Showing posts with label branding. Show all posts
Showing posts with label branding. Show all posts

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Creating Your Career

This post is for all those seeking "alternative" careers. While my first paragraph focuses on archives consulting, the purpose of this post is to address the idea that we have the opportunity to build our career and make it what we want to be, no matter the field in which we work.

Last week I had the pleasure of moderating a group at the New England Archivists' fall conference. Our session, Creating Your Career: Alternatives to Traditional Employment focused primarily on the archives consulting business, with three archives consultants on the panel. Our session was well attended. Our goal was to introduce ourselves and then answer audience questions. Audience inquiries kept us going past our scheduled time. There was a lot of curiosity in that room. I saw an unasked question in the eyes of some audience members - "What's your secret?" I want to focus on that unasked question in this blog post.

[The NEA session had handouts that describe our tips for archives consulting and information about how Susan Chapeldaine of CCIM Consulting, Cynthia G. Swank of Inlook Group, and I built our careers. Scroll down on the page to our 2PM time slot to find the link to our handouts.]

Building a career different from the mainstream takes patience, persistence, creativity, flexibility, outside-the-box thinking, good listening skills, the ability to build a strong professional network, and some financial savvy. You can create a career if you are a genealogist, writer, marketer, health care doesn't matter the field. Find a niche. Find something no one is doing or find something that no one is doing the way that you would do it. Aim to fill the niche. Write a business plan. Write a mission statement. Take your work seriously. Tell everyone what you are doing. Build a web presence. Listen to feedback from friends and the world. Be prepared to focus and refocus your business as you go. The business with which you start may not be the one with which you end up - and that's okay if you continually revise your plan based on observation and feedback.

One more point that didn't come up at our session or in our handouts: These days, it is trendy to "brand" oneself. I think that this kind of thinking may be here to stay. To brand yourself, you build a public presence that shows how you are different from the next guy. Even if you work in an institution, I believe that branding is a valuable thing to do. You may be in a traditional career. What about that job makes you passionate? Think about how you can share that passion with others.

The following is a list of some business people I know who have invented themselves. I hope that one day they will agree to write about their experiences here. (Though I haven't even asked them yet!) I list them here so that you can explore their web pages and consider how they created their careers. The first talented lady is in a traditional career but has built a brand through her blog and special project. The rest are entrepreneurs with outside-the-box thinking that I hope serves as some inspiration.

Rebecca Price works with AASLH, but is also the creator of Chick History. Her curiosity and passion are inspirational.

Erica Holthausen abandoned her career as an attorney and re-invented herself (twice) to bring to the world "The Honest Marketing Revolution."

Marian Pierre-Louis is a genealogist, house-historian, frequent public speaker, and newly minted podcast host. Simply put, she is a one person whirlwind, operating her business Fieldstone Historic Research.

Cheryl Dolan is a speech/language pathologist who spent many years building her Platinum Presence Program. This class may be the best class I have ever taken and I am so glad that Cheryl had the persistence and vision to create herself, bringing her ideas to fruition.

So whomever you want to be, use these women as inspiration and go for it!

[I was recently interviewed for the New England Archivists newsletter on this topic and the interview is out in the latest edition. I'll link to it online when they put it up.]

Monday, February 7, 2011

The Value of Twitter for Cultural Heritage

A museum registrar friend of mine recently posted on Facebook that she would like to use Twitter, but didn't really understand it. It launched me to comment on the value I see in Twitter as a social media outlet for cultural heritage professionals and how one would use it to one's advantage. The following is a list of some of the things I value about this unique form of social media. I hope that my observations and comments will encourage others in the field to consider how Twitter might boost their personal online presence or that of their cultural heritage institution.

How to use Twitter (in brief)

Twitter allows you to "follow" people and to keep your eye on conversations revolving around different subjects. The site recommends people who may interest you and you can seek people who are talking about specific topics you seek. If you are looking for a topic, search with # and then enter a term. I always have a window up that tells me what people are posting for "#archives." I periodically check in on other things that interest me. 

Find interesting things happening in your field or interesting things happening in your day to "tweet." Retweet what others say. Respond to what others say. Use hashtags in your own tweets to highlight topics. People will start to follow you if you have interesting things to say. In the beginning I posted short "tips" about managing records. It took me a few weeks to catch on and then I started having short conversations with people. Most of my posts center on diverse cultural heritage, collaborative cultural heritage and documentation projects. 

Twitter events such as "AskaCurator" and "Save Libraries" are just the tip of the iceberg for Twitter's potential for cultural heritage. Explore ways the medium can promote the value of what you do.

The Value of Tweeting

1. Networking - Twitter has allowed me to meet colleagues from all over the world who share my interests. By posting what interests me, highlighting relevant terms with hashtags (#), and seeking out others who "tweet" about topics that I find noteworthy I have been able to build a network of fascinating individuals in related fields.

