Monday 7 February 2011

21st century branding

So, day zero for Blackburn with Darwen draws to a close. There will be 500 or so compulsory redundancies and there is no way to avoid them. 500 more posts have been deleted - meaning a total, by mid summer of 1000 posts which will simply no longer exist. What that means for the people left behind wont be clear for months, perhaps not even before the end of the year, but for those 500 people, I have some advice. It's offered freely and for free, because I believe there but for the grace of god, but also because I am going to call it straight.

Disagreement and discussion are, as ever, welcome.

Whether you like it or not, a social media presence right now is a sensible thing. And I'm not talking about your personal Facebook page. Smart people network their way into jobs - not by preferential treatment, but by knowing about jobs which might not be advertised in the normal way any more because there is no budget, but will be tweeted or posted on LinkedIn because it's free.

Networking aggressively will get you nowhere. Bombing hashtags with your consultancy offerings or training solutions will get you ignored at best and blocked at worst. It's lazy and it requires no thought - and the people whose stream you're interrupting will think you're a complete idiot and if you continue to do it, will get very cross at you.

Networking is a subtly nuanced thing. Build relationships with people. Don't bombard people with responses to every single one of their tweets, but if you have something in common with someone, in the same way that you would probably chat about football before a meeting started, chat to them about your common interest. Small talk paves the way for the more complicated work based stuff.

If communicating well with words is part of who you are, start a blog. Don't sell yourself directly, talk instead about the things which interest you. Comment is free. Well researched posts which are thought provoking and offer a different viewpoint of a policy, current affairs event or scientific discovery are usually welcomed. Don't think of it as giving away good ideas for free - think of it instead as a way of allowing other people to see what they're going to get if they should ever have a post free which you might fit into.

Being made redundant hurts. Just ask the MySpace lot. The natural reaction is to kick back and kick out. Social networking is a quick and easy way to do that. Unfortunately, for your opinion to have any credence, you're going to need to use your real name. And everything you type and submit, every negative comment, every piece of snark, every inappropriate comment will remain there as a testament to how carefully someone should consider when looking at employing you. Leaving your social networking profiles off your CV or consultancy pitch or tender wont work either. People Google. Get over it. Watch every word - it's fine to be upset and hurt, it's not fine to make the lives of those left behind hell - it's not their fault the axe didn't swing for them. Make sure that if you must be angry, the anger is pointed in the correct direction.

Set up your RSS feeds. If you don't know how to do that, ask me, ask on Twitter. Assorted job sites allow you to customise a search for jobs and then RSS the results, so that every morning, instead of wading through tonnes of emails in various states of undressed formatting, you can skim down a list which will update the second a new job role is posted to the relevant site, meaning in theory you could get the jump on a job application a few hours before less tech savvy applicants. Not such an issue with application form posts, but a big deal with agency advertised posts.

Find the people who are influential in your sector and read their blogs. Educate yourself. Blogs are full of the current thinking, current reactions and current issues and problems, and they're free. They're also often written by incredibly well respected academics or leaders in their respective fields. The same people who contribute and write white papers which you've probably been reading as part of your job. It's not good enough any more to wait for the papers to come to you - find out the thinking before it comes to you, and if you're comfortable doing so, leave comments and get into discussions. Make impressions - but most of all, bring your learning, awareness and thinking up to speed.

If you're a local govvie - take advantage of the fantastic live Q & A panels which the Guardian are running on almost a weekly basis to help you get a job, should you need one, or to set up a social enterprise should you want to, or how to improve internal communications even if you're one of the ones left behind. They're free, the experts on the panels generally really are, and they're free. Did I mention free? If you don't want to be seen to be asking for advice then set up an account which doesn't make it obvious its you - and ask the questions under that - the nature of the website means you wont be accorded any less consideration for not asking under your real name. The Guardian Local Government Network content is all archived and is a wonderful resource.

Learn to ask for help. Swallow your pride if you have to, but ask. We're all happy to help and assist - some of us for free and some of us not. Don't assume free is better, but don't assume it's worse either. Some people know some subjects much better than others. 9 times out of 10, I, or someone else will be able to point you in a specialists direction. If we do, it will be because we know they're good because we read their blog - spot the theme here? If you pay, or if you don't, you will get the same time and consideration - some people are practising giving information and training for free to gain confidence and to practice before they charge for it.

Finally? Baby steps. Don't create a Twitter account, a LinkedIn profile, a Quora account and then.... Pick one. Focus on it. Build a repuation and a profile, and yes, I hate the word but build a brand. It will follow you when you become entirely comfortable on one of those sites and decide to move to another - each of the sites has a subtly different etiquette and a very different way of building reputation - trying to crack all of them at once will simply lead to complete confusion.


  1. As always, a brilliant and helpful post which will really help people out.

    And the point about asking is perfect. So often recently I've been telling people to ask for advice or support, only to hear them say "I didn't because I thought they've got too many problems of their own to worry about" - if they are too busy they will tell you, otherwise they will help you!