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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 8, 2020

3 Techniques for Setting Priorities Effectively

3 Techniques for Setting Priorities Effectively

It is easy, in the onrush of life, to become a reactor – to respond to everything that comes up, the moment it comes up, and give it your undivided attention until the next thing comes up.

This is, of course, a recipe for madness. The feeling of loss of control over what you do and when is enough to drive you over the edge, and if that doesn’t get you, the wreckage of unfinished projects you leave in your wake will surely catch up with you.

Having an inbox and processing it in a systematic way can help you gain back some of that control. But once you’ve processed out your inbox and listed all the tasks you need to get cracking on, you still have to figure out what to do the very next instant. On which of those tasks will your time best be spent, and which ones can wait?

When we don’t set priorities, we tend to follow the path of least resistance. (And following the path of least resistance, as the late, great Utah Phillips reminded us, is what makes the river crooked!) That is, we’ll pick and sort through the things we need to do and work on the easiest ones – leaving the more difficult and less fun tasks for a “later” that, in many cases, never comes – or, worse, comes just before the action needs to be finished, throwing us into a whirlwind of activity, stress, and regret.

This is why setting priorities is so important.

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3 Effective Approaches to Set Priorities

There are three basic approaches to setting priorities, each of which probably suits different kinds of personalities. The first is for procrastinators, people who put off unpleasant tasks. The second is for people who thrive on accomplishment, who need a stream of small victories to get through the day. And the third is for the more analytic types, who need to know that they’re working on the objectively most important thing possible at this moment. In order, then, they are:

1. Eat a Frog

There’s an old saying to the effect that if you wake up in the morning and eat a live frog, you can go through the day knowing that the worst thing that can possibly happen to you that day has already passed. In other words, the day can only get better!

Popularized in Brian Tracy’s book Eat That Frog!, the idea here is that you tackle the biggest, hardest, and least appealing task first thing every day, so you can move through the rest of the day knowing that the worst has already passed.

When you’ve got a fat old frog on your plate, you’ve really got to knuckle down. Another old saying says that when you’ve got to eat a frog, don’t spend too much time looking at it! It pays to keep this in mind if you’re the kind of person that procrastinates by “planning your attack” and “psyching yourself up” for half the day. Just open wide and chomp that frog, buddy! Otherwise, you’ll almost surely talk yourself out of doing anything at all.

2. Move Big Rocks

Maybe you’re not a procrastinator so much as a fiddler, someone who fills her or his time fussing over little tasks. You’re busy busy busy all the time, but somehow, nothing important ever seems to get done.

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You need the wisdom of the pickle jar. Take a pickle jar and fill it up with sand. Now try to put a handful of rocks in there. You can’t, right? There’s no room.

If it’s important to put the rocks in the jar, you’ve got to put the rocks in first. Fill the jar with rocks, now try pouring in some pebbles. See how they roll in and fill up the available space? Now throw in a couple handfuls of gravel. Again, it slides right into the cracks. Finally, pour in some sand.

For the metaphorically impaired, the pickle jar is all the time you have in a day. You can fill it up with meaningless little busy-work tasks, leaving no room for the big stuff, or you can do the big stuff first, then the smaller stuff, and finally fill in the spare moments with the useless stuff.

To put it into practice, sit down tonight before you go to bed and write down the three most important tasks you have to get done tomorrow. Don’t try to fit everything you need, or think you need, to do, just the three most important ones.

In the morning, take out your list and attack the first “Big Rock”. Work on it until it’s done or you can’t make any further progress. Then move on to the second, and then the third. Once you’ve finished them all, you can start in with the little stuff, knowing you’ve made good progress on all the big stuff. And if you don’t get to the little stuff? You’ll have the satisfaction of knowing that you accomplished three big things. At the end of the day, nobody’s ever wished they’d spent more time arranging their pencil drawer instead of writing their novel, or printing mailing labels instead of landing a big client.

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3. Covey Quadrants

If you just can’t relax unless you absolutely know you’re working on the most important thing you could be working on at every instant, Stephen Covey’s quadrant system as written in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change might be for you.

Covey suggests you divide a piece of paper into four sections, drawing a line across and a line from top to bottom. Into each of those quadrants, you put your tasks according to whether they are:

  1. Important and Urgent
  2. Important and Not Urgent
  3. Not Important but Urgent
  4. Not Important and Not Urgent

    The quadrant III and IV stuff is where we get bogged down in the trivial: phone calls, interruptions, meetings (QIII) and busy work, shooting the breeze, and other time wasters (QIV). Although some of this stuff might have some social value, if it interferes with your ability to do the things that are important to you, they need to go.

    Quadrant I and II are the tasks that are important to us. QI are crises, impending deadlines, and other work that needs to be done right now or terrible things will happen. If you’re really on top of your time management, you can minimize Q1 tasks, but you can never eliminate them – a car accident, someone getting ill, a natural disaster, these things all demand immediate action and are rarely planned for.

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    You’d like to spend as much time as possible in Quadrant II, plugging away at tasks that are important with plenty of time to really get into them and do the best possible job. This is the stuff that the QIII and QIV stuff takes time away from, so after you’ve plotted out your tasks on the Covey quadrant grid, according to your own sense of what’s important and what isn’t, work as much as possible on items in Quadrant II (and Quadrant I tasks when they arise).

    Getting to Know You

    Spend some time trying each of these approaches on for size. It’s hard to say what might work best for any given person – what fits one like a glove will be too binding and restrictive for another, and too loose and unstructured for a third. You’ll find you also need to spend some time figuring out what makes something important to you – what goals are your actions intended to move you towards.

    In the end, setting priorities is an exercise in self-knowledge. You need to know what tasks you’ll treat as a pleasure and which ones like torture, what tasks lead to your objectives and which ones lead you astray or, at best, have you spinning your wheels and going nowhere.

    These three are the best-known and most time-tested strategies out there, but maybe you’ve got a different idea you’d like to share? Tell us how you set your priorities in the comments.

    More Tips for Effective Prioritization

    Featured photo credit: Mille Sanders via unsplash.com

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