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The Listening Post
  • About

    In the technology era, there are a million-and-one ways to connect with the world. With a million-and-one different needs and personalities, it is difficult to choose just one channel that will allow us to most effectively listen to and communicate with our customers and partners.

    Through the wisdom of experts and research by the authors, The Listening Post offers insights into a variety of aspects of today’s communication with a more specific focus on communicating effectively G2G (geek-to-geek).

  • About the Authors

    Darcy Pierce

    I’m actually just a kid trapped in a semi-adult body, I love cartoons, coloring and mac and cheese. I enjoy listening to Claire de Lune while taking ballet classes, but at the same time, a well-tuned muscle car is like music to my ears. I thrive on opportunities to spin what others find to be completely boring (or overly technical like microchips) into exciting and engaging marketing programs, because of this, Synopsys is my Disneyland and social media is my platform.

    Geeky Confession: I secretly love math and numbers. I can recall phone numbers after only a short glance, and for some reason find it necessary to memorize my credit card numbers.

    Hannah Watanabe

    The “jaw-dropper” fact that most people are surprised to learn is that I was homeschooled K-12. I have never regretted this, and in the end, I am still just your everyday California girl—can’t get enough beach or sun. Whether it’s a day trip to Santa Cruz, a weekend in L.A., or an adventure on the other side of the world, I love to travel. My favorite outdoor activity is camping, and my true love is tap dancing. Other than social media, my passion is working with children because I’m reminded of the days when a crisis was not getting a second cup of animal crackers at snack time.

    Geeky Confession: I occasionally spend an hour clicking on the ads on my Facebook page trying to figure out why they are targeting me. Then, I enter keywords into my profile in an attempt to capture ads that I’m actually interested in.

  • Archives

Archive for the 'Communication' Category

How LinkedIn Helps Engineers

Posted by Hannah Conrad on 31st August 2011

LinkedIn is the most adopted and respected social networking site in the engineering community. There are many professional advantages to using LinkedIn.  Below are several education slides that we created to discuss with engineers how they can benefit from using LinkedIn and take advantage of all that LinkedIn has to offer.

One of the best ways to increase your knowledge about a particular topic, especially one related to your job, is to discuss it with others.  Some engineers have used LinkedIn Groups to create very lively discussion groups on topics that they are interested in. Here are two  groups that serve as good examples: Low Power and Power Management Designs and Design Verification Professionals. To take a deeper look into how to use LinkedIn Groups, checkout the U.S. News article, How to Use LinkedIn Groups to Build Relationships, by Lindsay Olson.

Having a profile on LinkedIn not only allows you to search for jobs, but for jobs to find you. Recruiters use LinkedIn to find candidates for jobs they are trying to fill.

By building your network on LinkedIn and utilizing all of its features, you are in turn creating an online portfolio of your professional experience that can be used to help you land a job.

From monitoring the metrics for our blogs here at Synopsys, we have discovered that the number of views for a particular blog post increases when the post is shared on LinkedIn. For example in the month of June, On the Move, a blog written by Hezi Saar, received over 1,000 views and 36% of those views were referrals from LinkedIn.

LinkedIn has realized the value in giving companies a voice as well. Many companies have groups where customers can discuss their products. Companies can also take advantage of Company Pages. A feature that was recently added allows companies to make updates, as if they too were a person, that shows up in people’s feeds. If you follow companies, you’ll receive their updates in your home feed.

Some people are selective about who they add to their network according to the relationship they have with the person. Others are more open to connecting with anyone.

If you maximize your profile on LinkedIn, you’ll maximize what LinkedIn can do for you, which is to tell other professionals about you.

How do you use LinkedIn? Do you have any questions? We would love to hear from you! Please leave your comments below.








Posted in Communication, Social Media, Web 2.0 | 2 Comments »

How Blogs Help Engineers

Posted by Darcy Pierce on 13th July 2011

Like we discussed in our previous post, we are going to expand on the presentation that we showed during DAC 2011 and take a deep dive into each channel we mentioned and explain how they benefit engineers.

Below is a presentation that we created on how blogs help engineers through sharing and collecting knowledge, fostering relationships and being available in a real time, easy to find environment.

