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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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Last Updated on January 13, 2020

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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From Creating Reminders to Building Habits

A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

How to Make a Reminder Works for You

Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

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Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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