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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 July 17, 2019

The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

What happens in our heads when we set goals?

Apparently a lot more than you’d think.

Goal setting isn’t quite so simple as deciding on the things you’d like to accomplish and working towards them.

According to the research of psychologists, neurologists, and other scientists, setting a goal invests ourselves into the target as if we’d already accomplished it. That is, by setting something as a goal, however small or large, however near or far in the future, a part of our brain believes that desired outcome is an essential part of who we are – setting up the conditions that drive us to work towards the goals to fulfill the brain’s self-image.

Apparently, the brain cannot distinguish between things we want and things we have. Neurologically, then, our brains treat the failure to achieve our goal the same way as it treats the loss of a valued possession. And up until the moment, the goal is achieved, we have failed to achieve it, setting up a constant tension that the brain seeks to resolve.

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Ideally, this tension is resolved by driving us towards accomplishment. In many cases, though, the brain simply responds to the loss, causing us to feel fear, anxiety, even anguish, depending on the value of the as-yet-unattained goal.

Love, Loss, Dopamine, and Our Dreams

The brains functions are carried out by a stew of chemicals called neurotransmitters. You’ve probably heard of serotonin, which plays a key role in our emotional life – most of the effective anti-depressant medications on the market are serotonin reuptake inhibitors, meaning they regulate serotonin levels in the brain leading to more stable moods.

Somewhat less well-known is another neurotransmitter, dopamine. Among other things, dopamine acts as a motivator, creating a sensation of pleasure when the brain is stimulated by achievement. Dopamine is also involved in maintaining attention – some forms of ADHD are linked to irregular responses to dopamine.[1]

So dopamine plays a key role in keeping us focused on our goals and motivating us to attain them, rewarding our attention and achievement by elevating our mood. That is, we feel good when we work towards our goals.

Dopamine is related to wanting – to desire. The attainment of the object of our desire releases dopamine into our brains and we feel good. Conversely, the frustration of our desires starves us of dopamine, causing anxiety and fear.

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One of the greatest desires is romantic love – the long-lasting, “till death do us part” kind. It’s no surprise, then, that romantic love is sustained, at least in part, through the constant flow of dopamine released in the presence – real or imagined – of our true love. Loss of romantic love cuts off that supply of dopamine, which is why it feels like you’re dying – your brain responds by triggering all sorts of anxiety-related responses.

Herein lies obsession, as we go to ever-increasing lengths in search of that dopamine reward. Stalking specialists warn against any kind of contact with a stalker, positive or negative, because any response at all triggers that reward mechanism. If you let the phone ring 50 times and finally pick up on the 51st ring to tell your stalker off, your stalker gets his or her reward, and learns that all s/he has to do is wait for the phone to ring 51 times.

Romantic love isn’t the only kind of desire that can create this kind of dopamine addiction, though – as Captain Ahab (from Moby Dick) knew well, any suitably important goal can become an obsession once the mind has established ownership.

The Neurology of Ownership

Ownership turns out to be about a lot more than just legal rights. When we own something, we invest a part of ourselves into it – it becomes an extension of ourselves.

In a famous experiment at Cornell University, researchers gave students school logo coffee mugs, and then offered to trade them chocolate bars for the mugs. Very few were willing to make the trade, no matter how much they professed to like chocolate. Big deal, right? Maybe they just really liked those mugs![2]

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But when they reversed the experiment, handing out chocolate and then offering to trade mugs for the candy, they found that now, few students were all that interested in the mugs. Apparently the key thing about the mugs or the chocolate wasn’t whether students valued whatever they had in their possession, but simply that they had it in their possession.

This phenomenon is called the “endowment effect”. In a nutshell, the endowment effect occurs when we take ownership of an object (or idea, or person); in becoming “ours” it becomes integrated with our sense of identity, making us reluctant to part with it (losing it is seen as a loss, which triggers that dopamine shut-off I discussed above).

Interestingly, researchers have found that the endowment effect doesn’t require actual ownership or even possession to come into play. In fact, it’s enough to have a reasonable expectation of future possession for us to start thinking of something as a part of us – as jilted lovers, gambling losers, and 7-year olds denied a toy at the store have all experienced.

The Upshot for Goal-Setters

So what does all this mean for would-be achievers?

On one hand, it’s a warning against setting unreasonable goals. The bigger the potential for positive growth a goal has, the more anxiety and stress your brain is going to create around it’s non-achievement.

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It also suggests that the common wisdom to limit your goals to a small number of reasonable, attainable objectives is good advice. The more goals you have, the more ends your brain thinks it “owns” and therefore the more grief and fear the absence of those ends is going to cause you.

On a more positive note, the fact that the brain rewards our attentiveness by releasing dopamine means that our brain is working with us to direct us to achievement. Paying attention to your goals feels good, encouraging us to spend more time doing it. This may be why outcome visualization — a favorite technique of self-help gurus involving imagining yourself having completed your objectives — has such a poor track record in clinical studies. It effectively tricks our brain into rewarding us for achieving our goals even though we haven’t done it yet!

But ultimately, our brain wants us to achieve our goals, so that it’s a sense of who we are that can be fulfilled. And that’s pretty good news!

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Featured photo credit: Alexa Williams via unsplash.com

Reference

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