Did you learn anything new from our presentation? Are there any other ways you think that engineers could utilize blogs? We are here to answer your questions, if you would like us to expand on any of our points please don’t hesitate to ask.

Next week we will be sharing our presentation on how LinkedIn benefits engineers. Stay tuned!

Posted in B2B, Communication, G2G, Social Media, Web 2.0 | 3 Comments »

How Social Media Helps Engineers

Posted by Hannah Conrad on 30th June 2011

In our last post about DAC, we mentioned that we would be expanding on the presentation that we displayed in the Conversation Central area of the Synopsys booth. Before we go into detail about how we believe each social media platform can benefit engineers, we would like to share the presentation to give you a brief overview.

Do you agree with our reasoning? Are there any additional ways you believe social media benefits engineers? Please share your thoughts with us!

Posted in Communication, Social Media, Web 2.0 | No Comments »

Google Wants a Piece of the Social Network Pie, but they are in the Wrong Kitchen.

Posted by Hannah Conrad on 8th April 2011

Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, Foursquare, Buzz, Digg, Tumblr, Delicious, Flickr….

And the list goes on and on. All of these various social networks that seem to be multiplying on a consistent basis in an attempt to tap every part of your everyday life, all require yet another profile and a new way to connect with friends, colleagues or even just others who share the same interests. This over saturation can be both overwhelming and exhausting, and at the same time, it all seems to be a little redundant. Will all of these various one off networks stand the test of time? Probably not.

However, there is a very good reason why there are so many new social networks emerging, on what seems like a daily basis, it is because people and companies have realized the impact of this new form of communication and everyone wants a piece of the pie. This includes already successful and well known companies who seem to be feeling like they somehow got left behind and are worried they may be too late to get in on the new media surge.

For example, Google has made it obvious that they do not want to be left behind in the social media bandwagon dust. After the release of Buzz, that seems to have missed the mark, Google announced today the promotion of six new Senior Vice Presidents including Vic Gundotra, the new SVP of Social.

In an article in Mashable today:

“While Google is in very good shape by almost any standard, the rise of Facebook and its failure in social has scared it so much that all employee bonuses will be determined by the success of its social media initiatives. Fixing Google’s social strategy is a big reason why Larry Page is now CEO.”

We all know that Google wants a piece of the social network pie, but there are simply no pieces left. Or are there? Maybe the problem is not that there are there are no pieces of pie left, but rather that Google is looking for pie in the wrong kitchen.

As already stated, the everyday social network user is overwhelmed with the number of social networking platforms. In order to reach the average user, Google needs to take an indirect route. How can they do this? Google has its eyes on overtaking Facebook and winning the hearts of the consumer. The problem is, we are all too in love with Facebook to let that happen. Google has to get us to love them on the social level in another way. When we were discussing the Mashable article this morning, we realized that the average user does not have a social networking life while at work. For many of us, as employees, we do not encounter a social network each day on the professional level. Unless you are a social media specialist like we are, while at work, you probably only take a quick peek at your Facebook on your lunch break and maybe sneak a tweet in here or there, but otherwise, being on social networks while on the clock is a company no-no.

Google has an opportunity here. If Google could make an outstanding, kickass internal social platform for business, it might be able to win us over. There are several companies offering internal social platforms for business: Yammer, Chatter, Convofy, and Socialcast (to name a few). The problem though, is that you cannot use all of the features for free. One of our biggest pet peeves about personal social platforms is when they ask you to pay. For example, on an individual user basis, you can’t send an InMail message on LinkedIn to someone you are not connected to without upgrading to a paid account. Facebook on the other hand lets you do this. Facebook got it right. If you want us to truly love something, you have to give all of its features to us for free. Money comes later.

Here is what we would suggest to Google. Google should provide a free internal social networking platform for businesses. Offer it to each company as a single secure account with logins for each employee. They need to make it useful and productive to business in order to get companies to adopt it. More importantly, they must add an element that ignites a love for the platform that causes the individual employee to crave it. If Google can win us over as employees in the workplace, then perhaps we will be more open when they release the same social platform for us as consumers. Offer the platform as a product for businesses, use that niche route, and when it takes off, fork to the right into the heart of the individual consumer.

