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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 'G2G' Category

Facebook Helps Engineers

Posted by Hannah Conrad on 19th September 2011

So far we have told you how we believe engineers can benefit from blogs, LinkedIn and Twitter. Now it’s Facebook‘s turn. Facebook is a tough one, because although people understand how to use Facebook, it is the one channel that usually gets the label “For Personal Use Only“.

Many may choose not to friend request their colleagues on Facebook to avoid a merge between work life and personal life. This aside, we’d like to share how valuable we find Facebook as an information source. The best thing about Facebook is you can choose who to follow and who not to follow. This also includes companies.

When we ask those who are aware that companies have Facebook pages if they follow companies, most shake their head because the misconception is that if they do so, they will get spammed. They don’t know that companies cannot send you private messages, and they cannot write on your wall. If you choose to follow a company, their posts will show up on your home feed, but many companies understand that the posts they share on Facebook need to be valuable and the quantity of posts reasonable. If you begin to follow a company that start clogging up your feed, you can back out at any time and “Unlike” the page.

If you have a few minutes, take some time to find your Facebook search bar and start typing the names of some companies and check out their pages. Some might have photos, others might have deals, an interesting video, or a link to a webinar you didn’t know about. The list of what you might find is long.

 

Both of us love to follow companies.  Each morning, we log onto Facebook and it’s like we each have our own our morning newspapers.

For example, Hannah can get on the her Facebook home feed in the morning and in 30 minutes she can…

  • See the top social media story from Mashable
  • Find out what the latest article from EDN is
  • Find breaking news from CNN
  • See the latest new toy on Engaget
  • Get a good digest of what the hot topics are from her favorite social media bloggers
  • Discover that Best Buy is having a sale on the laptop she’s been wanting
  • Get a “Facebook fan exclusive” promocode from her favorite airline for a flight down to L.A.
  • Hear about a boot sale that Nordstrom is having :-)
  • Catch a status update from her sister who is away at college

All the information Hannah wants each morning is in one place.

If you do happen to be friends with some of your colleagues or people with the same career interests, you too can be part of their morning digest of information and news.

Don’t be afraid to like and comment on the posts of a company’s Facebook page. This is exactly what they want. Liking a post lets them know what kind of content you find valuable, and commenting allows you to give the company feedback or showcase some of your own knowledge.

The beautiful thing about social media to us is the ability to share content, thoughts and information. If you find a post on Facebook valuable, chances are, one of your friends will to, so share share share.

Stay tuned for our next post on YouTube which will be out final entry in our series of how social media helps engineers.

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

Twitter Helps Engineers

Posted by Darcy Pierce on 14th September 2011

When we talk to engineers about social media, most have a basic understanding of what LinkedIn is, what Facebook does, and how great YouTube is, but many openly admit that they do not understand Twitter. Most people have the misconception that Twitter is just people talking about what they had for breakfast and miss the value that Twitter brings. For this post, not only are we going to explain how Twitter helps engineers, but we are also going to explain some of the Twitter jargon, since many find the platform somewhat obscure and confusing to use. Twitter is a very powerful listening tool that also has an extensive reach, if you know how to use it.

We suggest that the best way to figure it out is to start using it. Once you have a Twitter account, observe how other people are using it. Start searching for people and keywords. You’ll find that Twitter is a great way to get news, share content and keep up with anything and everything you are interested in. Twitter is a great place to stay up to date with what is going on in your industry. By following key influencers, you can set up a feed that alerts you to the very latest content and the most up to date news.  Give it a try. Go to the search bar on Twitter.com and search some keywords like “engineering” and see what people are talking about.

The key takeaway of this post is that Twitter is not just about what you had for breakfast. Twitter is a source of endless knowledge that you can digest while you eat breakfast each morning. You just have to know how to tap into this knowledge. Inside Twitter, you can find topical conversations and a great deal of shared information. We only listed a few examples above because the possibilities are endless.

On Twitter you can follow people who you already know or those you think just have something interesting to say. Unlike Facebook and LinkedIn, you do not send requests to be “friends” or become a “connection”, you simply follow people or companies that you are interested in hearing from and interacting with. By searching different topics, you can see the people that are talking about them and the conversations that are developing.

One you’ve figured out all of the topics that you want to be searching for and the content that you want to be collecting, you now need a place to aggregate all of this information. TweetDeck is the tool you are looking for. Don’t be afraid of its daunting appearance, TweetDeck is just a series of feeds and searches broken up into columns. One column is your main feed that includes tweets from all the people that you follow. All of the other columns are where you enter in your custom topics and #hashtags (explained later) that you want to be following. Once you specify a search term for a column, that column will aggregate every tweet made on that topic, even the tweets from people you are not following. New search columns can be added, deleted or moved to a different position at any time.

Now let’s talk about the 140 character limit. Every tweet you make should be adding some kind of value and with the limited characters, you have to think of the most important thing that you want people to know. You might have to word tweets differently then you would if you were saying it out loud, but with practice, the 140 character limit actually helps you to be a more relevant and concise writer.

