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Build Your Platform: How to Show You’re the Right Person for Any Job

Build Your Platform: How to Show You’re the Right Person for Any Job
Build Your Platform

We all deal with the problem of needing to build support for our ideas. Maybe you’re trying to sell your boss on a new program, maybe you’re trying to get a loan or grant to start a small business or to undertake a research project, or maybe you’re just trying to get a job. What do you have to do to convince your audience, whoever they are, that you’re ready and able to handle whatever’s thrown at you?

Writers face this all the time. In publishing, the quality of the writing alone rarely speaks for itself. Publishers need some assurance that a new title will sell, and alas, that involves far more than just whether a book is any good or not. Readers don’t know a book is good until they’ve read it, which means quality doesn’t play much of a role in getting them to read something. Instead, reader’s choices are made on the basis of perceived expertise, name-recognition, and familiarity — the same factors we use to make most of our other decisions in life.

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In publishing, the combination of all these factors is referred to as an author’s “platform”. In Bill O’Hanlon’s book Write is a Verb, O’Hanlon (author of 28 books)describes the following elements or “planks” that are part of a writer’s platform:

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  1. credibility
  2. marketing abilities
  3. marketing channels
  4. mass media presence
  5. media abilities and experience
  6. track record in publishing
  7. celebrity
  8. reputation
  9. unique topic or slant
  10. borrowed planks

While not all of these apply beyond the publishing world, with a little tweaking we can adapt O’Hanlon’s description to just about any situation where you need to show others that you are capable of taking on a task or project.

The Planks of Your Platform

  • Your credibility: How much relevant education or experience you bring to a project. If you have a PhD in physics, you probably have a lot of credibility when it comes to talking about lasers — but not so much when it comes to talking about fashion design.
  • Your willingness and ability to push a project: Your passion and desire to stand behind a project, your leadership qualities, your demonstrated competence, and your skill at promotion all come into play here. If you are lacking in any off these, you run the risk of seeing someone else given control — even when the original idea was your.
  • Your network: Who you know and, more importantly, can draw on to advance your project. The channels — marketing, word-of-mouth, influence — you control and can exploit.
  • Your media presence: Outlets to the public, whether as a whole or in your niche, that you control or have access to.  If you have a TV show, a monthly magazine column, a popular blog, or a series of books, you can easily get the word out about a new project — attracting attention, financial investment, and other resources to move your project forward.
  • Your track record: Your demonstrated record to get projects done, and done well. If you’ve launched a dozen successful marketing campaigns, you are going to be more desirable to start the next one than someone who has launched a dozen failures or someone who has launched just one successful one, all other things equal.
  • Your reputation: What people know or have heard about you. If you have a reputation for being brilliant but lazy, hard to work with, or disloyal, people will be hesitant to work with you. On the other hand, if you always get your work in on time, are easy-going but professional, and bring a single-minded focus to your work, people are going to want you on their team.
  • Your celebrity: The fame and recognition you bring to a project by your involvement, even though your fame is derived from another field. People want, say, self-help books written by pop stars, even though most pop stars don’t have much of a background in psychotherapy. This probably doesn’t apply to most people, but it’s worth including as food for thought.
  • Your uniqueness: Brilliance, insight, an off-beat sensibility — the value you add to a project simply by your own unique talents and abilities. In writing, it’s your unique slant on your topic; in, say, design, it might be your distinct style. 
  • Borrowed planks: The support of others with big platforms. Endorsements, recommendations, awards, outside research — anything from other people with credibility, reputations, celebrity, etc. that supports your idea.

How Big is Your Platform?

As you think through this list, consider how your own experience and life details can be described in a way that contributes to your platform.  How can you describe your own experiences in a way that shows how credible, well-connected, successful, or unique you are?

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Consider, too, the gaps in your platform — what can you do to add planks that aren’t already there, or build up the ones that aren’t particularly strong? It’s not necessary to have every plank above — most people do well without celebrity, for example, and those with celebrity often do well without many of the others — but the more planks you have, and the stronger they are, the more likely others are to see you as someone they can trust to get the job done.