The best part about this is that Google has the perfect stage to test such a platform—its own company and its own employees. If Google can get it to work for their business and at the same time, get the employees to individually love and use it on a consistent basis, then we the public probably would too.

What do you think? Does Google stand a chance at successfully entering the social networking market?

Posted in Communication, Social Media, Web 2.0 | 2 Comments »

High Speed Internet with a Limit

Posted by Darcy Pierce on 4th April 2011

Many of those who have AT&T’s residential DSL High Speed Internet have probably already heard the news that AT&T is putting a monthly usage cap on their broadband service. The average AT&T customer will not be affected by this. In fact, only the top 2% of users may be affected. Interestingly though, this group of customers use about 20% of the totally capacity of the network.

According to AT&T their average customer uses only 18 GB per month. This means that 150 or 250 GB is more than enough for 98% of customers. However, if you are in the 2%, you will be charged $10 for every 50 GB over your usage allowance. AT&T is being courteous though, giving users a grace period of 2 months to change their usage habits, and then subsequently will begin to charge overage fees.

Although we understand why internet providers like AT&T and Comcast have a cap on their broadband services, we can’t help thinking about who might be included in the top 2% and how their communication and business habits might be affected. Being that we are Social Media Specialists, we sympathize greatly with the large amount of social media consultants and contractors that work out of their homes. Since going over your usage relates greatly to how much you upload and download various content, we feel that any social media contractor, or any individual working out of their home may be affected by this.

On the non-business side, others who may be affected are those who do not have cable television and instead stream all of their movies and regular TV shows from the internet. Some groups of college students may be affected as well, such as film production and photography students who may frequently upload and download large files.

Another issue that could arise with this new usage cap is the increased importance of network security. Although most people already have their wireless networks password protected, there is now an added risk if they do get hacked with the addition of overage charges.

Internet usage caps like the ones we just described can also have an influence on less obvious areas. GigaOm, who posted a similar article about the issue, expresses how caps like these may potentially hinder innovation.

Here is a chart provided by AT&T that breaks down what you can get out of you allowed monthly usage.

What are your thought on broadband usage caps?

Posted in Communication, Social Media, Web 2.0 | 1 Comment »

The Idea of the Idea Book

Posted by Hannah Conrad on 4th March 2011


Ever have those moments where you’re in a meeting, or working out, or maybe while you’re listening to the radio on the way to work, and something just clicks? You have a random, but fantastic idea pop into your head, and you experience an “aha” moment! You scramble to find something to write the idea on—a handy notebook, a piece of scratch paper you have lying around, a receipt, etc—just to make sure that your brilliant idea does not get forgotten. When you think about it, honestly, how many of those ideas do you remember and take action on?  How often do you misplace that piece of scratch paper or forget where in that over packed notebook you jotted down your possibly career-changing idea (if you wrote it down at all)?

We both have encountered this problem before. Since our jobs require us to be cooking up new and creative ideas on a regular basis, it is almost like we are programmed to have a constant brainstorming session taking place in our minds, but some of our original ideas become forgotten in the wasteland of our expansive imaginations.

A sense of order and reason was needed for this constant and chaotic stream of ideas, so that we could further grow and cultivate these individual inspirations. And so the idea for the “Idea Book” was born, and a beautifully wood bound notebook with gold leaf pages was purchased. We realized that this book could be a game changer as soon as we started to transcribe our ideas into it. In the past, we struggled to find our scribbled ideas in our notebooks and strained to remember all of the ones that we had discussed verbally, but now we have a place to accumulate all of our off the wall (maybe even crazy) ideas.

The idea of the Idea Book is to give each idea a fighting chance to not be forgotten or overlooked, but instead, turned into a reality.

For us, the Idea Book is inspiring, because it removes boundaries. There are no limitations to what is possible and nothing is considered silly. It is a representation and an outlet for our raw imaginations. This new guarded channel to articulate and express our ideas allows us to better communicate with not only ourselves and each other, but it also allows us to more effectively communicate our ideas to others so that no idea gets left behind.

Where do you keep your ideas?

