As a writer and marketer and a business owner, I have been writing and marketing a lot in the past 2 years (especially live streaming which was a challenge and fear I set to conquer and podcasting). I think of the past 2 years as important because they’ve been instrumental to my own growth, of me pushing my own boundaries.
But the past 2 years have also been memory lapses where sometimes I think hard about what I’ve been doing and I can’t recall some parts of the year or even a specific month! Have you had that happen to you as a result of too many off and on lockdowns?
Work and business have been interesting – many new opportunities are opening up and I believe they’re a result of me finally taking charge of what I want.
And early this month, I was also pleased to receive an award (or rather a medal) from the Penang State Governor in conjunction with his 72nd birthday. It was a delightful surprise to receive the official letter but it was not pleasant to undergo a PCR swab test before I could attend the official awards ceremony!
Many friends congratulated me on LinkedIn and Facebook, remarking that I deserved the award/medal because of the work that I have been doing in the Penang community. The oddest thing is, I never started out desiring any award or medal for the work that I do. Perhaps that is the biggest lesson of all – even for me.
My work originates from the interest that I have in women’s empowerment particularly from the entrepreneurship point of view. I am also a big believer in communication which is again related to my background in copywriting, website content strategy and SEO content development. In addition, I also am a proponent of zero waste living where I personally try to reuse, repurpose and recycle as much as I can. And I love to talk about marketing to clients and friends and all these different threads of interests converge in ways that enable me to serve in various capacities in the community.
So I guess the big lesson here is to truly focus on what you want to do and do it whole-heartedly and with sincerity. People and organisations will notice.
Just last week, I was invited to a youth entrepreneurship competition by a friend. This is how I know that my core interests are resonating with others – they start to associate me with events and people related to marketing and entrepreneurship.
This brings me to this topic – personal branding or personal brand. A lot of people like to talk about this but have very little idea how to go about it. A personal brand is about associating oneself with what one wants to be known for. But it is also about being true to your own motivation and needs. It is not faking it nor is it putting on a mask for the world. It is not about trying too hard or about wanting to please others.
(It’s not about playing to your ego. Some unheard of companies will come to you and say you’re nominated and finalised for the best entrepreneur award or will be listed in some book or Xpedia or publication but here’s the kicker – you have to pay to be listed! In the past, the unscrupulous ones baited people with greed but now with prestige, fame and power, they latch onto your ego and here’s the best paragraph: “To support this, we expect a standard sponsorship fee of $2500 in which you will receive all the aforementioned benefits along with the print edition of the magazine to your office address and one time opportunity to place your company Ad in the future editions of your choice.” To this end, I see so many acquaintances I know who are listed in these “publications” and I want to scream, what the heck are you all sane people thinking?)
In my case, I also enjoy TCM (that’s Traditional Chinese Medicine) and exploring the world of TCM herbs, meridians and Qi and if you know me, you know I even dedicate a blog to this subject. And yet, I don’t talk very much about this unless I need to. It’s because I want to be associated with certain topics that are business-focused. Does it mean that TCM is not important? Not at all. TCM is my lifelong passion but I have no intention of turning it into a business. I am a hobbyist and I am contented to be a hobbyist. I have no grand dreams of becoming a TCM practitioner although I am familiar with herbs and how herbs can contribute to a healthier life.
And perhaps this is where being extremely strategic and focused come into play. In cultivating a personal or even company brand, it takes as much effort to subtract as much as it is to add. It is very easy to add and get complicated. It is a herculean effort to subtract. But it is in subtraction that we cut away the unnecessary and trivialities that bog us down.
I would never say I know everything that there is to know about crafting a personal brand but I know enough to get me where I want to go. I see women, especially women who strive for recognition and success but the formula isn’t about striving for recognition or success – the formula is simply identifying 2-3 core passions that drive you regardless of the fame or money and keep talking about these passions online and offline and keep being valuable and helpful even as you promote these passions!
Even as recently as last week, a woman who works in one of the multinational companies messaged me on LinkedIn saying that she wants to contribute to women’s development and is interested in this topic and could I let her know how she could get started? I give her brownie points for this as she knows what she is keen about and willing to explore!
These days it’s even easier. You have your own blog (which I always encourage anyone with a point of view to start because it is YOUR space to pontificate and no one can ever tell you to get off the platform) and you have social media.
Soon the people around you will notice you and your work. It helps if you can get into organisations that fuel that passion further which means strengthening your brand as you serve the people you are with. Look for men and women who can mentor or guide you and always be open to getting advice. And if you can, volunteer with a diverse group of people because you can only grow when you start understanding others and how to work with others. I’ve worked with all kinds of people, from the very young to people in their 70s and 80s and I’ve appreciated these interactions for the experiences they’ve imparted. I also have friends from all kinds of backgrounds as this helps to inform me of all the things I don’t know about! Diversity truly makes me smarter.
I’ve always been open to working on short-term projects with people I don’t know or even people I know well. In projects, I get to see how people really work (or don’t – and yes there are plenty of that too!). I get to decide if I want to work with some people again based on their behaviour and attitude in the first project that we are in. If I see some aberrations in their character, I stay a mile away after that. It’s easier to say no later because you already know who they are and how they work.
So I use projects to tease the true personalities of people I meet. It’s usually an accurate way of figuring out a person. If someone is helpful in a project, you bet that person is helpful outside of the project. If a person is lazy, crappy on follow-up and goes AWOL most of the time, I will never be in the same project or fundraiser with this person again no matter how nice she or he is in the eyes of others.
I’ve learnt the hard way sometimes when I trust too much so I’ve devised a method to deal with people who initially seem nice but you don’t want to be on their team when crap hits the fan. I’ve seen “leaders” throw their followers under the bus when troubles brew.
Speaking of which, I spoke about this when I was featured on The Can Do Way podcast recently. Yes, November has been a surprising month for me. Check it out if you want to find out what I said about cultivating my can-do attitude. A friend texted me yesterday from Europe saying that she found it refreshing and authentic and her favourite thing that I said was that “Open yourself up to the world and the world will open up to you”. I can’t recall I said that but hey, that’s what I meant when I said this pandemic is causing me to have memory blips! (And the fact that I am also simultaneously managing various endeavours may have something to do with it!)
I’m thinking of writing a book of what I’ve learnt as a woman, entrepreneur, podcaster, connector, marketer and storyteller. The very least is that I can help someone out there with what I’ve learnt.
What do you think? What would entice you to read a book like this? Or what would you hope to learn from a book like this? Your thoughts are welcome!