It is good practice to make sure that you are @mentioning a company or a person when you talk about them in a tweet.

A retweet is almost like forwarding an email. When you see a tweet that you like, or a tweet that you would like to comment on, a retweet allows you to do this and share it with your followers.

You can send a direct message two ways, either by clicking on the “message” button located on the top of a person’s profile (button looks like small envelope) or by starting a tweet with the letter “D” followed by the person’s username (without an @ symbol).

As mentioned briefly, one way you can find information and help your tweets to be found is by searching for and using #hashtags for topics.

A #hashtag is a great way to make sure that your tweet gets a farther reach then just the people who follow you. Anyone who is searching that particular #hashtag will also potentially see your tweet.

For more details on how to use Twitter, read Twitter 101: How should I get started using Twitter?

@YouWhoReadThis Thank you for reading. Have questions or comments? Please share your thoughts below. #twitter #engineers #engineering ;-)

 

Posted in G2G, Social Media, Web 2.0 | No 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 »

Our First DAC Experience

Posted by Hannah Conrad on 14th June 2011

You may have noticed that some time has passed since we last made a post. We were completely engrossed in planning for the 48th Design Automation Conference, but we are satisfied with our activities at DAC this year. Being that this was our first time attending DAC, we thought we’d share our experience and activities with you.

Stepping on the show floor early Sunday afternoon was overwhelming. After months of extensive DAC planning, we had to pinch ourselves to make sure we were actually there.

Our home base was the Conversation Central area of the Synopsys booth.

Darcy and Hannah sitting on what should be labeled "The Conversation Central Comfy Couch"

Hannah opened her mouth and suggested to Karen that she do a video introducing what would be happening in the Conversation Central area over the next few days. Hannah’s suggestion backfired as Karen went wild over the brilliance of the idea and suggested that we both do it with her! This would have been less nerve racking if the video was not going to be broadcasted live through the Synopsys Facebook Page, but we fixed our hair, checked our makeup, put on a smile, and pulled off a pretty good introduction video. You can watch the playback versions of each of these videos on Synopsys’ Facebook Page or YouTube channel and catch guest like Jan Raebey, a UC Berkeley professor, who talked about putting microchips into people’s brains.

See our introduction video with Karen below.

It was Conversation Central’s first dance with not only video, but live video.  Among 16 shows, we sprinkled in six live video shows. These shows were streamed live through the Synopsys Facebook Page using the LiveStream application. How much did this cost us? Not a single cent. Both the LiveStream account and Facebook application were free. You might assume that we used an extremely nice HD camcorder, but we found our Logitech webcam duct taped to a tripod, to be more than sufficient.

Our Logitech webcam duct taped to a tripod. High-tech at it's finest!

Our live show with Paul McLellan and Jim Hogan on the DAC floor being live streamed to Facebook

With three live audio shows, six live video shows, and seven recorded audio shows, we had plenty of room for a great lineup of guests. From Cloud Computing to chip design at 20nm, you will find a recap of each show posted daily from June 13th – June 28th onto the Conversation Central Show Notes page in a series that we are calling “The Voices of DAC”.

We didn’t stop with just Conversation Central. In the past, Synopsys has had a Twitter Tower in the general booth area for attendees to follow. We still displayed a large screen with three Twitter feeds, but this year we decided to step it up a notch and add an interactive element for our Twitter followers by hosting two Twitter games.

Twitter Game Card

The first game was called Twitter Trivia and was played by show guests attending specified events (outlined on game card) and answering a question that was tweeted by Synopsys at the beginning of each event. Once they figured out the answer from the topics discussed at the events, they would then tweet the answer to @Synopsys. Every time they answered a question correctly they were entered in a drawing for a Dell Streak 5. Our two winners, @Bruce1271 and @mguthaus, were able to pick up their prizes right in the booth.

We also had a contest to see who could use “@Synopsys” and/or “#snps” in their tweets the most during the week of DAC, allowing even those who were unable attend DAC a chance to win. Our winner @dennisbrophy, will be sent a Kindle 3!

Another addition to DAC this year was the use of QR codes. Not only did we have an entire sign right outside the booth dedicated to displaying QR codes that connected to each of our new media channels (see picture below), but we also had a station inside the booth that generated personalized LinkedIn Networking Cards that boasted a QR code that would link anyone with a smartphone to your own personal LinkedIn profile, making for easy connections in a fun techy way.

The cards were a hit! We had people come back with their colleagues’ business cards asking us to generate LinkedIn Networking Cards to give to them. We even had a few people ask if we would be able to send them cards in the future for others they knew.

When scanned with a QR code reader on a smartphone, each QR code linked to one of Synopsys' social media platforms

Hannah's personalized LinkedIn Networking Card

In addition to all of the above activities, we also had a screen with a rolling presentation that educated engineers on how they can benefit in their career from using the various social media platforms such as LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter. Our next few blog posts will build off of this rolling presentation as we share how we believe engineers can benefit from social media.

What was your favorite part of DAC 2011?

Posted in B2B, G2G, Social Media | 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.

(http://www.theconversationprism.com/)

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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