2. Expanded Perspective - Twitter has expanded my understanding of my field by connecting me to people in archives related professions such as oral history, genealogy, archaeology, architecture, and more. It has also given me a more global perspective by making it as easy to "meet" people who live on the other side of the world as it is to meet people in my own state. Furthermore, it has encouraged me to make a habit of reading the news in my field every day, so I can share what I've found and explore diverse perspectives.

3. Support - Some in this network of people have become personal friends to me. Others have become online friends. We support each other by sharing ideas through Twitter. We also support each other's projects and serve as information resources for one another. If an online friend has an archives question, they can come to me. If I'm looking for a genealogist who knows about Polish history, I have easy access to someone with that information. If someone in the network is promoting a fabulous documentation project (such as Linda Norris' interesting "Pickle Project,") I'll re-tweet what she has to say.

4. Piece of Social Media Puzzle - Twitter serves as one piece of a social networking puzzle. I use Twitter to make short statements about my own projects and refer people to my web sites, Facebooks pages, and blog when appropriate. (Be careful when you tweet not to focus on yourself though. I find it off-putting when people do this. Twitter is about sharing information and not spamming people about you and your work.) I use Twitter to relate other people's projects to my own work and to promote colleagues. Through Twitter, I have invited people to write blog posts for my blog and I try to help promote them through all my social networking sites. (I have been asked to blog for others this way as well.) Collaborative promotion across platforms is good for cultural heritage in general. Boosting others on the long run helps both you and your profession. 

5. Promotion - Using Twitter has helped me better shape my personal "brand." Branding is one of the key components of professional life in our society today. Twitter allows me to speak out in a crowd. I try to do it at least a few times a day. When I post about things related to the work I do, people get a better idea of what that work is. As they read my postings, consider re-tweeting what I say, and I re-tweet what others say, my brand is becoming linked to their brand. People can get a good idea of who you are, what you do, and how your work can benefit them through Twitter. 

6. Collaboration - Twitter is transferable to real life. By finding like-minded people and people who have skill sets that complement my own, we have begun to transfer our online ideas to create collaborative projects in the form of workshops and community preservation work. Twitter provides a great platform for melding ideas and is a natural fit for collaboration.

So, give Twitter a try and stick with it for awhile. Find people to whom you can reach out. Consider how their work relates to yours. Think about how this can benefit the cultural heritage community. See Twitter as a part of your working life. Use it as an outreach and networking tool. As the world relies more and more on digital environments, your time to start tweeting is now. Help develop the use of the technology to benefit our profession so that it can best suit your needs.  

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Branding for Cultural Institutions

I recently had a conversation with a colleague about branding. "Branding" is how we help make sure that what we want to project to the world is how the world sees us. It seems that everyone is branding these days. College grads are even "branding" themselves for their job search. Be sure of this, the new generation is even trying to figure out your brand. Are you someone they want to stick around and listen to or are you irrelevant to their lives?

What is your brand? We want our museum / library / archive to be a vital community entity. We know cultural institutions are important because they stand as a testament to the community's sense of self, they hold useful educational materials, they allow citizens to review their past so that they can better move into the future... whatever value you perceive in yourself, branding helps you better express it to the public. Branding yourself tells onlookers in direct and simple ways what they can expect from you. Branding makes your value clear and straight forward rather than nebulous.

I like the word nebulous. It is a bit ethereal and makes me think of misty places that I can wander and find wonderful things. But I know that most people are not like me. I am told this a lot by those closest to me when I wonder why other people do not want to spend the entire day at the bookstore. I am also reminded when others do not want to do things like stop to see the marker on the side of the road that tells the history of a general whose house once stood on a nearby hill. Can you relate? If you are a wanderer, you need to clip or refocus your habits once in awhile for those who do not easily wander with you.

Give your message clearly. Express what value you have directly to your public and do not suppose that they will just see your value. Make yourself interesting in a couple of sentences. Think mission statement, bulleted key words, tag line, and logo. Having a "brand" makes you appear more focused and credible. Try to tie your brand directly to your audience -- to do so requires that you know a little about them. To which communities do your collections and programs appeal and why? How can they connect to you emotionally?

How do you motivate them to come in the door, stay and come back again? Give them a piece of your brand. Make it match their own perceived personal brand.

Though branding aims for quick, meaningful descriptions that connect with an audience, branding does not necessarily happen in one shot. Use multiple media and deliver multiple connected thoughts. Let people see you again and again with an appealing message or interesting related ideas. If you stay on track, your appropriate audience can then fit you nicely into their world, perceive your value and even help convey that value to others.

People are judging you and that can be very uncomfortable. Give them some tangible, well conceived ideas to help them form their ideas about you rather than letting them come up with vague (or nebulous) interpretations of your identity and what you represent.