They say you can’t go “home” again; I say that’s dead wrong. On March 21, I went back to a place I called home for my college days, Temple University. Walking around the campus, which has changed by leaps and bounds since I was there, brought back lots of great memories and emotions.
The reason for being on campus was the second annual TU Invitational, hosted by the university’s outstanding PRSSA chapter. I’ve been lucky to get to know many members, both past and present, over the last few years. They make me incredibly proud to be an alum and to now call public relations my career. I spoke at this year’s event on being the “CEO of You.”
When I was at Temple in the mid-1990s, I had no clue about personal branding. However, I always tried to uphold the traits that I now speak about when giving talks around the country. Those traits are the pillars of my CEO of You sessions. If you want the best out of your brand, online and off, you need to embrace these four pillars.
Trust– There isn’t a brand around, personal or otherwise, that can survive without having trust. Never put your brand in a position where you sacrifice the trust you’ve built. I would rather you be last and right, than first and wrong. Do it right the way first!
Honesty– Being honest about the expectations of your brand. Never oversell something you aren’t able do, or be something you can’t. You also need to be honest with yourself. How many times have we met people who try to be someone else, or something else? That isn’t honesty. Never over inflate your abilities.
Transparency– We often ask clients to be open and transparent. That means, there is no way someone can look at you and not know who you are or what you represent. Being transparent also helps if you are in a crisis. CEO’s that hide are believed to be keeping something important a secret. Don’t hide behind secrecy.
Responsibility– You need to take responsibility for who you are and what you do in person and as a professional on social networks. Having a Twitter account, Facebook page, Instagram account, and a blog should be handled with great responsibility. You have the power to enact change as well as lead with these tools. Use them smartly and wisely.
At the end of the day, your personal brand needs to be real and have passion. If you can’t or don’t want to be real, you are wasting your time on social networks. Your brand will be fake. It’s harder to correct your brand than it is to be real from the start.
People gravitate toward passion. They can see through your BS a mile away. If you aren’t passionate about the work you do – or if you try to fake it – those you lead will pick up on it immediately. To truly inspire others and establish yourself as an expert, you have to love what you do. The drive to be the best is fueled by passion, without it, you may tend to view your work or activities as something you have to do, rather than something you get to do.
How are you upholding these four pillars? Let me know in the comments!
[Jas’ note: I’m thrilled to welcome Niki Ianni, a fellow Temple University alum, to the blog with a great and timely post.]
Six months ago to the day, I put on my new Macy’s clearance rack suit, smoothed my hair, double-checked my briefcase for all the basics and took a deep breath as I walked confidently into the next phase of my life – the start of my post-graduate career.
The all-nighter study sessions, thousands of draft edits and hundreds of internship hours… everything I worked for in the past four years had finally paid off. While getting here had not been an easy feat, full of dozens of applications, gallons of coffee and the occasional mental breakdown…with hard work and determination, I secured my dream job working as a public relations specialist at the largest animal protection organization in the country.
For those who are preparing to start their careers or have already just begun, here are my three biggest pieces of advice for you that these past six months have taught me:
It takes time. You know the old adage, “Rome wasn’t built in a day?” Well, there’s actually a lot of truth to it. I’m not sure why I thought I could leave my first day of work knowing everything and being able to do everything – but I did. When it came time to submit my first press release to my director for review, my stomach was in knots.
I remember apologizing in the email… something along the lines of, “Here is the release for your review. I’m sorry it’s not perfect!” I’ll never forget her response: “Niki, I don’t expect it to be perfect… nothing ever is. You’re still learning.” Sometimes you just need to remember that all of your colleagues who have been there for years started off exactly where you are and eventually they grew, too… with time.
You’re going to make mistakes. Probably more than you’d like to admit. But that doesn’t make you a failure – it makes you human and it teaches you lessons you might had otherwise never learned. I’m a firm believer that it’s not the mistakes themselves, but how you handle them that really defines your character. You can cry and hope the mistake goes away, or you can take responsibility and fix it. I’ve sent out releases with a typo, or hit send too soon. I mean, in my first month I accidentally called a reporter in Seattle at 6 a.m. (I forgot about these things called time zones) and woke her up. Not my shining moment.
While I was horrified and for a few brief moments thought, “Okay…surely this is the one to ‘end’ my career,” I instead found ways to resolve each problem and instilled practices that would prevent them from ever happening again. Because that’s the thing about mistakes – it’s okay to make them occasionally, so long as you never make the same one twice.
You have a voice – don’t be afraid to use it. I’m fortunate to work with a team of highly accomplished and talented professionals who have been honing their craft for many years. So naturally it was a bit intimidating to call these people my colleagues because in comparison to their experience, I felt way out of my league. Remember you were hired for a reason. Yes, your co-workers may have been in the industry for a decade and have a great deal they can teach you, however don’t discount the skills and knowledge that you can bring to the table as well.
Sometimes it’s your lack of experience that can be your greatest asset as you’re able to bring fresh perspectives and innovative ideas that may have never been considered before. Don’t be afraid to share your ideas and opinions – it will only make your team that much stronger.
At the end of the day, the most important thing you can remember is to believe in yourself. Believe in your talents, your knowledge and your skills – because this opportunity didn’t just come to you; you created it. Never lose sight of that.
Niki Ianni is a recent Temple University graduate where she majored in strategic communication with a concentration in public relations. At Temple, Niki served as the former director of PRowl Public Relations, Temple’s first student-run PR firm and was an executive board member for Temple PRSSA. She now resides in the Washington, D.C. area where she works as the public relations specialist for The Humane Society of the United States.