he has been fortunate enough to spend considerable time getting to know the inner workings of three different recruitment sectors in both New Zealand and the United States.
Now running Prominence, Chris and the team consult with recruitment agencies and employers on strategies that produce better access to talent. Services include social recruitment training, recruitment agency marketing, employment branding and job marketing conceptualisation and design.
Chris is an active speaker and has successfully delivered lecture and seminar based content across all areas of social recruitment and marketing. Chris also volunteers as a speaker at tertiary education facilities to provide real world advice to students and career counsellors on how best to utilise social media for job search purposes.
Chris can be found on Twitter @findsouth