So my week was eventful! Monday evening, during ukulele jam, I was asked to join a group of women to play a few songs for Kathleen Wynne at a brunch she was hosting for International Women’s Day on Saturday. The set list arrived on Wednesday, practice was 3.5 hours on Thursday, another 2 hours on Friday night, plus individual practice on Friday night and Saturday morning. Definitely not ideal, but it really shows what a group of women can do when time is short and a task must be completed!
This morning, we put the nerves aside and got on stage performing our rendition of Oh Canada, and Isn’t She Lovely by Stevie Wonder. We then listened to a history of International Women’s Day from an 11th grade student and an address from Kathleen Wynne about how far women have come, and how far we have to go. I loved her honesty as she desribed the plight of international women, aboriginal women, and set-backs that have happened in recent years in more advantaged countries. The morning ended with the third performance by the Ukuladies, this one of Imagine by John Lennon.
It was an inspiring and nerve-wracking morning, one that made me proud in numerous ways. To be among so many accomplished women and to feel like I belonged among them. What a great event.
I never planned to “create a personal brand.” It just sort of happened. But let me share what I learned along the way.
I started out tweeting and writing a blog because I had just left a major research company to work on my own and I wanted to make sure I maintained a personal connection in the industry. A blog was my way of having a public presence even though I wasn’t in the field, so to speak. The blog let me figure out my thoughts AND share my thoughts at the same time. If someone cared to read them, they were welcome to do so.
I didn’t have a blogging and tweeting plan. I loved research and as such posted a lot of things about research, all topics within research but obviously those that i had more experience with or love for. That meant that my content had a focus – survey design, data quality, and a bit of social media.
But I’m more than a researcher. I have a life with family and hobbies and interests outside of research. Those things aren’t separate from me. They ARE me. So as I blogged and tweeted, all of me came out. I love dessert so always write about dessert. (FYI, at IIeX alone, someone has brought me a dessert mousse – Thank you Susan, someone else brought me a cake pop – Thank you Kristin, and someone else brought me sweets from Japan – Thank you Dave.) If you read any of my content, you’ll also find out that I play the ukulele. I didn’t say I play well though!
Why do I talk about myself? Well first of all, I’m more than a researcher. I can’t turn my interests and thoughts on and off just because it’s “off brand.” My brand is “Annie” not “Sell research.” And to counter that, have you made friends with your butter? Why would you want to chat with a researcher who is always business all the time? How boring is that!
What are the benefits of finding out that you have a fairly well-known personal brand? Here goes:
- You will make friends with people you would NEVER otherwise meet from all around the world. I have friends in Australia, Japan, South America, Africa, Europe. I find this absolutely amazing!
- You may be invited to speak at conferences and thus not have to submit proposals. Hello conferences in Venzuela, Bulgaria, Colombia and more.
- You may get to to travel the world speaking at conferences
- When at conferences, introverts will appreciate the fact that people will seek YOU out. Forget mingling and searching for someone you recognize. Your friends will seek you out.
- You may be asked to write papers for many magazines. I like writing so this works for me!
- You may be asked to share your opinions on topical issues for magazines.
- It gives you some level of a career safety net. It won’t necessarily last forever though so don’t bet all your money here.
- Your friends will bring dessert to you when you miss it because you’re speaking 🙂
Here is my advice to you:
- You don’t need to make a formal decision on what your brand is. It doesn’t have to be “Mobile research” or “Survey design.” I’ve switched from surveys, to social media, and back over the years. What matters is that you are continually excited about the things you talk about and that you strive to do a great job.
- Find an outlet that works for you. I’m a quiet person (honestly) so social media is a haven for me. I work mostly with facebook and twitter, and dabble in linkedin. The purpose of my content determines where it goes. Formal business goes in linkedin, silly and funny goes to facebook, and snarky wit goes on twitter.
- ALWAYS mix business with pleasure. No one wants to listen to a 24 hour sales pitch. Be human and people will want to listen to you. Then, if you are cornered into a sales pitch, your listeners will listen.
- Don’t expect people to love you. Everyone likes different things and finds different things funny. Some people won’t like your style and that’s ok. Don’t change for them. Be you. Lots of people will like you for you.
I’m happy to answer any questions you might have. Good luck!
Live blogging from the #MRIA national conference in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. Any errors or bad jokes are my own.
Annie Pettit, Chief Research Officer, Peanut Labs
My #MRIA14 presentation in just 5 minutes…