Some inspiring quotes about ideas:

“An idea that is not dangerous is unworthy of being called an idea at all.” – Oscar Wilde

“It’s kind of fun to do the impossible.” – Walt Disney

“If you have an apple and I have an apple and we exchange these apples then you and I will still each have one apple.  But if you have an idea and I have an idea and we exchange these ideas, then each of us will have two ideas.” – George Bernard Shaw

“If at first, the idea is not absurd, then there is no hope for it. – Albert Einstein

“All of our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them.” – Walt Disney

“A man may die, nations may rise and fall, but an idea lives on.” – JFK

Posted in Communication | No Comments »

Brian Solis and the Conversation Prism: “The idea is to pull the dashboard off, get under the hood and start to see what people are saying and feel it.”

Posted by Darcy Pierce on 9th February 2011

We had the privilege of interviewing one of the most well known, respected and influential figures in new media (basically a celebrity to us), Brian Solis. After seeing Solis speak at TWTRCON San Francisco in 2010, we discovered his original creation, the Conversation Prism. The Conversation Prism visually articulates the organization of the social web. We knew that gaining insights from Solis would be invaluable and relevant to our goal of effectively communicating with engineers and educating ourselves and others about the ever-changing state of the social media environment.

Brian Solis is the author of Engage, the complete guide to build, cultivate, and measure success in the social web. Solis is globally recognized as one of the most prominent thought leaders and published authors in new media. A digital analyst, sociologist, and futurist, Solis has influenced the effects of emerging media on the convergence of marketing, communications, and publishing. He is principal of FutureWorks, an award-winning New Media agency in Silicon Valley, and has led interactive and social programs for Fortune 500 companies, notable celebrities, and Web 2.0 startups. BrianSolis.com is among the world’s leading business and marketing online resources.

(Please see end of post for key takeaways)

Darcy & Hannah: We were very intrigued by your Conversation Prism. Can you please share with us why and how it was created?

Brian Solis: My post introducing Version 3.0 of the Conversation Prism has a very deep view into the why and the what. In the comments section of the post someone had asked for the first time ever, “Why is it called the Conversation Prism when it looks like a color wheel? If it has nothing to do with a prism, why is it called that?” That’s the first time I had been asked that, so I decided to address it because there is a reason. It was originally a prism because of the way a prism works—it is a refraction of light. The Conversation Prism was a play on “light” and “enlightenment”. Instead of taking the conversations that are happening on the social web and looking at them as one stream from an audience, run it through a prism; it bends the light so that you can see the light refract, and therefore see all of its separate conversations taking place. That was the premise of the Conversation Prism. We eventually had to put it into a circular format because after the first round of research, there were too many players to fit in the design of the original prism. If you can envision what Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon album looks like, which was basically a prism, that was the original concept for how the original Conversation Prism would look and work: one light bending into the prism that was tiered from top to bottom. There are just too many solutions out there, so it had to become circular in order for it to make sense.

The inspiration behind the Conversation Prism was two-fold. One was that it was to visualize the social media universe. At that time, there had been an attempt to do just that where people were saying, “Show me all the networks for imaging, show me all the social networks, show me all the networks for music,” etc. Of course at the time, the popular ones were YouTube, Pandora, Facebook, Twitter and everyone seemed to attack it the same way. They would start in PowerPoint and create a slide to depict whether or not a business should be present in all networks, which was a popular theme several years ago. Another motive for these social media universes was to demonstrate the need to pay attention, because it was a big universe. I decided to bring a little more structure, or intelligence, to the understanding of the social web to demonstrate that consumers/individuals were using social networking in ways that could be compartmentalized. It was organized by how they were using these types of networks, hence each of the categories. The second inspiration for it, was to then say, (and this was in direct argument against all of the people saying you needed a presence in every one of those networks) “look, these are the four tools. Each one of these networks has a search box where you can use traditional Boolean logic search techniques to figure out whether or not that community was active for you and your market.” Using the Conversation Prism as a template, you should go through it and try to see where you customers are active, so you can put together a social map of where you should focus your attention and prioritize based on the results that come back. It also serves as a foundation or blueprint for how businesses should listen to conversations and put a structure around it. In fact, many listening tools today will tell you that they use the Conversation Prism as their framework for putting together their listening systems.


