Takeaway: To develop a strong brand that is relevant and recognizable to others, you must be willing to be vulnerable, risk everything, and put yourself out there. It is uncomfortable, but it’s how you authentically connect with people more meaningfully.
A long-held belief in the professional world is that it’s all about who you know. An idea that has been reinforced in me over and over again for many years. This single idea that your network is your net worth. It’s critical to build relationships because you never know who is connected to whom. Who you know reflects who you want to become. Who you know can teach you secrets of your industry. Who you know can advance your position or even your career. You never know when your network can come to the rescue.
As valuable as that advice is, it turns out that, in many cases, it’s even more valuable to flip the script. What if you focused on developing a strong brand that other people want to be a part of?
When you get yourself – and your core purpose – out there, you attract the right network to you.
So, it’s not about who you know – it’s about who knows you.
Be Open to What Comes Your Way
My mentor, Warren Rustand, always told me to take the meeting – you just never know. It’s not always easy to be open to new things, to what feels uncomfortable at first. However, when you open yourself up, you will find and connect with those who are aligned with you and with your purpose. It’s pretty empowering when you allow yourself to stay open to whatever may come rather than to always seek the approval and acknowledgment of others you view as successful.
I get most excited when people accomplish their vision, achieve their goals, and experience connection and growth. And those are the people we want to attract. I can stay in my purpose-driven lane regardless of who I’m presenting to. I’m not narrow-minded about looking for the next business opportunity – I invite them to come to me, whoever they are, because I’m curious about them.
Good ideas come from everywhere. Always take the meeting. These two nuggets of wisdom I’ve learned from others are essential individually, but putting these ideas together has led me to always give someone 30 minutes of my time – after all, you never know where it will lead.
Get yourself out there. Make it a point to create space and time for people, events, and new opportunities. Anything and anyone you can learn from.
Prioritize Personal, Even Accidental, Connections
I had an experience recently that showed me first-hand the value of putting myself out there. My podcast consultant Niel Guilarte and Podfest organizer Chris Krimitsos recommended I go to Podfest as a thought leader to do some interviews for the upcoming season. I went to record a season live with people I didn’t know.
I soon commandeered a glass-walled conference room simply because no one else was using it. I set up camp and quickly became known as the “girl in the glass room” in the middle of the conference. Event-goers even created a hashtag for me: #girlintheglassroom. I ended up with 1,800 people knowing who I was, instead of the twenty or so I had planned on as I prepared for the event.
People were asking who I was, and at the time, I didn’t realize the opportunity that would present. But being in that room led to more and more opportunities and interviews to learn from others, connect with them, and understand them better.
Interestingly, Glenn Hebert, a hugely successful podcaster with a massive following – who I was able to interview at Podfest because of where I just so happened to find myself situated – is who first told me, “It’s not who you know; it’s who knows you.” This concept was new to me, and it knocked me off my axis when I first heard it – but I soon relaxed into his lesson.
It wasn’t about getting business from those people. It was about opening up to their network. I was getting to know people so they could get to know me. It was my mic-drop, “ah-ha” moment.
I took this entirely accidental opportunity and added it to my toolbox. I put the concept of “it’s who knows you” into practice. I realized it’s more about personal connections than anything. Doing in-person interviews helped me build those connections. They were extremely powerful, personal interviews because I could be completely comfortable – as were the interviewees – as I learned about and connected with them.
How to Apply “It’s Who Knows You” to Your Brand
Be the example for other people. I believe I am successful because I’m present, listening, and engaging with others. I’m not concerned with getting their business or growing my network for personal advantage – I’m interested in connecting with people.
It is crucial to articulate your brand’s purpose here. You must live and breathe your purpose so other people have no doubt about your values. This is how others will recognize your brand as you intend and connect with you and your purpose more meaningfully. Keep a consistent voice when you communicate. Show that your brand is confidently and comfortably authentic. That attitude attracts people.
Focus on establishing real relationships with people, whether across your organization or industry or at a single event. Collaboration is critical if you want to be positively recognized and supported by others. As anywhere, in your network, you get back what you give.
When you prioritize this kind of recognition and build a network around who knows you, you fill the role of thought leader for your industry and beyond.