And that means they are more likely to support you, whether by hiring you, promoting you, putting you in charge of a big project, offering you a contract, buying your product, investing in your business, or whatever. In the end, this is about confidence — give people a reason (or many reasons) to have confidence in you, and leverage that confidence to do the things you want to do.

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The Gentle Art of Saying No

The Gentle Art of Saying No

No!

It’s a simple fact that you can never be productive if you take on too many commitments — you simply spread yourself too thin and will not be able to get anything done, at least not well or on time.

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But requests for your time are coming in all the time — through phone, email, IM or in person. To stay productive, and minimize stress, you have to learn the Gentle Art of Saying No — an art that many people have problems with.

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What’s so hard about saying no? Well, to start with, it can hurt, anger or disappoint the person you’re saying “no” to, and that’s not usually a fun task. Second, if you hope to work with that person in the future, you’ll want to continue to have a good relationship with that person, and saying “no” in the wrong way can jeopardize that.

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But it doesn’t have to be difficult or hard on your relationship. Here are the Top 10 tips for learning the Gentle Art of Saying No:

  1. Value your time. Know your commitments, and how valuable your precious time is. Then, when someone asks you to dedicate some of your time to a new commitment, you’ll know that you simply cannot do it. And tell them that: “I just can’t right now … my plate is overloaded as it is.”
  2. Know your priorities. Even if you do have some extra time (which for many of us is rare), is this new commitment really the way you want to spend that time? For myself, I know that more commitments means less time with my wife and kids, who are more important to me than anything.
  3. Practice saying no. Practice makes perfect. Saying “no” as often as you can is a great way to get better at it and more comfortable with saying the word. And sometimes, repeating the word is the only way to get a message through to extremely persistent people. When they keep insisting, just keep saying no. Eventually, they’ll get the message.
  4. Don’t apologize. A common way to start out is “I’m sorry but …” as people think that it sounds more polite. While politeness is important, apologizing just makes it sound weaker. You need to be firm, and unapologetic about guarding your time.
  5. Stop being nice. Again, it’s important to be polite, but being nice by saying yes all the time only hurts you. When you make it easy for people to grab your time (or money), they will continue to do it. But if you erect a wall, they will look for easier targets. Show them that your time is well guarded by being firm and turning down as many requests (that are not on your top priority list) as possible.
  6. Say no to your boss. Sometimes we feel that we have to say yes to our boss — they’re our boss, right? And if we say “no” then we look like we can’t handle the work — at least, that’s the common reasoning. But in fact, it’s the opposite — explain to your boss that by taking on too many commitments, you are weakening your productivity and jeopardizing your existing commitments. If your boss insists that you take on the project, go over your project or task list and ask him/her to re-prioritize, explaining that there’s only so much you can take on at one time.
  7. Pre-empting. It’s often much easier to pre-empt requests than to say “no” to them after the request has been made. If you know that requests are likely to be made, perhaps in a meeting, just say to everyone as soon as you come into the meeting, “Look guys, just to let you know, my week is booked full with some urgent projects and I won’t be able to take on any new requests.”
  8. Get back to you. Instead of providing an answer then and there, it’s often better to tell the person you’ll give their request some thought and get back to them. This will allow you to give it some consideration, and check your commitments and priorities. Then, if you can’t take on the request, simply tell them: “After giving this some thought, and checking my commitments, I won’t be able to accommodate the request at this time.” At least you gave it some consideration.
  9. Maybe later. If this is an option that you’d like to keep open, instead of just shutting the door on the person, it’s often better to just say, “This sounds like an interesting opportunity, but I just don’t have the time at the moment. Perhaps you could check back with me in [give a time frame].” Next time, when they check back with you, you might have some free time on your hands.
  10. It’s not you, it’s me. This classic dating rejection can work in other situations. Don’t be insincere about it, though. Often the person or project is a good one, but it’s just not right for you, at least not at this time. Simply say so — you can compliment the idea, the project, the person, the organization … but say that it’s not the right fit, or it’s not what you’re looking for at this time. Only say this if it’s true — people can sense insincerity.

Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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