Darcy & Hannah: In your blog post titled, “The Business of B2B Social Media”, you stated that “B2B. . .is faced with a prime opportunity to not only cultivate communities in social networks and other social channels, but also amplify awareness, increase lead generation, reduce sales cycles, and perhaps most importantly, learn and adapt to market dynamics in real-time.” Elaborating on this, how can B2Bs, in general, apply the Conversation Prism to their efforts and their strategies?

Brian Solis: It’s interesting because I get a question similar to this a lot . . . It’s usually asked this way: “Brian we always see examples in B2C, but what’s the real play for B2B? How do B2B’s get something out of social media?” I stop and think, “You know what, I actually understand what you are talking about. Everyone is talking about the same examples over and over again: Virgin America, Starbucks, Dell.” I have this saying, this motto or mantra that is, that I really just encourage people to read the success stories of how people are using social media today, how businesses are increasing sales and attracting customers. At the same time though, you can’t make any assumptions that these successful companies had a strategy plan, had metrics going or anything like that. At the end of the day, every business is unique, the culture is unique, the market is unique, the conditions are unique. The answer for B2B is the same as it is for B2C, and it brings us back to your first question. The Conversation Prism is designed to get you answers, it’s designed to tell you what, when, where, how, why and to what extent. Most people approaching social media right now do not have those answers. Even those who are listening, monitoring and reporting on what they find, they’re still not able to tell you what the top-down strategy is and what the exact goals and predicted outcomes are. Most only know that that they want more fans, more friends, maybe some coupon redemption, maybe some sales or conversions, but really what we need to be looking at is “What is it that you want to know? What is the outcome? Where is this activity taking place? Who is leading that activity? Who are the influencers? Really, what you do to figure this out is you start to reverse engineer. So for business-to-business, I do the same thing that I do for business-to-consumer or the government. I go and research and try and figure out everything I need to know beforehand, and that is the big element that companies are missing in a lot of this. Many are reluctant to study between the lines and do the research. We’ll use a monitoring tool to say, “Ok, there were 4,700 conversations on Twitter this last quarter, 600 blog posts with mentions and the sentiment was 80% negative, 20% positive, and 60% neutral.” That doesn’t tell you what your social network strategy should be, it just tells you what is. The idea is to pull the dashboard off, get under the hood and start to see what people are saying and feel it. What are those negative sentiments all about? Where are they coming from? How is this conversation segmented throughout your organization? Are they for sales, for customer service for lead generation? Is this for marketing, for product development? And then you can really get a lay of the land and start to emphasize what you see, what you read and what you hear, because it’s really that which should inspire what your program should be. So for business-to-business the only thing that changes is the answers to who, what, where, when, why and to what extent? That tells you where you need to focus.

I’ve been hired by B2B companies in some of the most verticalized industries, only to find that there is always some level of online activity that is worth at least paying attention to. It’s funny because the ones that are really gung-ho about socializing don’t want to hear that their activity isn’t warranted or merited on Facebook or Twitter. They’re hoping they can bring a personal touch to their brand, because they are on the same platforms as individuals. Many times though, I have to tell them that they have no business being on Facebook or Twitter right now.

Darcy & Hannah: We find that reaching engineers (our customers) through social media to be very challenging. It seems like many have not adopted the use of popular social networking sites. Can the Conversation Prism be more specifically applied as a road map on how to communicate with engineers?

Brian Solis: It’s true for a lot of B2B companies, and even some B2C companies, it’s just too early. You know they’re going to be there, but why spend the time and resources cultivating a community that isn’t there. Time is finite. Money is finite. You need to focus where attention is focused, and in some cases that is in user groups and forums, and in the Conversation Prism there’s a section for those. There are master search engines in forums and groups that at least show you if anybody is talking about the space or the market. But in all reality, you see a lot of business-to-business companies, and even some on the business-to-consumer side, who are not using social media, are starting to leverage their email and newsletters to promote their presence and to start to attract audiences in order to force them into using specific domains which, in some cases, is working. At the same time it’s like fishing, you don’t necessarily know if you’re in the right spot, or if you’re going to catch anything with the right bait, so sometimes it’s just paying attention to where the early adopters are, and those early adopters are usually in the blogosphere.

Darcy & Hannah: Do you think for things to change, that it’s going to take Generation Y moving into more decision making roles?

Brian Solis: I think so. I think it’s a little bit of many different things, for example, this is not unlike the challenge that the art industry is facing. If you look at the local ballet company in your city, you know they live off of ticket sales and donations. Their whole business infrastructure is around emails, newsletters and events to try get people to donate and attend events, and those who do have generally been an older demographic. The organizations in this industry are freaking out because their target market is getting older, and organizations are saying, “wow, what do we do? We’re losing our source of income.” So, simultaneously they have to create a second augmented strategy to go after the younger individual so that they can start to cultivate their interests in the arts. In this case your hybrid is the blogosphere, because people are being sent links to posts that might be worth their time via email, so you’re still getting eyeballs outside of traditional media into this gray zone that helps people start to figure out what social media is all about. Usually at this level people are connecting through interests, not relationships, and interests would be around whatever industry you’re in. Now the second thing that I’ve learned about what inspires people in this direction is the social object, you have to give them some reason to pay attention, and that social object in many cases is a blog post. Another is video, for instance, a YouTube video is a social object. We did a project with a B2B robotic arm manufacturer whose customers were looking for automation solutions for workflow and work-lines. The company would create these videos to show what the robotic arms were capable of doing in a real life setting, which were just short snippets of things that were remarkable, and they would put them on their YouTube channel. Then, they would optimize the videos for social media with keywords, descriptions and links. More importantly they would take those social objects and reach out to bloggers, not A-list bloggers, but peer engineers that were sharing their thoughts and looking for solutions, and say, “I was reading some of your posts and decided to create this video that we thought addressed XYZ, here you go, feel free to share it if you like.” We would start to see these videos get 70,000 to 80,000 views because bloggers were taking the embed code of the videos and writing a post around it. That got this particular industry and other industries that I’ve done the exact same thing with, moving in the direction of engaging online, and some are still not on things like Twitter, but it got the conversation started.

Darcy & Hannah: On a slightly different note, where do you see social/new media in the future, say five years down the road?

Brian Solis: I realize that I don’t know that I have an answer to this generally or conceptually, and I really try to stop thinking about it that way. I’ll tell you where I am thinking about it though. Five years from now, the way people are connected to one another will change, today it’s about relationships. How you social network today is nothing like how you network in real life. In fact, you as an individual maintain maybe six to ten life groups; there’s your professional group, your family, your tennis club, your church, your best friends, but you don’t network the same way online. In fact, the way you network online today is exactly what we have accused media properties of doing wrong for so many years; broadcasting one to many, to one audience, and that’s exactly how we’re using social networks now. Five years from now, we’ll be far more sophisticated in what we share, where we share it and why we share it. Understanding at some level that this contributes to a digital persona that we will define online intentionally, it’s not what we’re doing today, but a few years from now it will be intentional, and that intentional persona that we create is going to affect us in the real world too. It’s going to have an impact on the way we see ourselves and act. Now on the business side, businesses are also going to mature as they understand the idea of how influence plays a part in information consumption and sharing, and they’re going to, as individuals are, be much more cognoscente about their role in all of this. They have to understand this in order to earn a position of authority, rather than trying to woe people all the time. It’s not scalable that way. You’ve got to make people want to come to you. Those two concepts working together will create a more enriched and complicated experience, but one where we are in control of the findings. That’s what the end goals look like, but I don’t know what that visually looks like five years from now.

Darcy & Hannah: What do you believe will happen to the skeptics of social media who are holding on to the idea that it is a useless trend that will eventually go away?

Brian Solis: The market for skepticism is finite, and one of the reasons I talk about Digital Darwinism quite a bit is in this exact example. The skeptic will become extinct before they ever realize that they were wrong.

Quotes & Summaries

We’d like to thank Solis, for lending us his time and brilliant professional insights. Looking back through the contents of this interview, we’d like to highlight some key takeaways:

  • The Conversation  Prism is a map designed to get you answers by pointing you in the right direction to help you find the what, when, where, how, why and to what extent, but you have to jump on the research road
  • “The answer for B2B is the same as it is for B2C. . .”
  • “I go and research and try and figure out everything I need to know beforehand, and that is the big element that companies are missing in a lot of this. Many are reluctant to study between the lines and do the research.”
  • You can’t just look at the quantitative aspects that come out of your social media efforts, you need to dig deeper and figure out, “What is it that you want to know? What is the outcome? Where is this activity taking place? Who is leading that activity? Who are the influencers? Really, what you do to figure this out is you start to reverse engineer.”
  • “You need to focus where attention is focused”
  • “You need to figure out who the influencers and early adopters are”
  • “The skeptic will become extinct before they ever realize that they were wrong.”

Have you used Brian’s Conversation Prism in a B2B setting? Share with us!

Posted in B2B, Communication, G2G, Social Media, Web 2.0 | No Comments »

Interview with Professor Buford Barr (Part 3): Creating a Personal Brand

Posted by Darcy Pierce on 26th January 2011

We have come to the final post featuring our interview with Professor Buford Barr. As past students of Professor Barr, we both remember the lecture that he gave us on creating a personal brand. This lecture may seem irrelevant to some, but it has turned out to be one of the most valuable things we learned in college. Professor Barr is very passionate about this topic and did not disappoint us in this section of the interview.

Darcy & Hannah: One of the things that we really appreciated you teaching us was the importance of creating a personal brand. How would you advice an individual working in a B2B (specifically with engineers) on how to form their personal brand?

Professor Barr: When I started my career, I joined, what at the time, was probably the finest engineering company ever, General Electric. Not only did GE have a strong engineering tradition, but they also conducted their own research and development. Everybody in sales and most people in marketing were engineers, so I very quickly had to learn how to communicate credibly with engineers and I had to learn how to take technical information and turn it into advertising, public relations and brochures. You’ll hear companies today say, “You need to take the technological information and translate it down to your target audience,” but this was not the case for me. My target audience was brilliant engineers! They didn’t need anything toned down. They needed the right information that they could see would meet their needs and their wants. So my challenge was, “How do I understand what that is?” I learned to communicate with engineers. I had a little technique that worked quite well for me which was that everywhere I worked, I would go find an engineer that could speak English (something besides engineering), and I befriended them. I would take them out to lunch, I would take them out to drinks, whatever it would take, and they were my source. I could go to them and say, “Joe, what are the primary benefits of this device? Talk to me about this. Why would somebody want this product?” and they would tell me, and then I would be able to talk about it intelligently. Then I took some engineering type courses and tried to learn more about it. If you can’t speak engineering, you are not credible. You will not be respected if you are not credible and do not understand, and therefore will not have a strong personal brand. I think going into high-tech scares a lot of students off because you do need to learn a little bit of something about technology so that you can have some kind of value added.

Everything about positioning and branding a company also applies to an individual. When people hear, “Darcy” or “Hannah”, what comes to mind? Is that what you want to come to mind? What can you do about it? If you don’t brand yourself, the market will. You have to position yourself, and you have to build your own personal brand. You do it by how you look, how you act, how you interact with people. That’s why personal branding is so important. They have to know who you are, and it has to mean something. It’s not just awareness. Awareness just gets you into the game. One of the failures of the dot-com era was that everybody thought that name awareness was all that you needed, but you have to have an immediate perception to go along with that. When you hear a name like, Nike or Toyota, what’s the word that pops in your mind? How pervasive is that word? Is it the right word? “Unreliable” is probably not a word you would be looking for. In building a personal brand, what are the properties that go into the one word that you want people to think when they hear your name, and those are the characteristics that you adopt. Remember that you’ve got hard skills, but I was reading the other day that soft skills are really what people want today, and it’s what differentiates you from everyone else. Your personal brand needs to be managed, you can’t just let it lie along on the ground as you go. The bottom line is that personal branding is exactly the same as corporate branding. It’s the same effect, it’s the same strategy, same process, same everything. You need to sit down and figure out your personal brand strategy and write it down. You need to go through the same exercise of positioning yourself as you would for your corporation. Then you have to deliver on that brand promise.

This post concludes our three part interview with Professor Barr. He has really helped both of us to form our personal brands, and if you have not given your own personal brand consideration, we hope that this post will inspire you to start now!

For those who have worked on creating your personal brand, what has been your strategy and what efforts have you made?

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