It’s that time of the year again. Reviews, appraisals, bonuses and promotions are round the corner; and you are not sure if all the hard work you have put in over the year gone by has been noticed. So how do you claim credit for the effort you’ve put in, without seeming to boast, looking blatantly ambitious, or just plain superficial?
A good way to start would be to formulate personal public relations (PR) or a personal branding campaign and structure it like a good corporate campaign. However, this isn’t easy. Nobody is going to listen to you if it’s obvious your only agenda is to tote up brownie points. “Sometimes you do need to be a bit aggressive to showcase your achievements,” says Rahat Beri, chief operating officer of PR agency Percept Profile. And you need to learn to highlight your achievements without shouting from the rooftops.
A word of caution: If you have not really worked hard in the nine months that have gone by, no PR plan can hoodwink your bosses and get you what is not your due.
To establish a Brand You that is a natural fit for where you want to be: partner in two years, CEO, country head, branch manager, ace money manager or whatever else it is you want to be. It could even be to gain recognition for technical expertise, recognition for leadership, success, fame, money, power.
Identify your target audience carefully—ideally your boss, HR managers and associates.
Why you need to communicate
“Let my work speak for itself” is all very well. But it doesn’t always work. If great product companies such as Apple or Sony take time and energy to design a communications strategy, so should you.
Beavering away at your workstation won’t always get you the recognition you need. You need to create a buzz around the stuff you do. Should you then consider promoting yourself? “Definitely,” says Radhika Shapoorji, CEO of public affairs and PR consulting firm Ipan Hill and Knowlton. She adds: “As a person, you are also a brand. And if you’re able to project the truth well, it will work for you.”
You need to communicate. You need to be visible. As management guru Tom Peters puts it: “No matter how beefy your skill sets, no matter how tasty you’ve made that feature-benefit proposition, you still have to market the bejesus out of your brand—to customers, colleagues, and your virtual network of associates.”
Content of communication
Figure out your strengths, list achievements and don’t miss out the small ones either. Most people don’t clearly know what their achievements are. There may be a whole string of small victories along the way which your boss doesn’t really know about. Don’t just get dazzled by the big picture, advises Mohit Beotra, executive vice-president of advertising agency Lowe Worldwide: “Everybody may be talking about the new big pitch, but there may have been some really useful work you’ve done for an existing client; you may have got a great brochure out while everybody is focusing on the big film.” So be aware of all the small things you are achieving.
How to say it
While it is important to know what to communicate, how you say it will make all the difference. Design your communication for your target audience. Knowing your boss, your employees and other stakeholders makes it easier to design communication that will appeal to them.
Clearly reeling off sets of sales figures to a customer is not the best way of impressing him, just like talking about your latest ski holiday won’t necessarily endear you to your subordinates. Talk strategy, specifics, and areas of corporate and individual interest with the boss, and growth and expansion prospects with subordinates.
Communicate your engagement with the organization, the fact that you are willing to go the extra mile, that you are happy to take on extra responsibility and that you will be successful with that responsibility.
Where to say it
In one word—everywhere.
“One is always communicating—at internal and client meetings, sales reviews, branch visits, email responses, quarterly and annual business letters, dinner out with the teams and even walkabouts at office,” says Uday Sareen, country head, retail banking, ING Vysya Bank. So use the following forums:
At work: Through one-on-one meetings. Ask for extra review meetings with the boss, the office manager, the HR head, says Ashwani Singla, CEO, Genesis, a PR firm. With the boss you should discuss not only feedback on your performance and areas to be beefed up, but also make informed suggestions about the larger business. Again, with the office or branch head, besides seeking feedback, you should volunteer for larger projects or even a move out (thereby demonstrating flexibility and a willingness to learn)
At larger meetings: Design your contribution to be pithy and to the point. Prepare extensively on the agenda so as to be able to add meaningfully to the discussion. Be open to taking up stuff, such as writing the minutes, that no one else may volunteer for. If you are okay with taking up additional responsibilities, it’s good if others in the organization can see that too.
Informal forums: Use dead time—such as travel to offsites, the coffee before a client meeting—to exchange ideas and project your thoughts with your boss. Passing on expertise and relevant information always helps. Stray remarks at the water cooler, perhaps on competitor intelligence or other market data, can sometimes achieve more in creating an impression of you as a person who works hard and knows the market, than writing out a six-page competitor analysis. Interestingly enough, information exchanges at informal forums can be hugely powerful. Says Sareen: “One is likely to get a better sense of team morale and real issues over, say, an informal breakfast with new joinees or an impromptu session of chai-samosas late in the day at the operations shop-floor, rather than through any sort of formal communication exercise.”
Email: Use email effectively for instant, non-intrusive communication. Short and snappy mails can be used to highlight information/communication relevant for the individual/organization. Links to articles on industry intelligence, news related to major customers are useful. They also clearly show you are an informed person, aware of larger trends and nuances.
Company publications such as newsletters, websites, blogs, etc: If you are a better writer than a speaker, use the written word to add value to the organization. Work on informative opinion pieces, original thesis and analysis. You could write a column in a local paper, blog or contribute to the company newsletter, says Mala Sinha, faculty member at Delhi University’s Faculty of Management Studies. “If there is no newsletter, use the company intranet or LAN.” The idea is to create a space for yourself in your organization where you are seen as an individual who engages with socially relevant concerns.
When you write, try and do so on stuff that has a synergy with the organization in some way. If, for instance, you are working in the software industry, you could dig up an interesting anecdote about the difference certain software made in a specific time and place.
Pick a cause: It could be a charity your organization funds. Or it could be something as simple as saving paper in small ways. Sinha suggests small measures, such as a campaign to photocopy on both sides of paper, could be valid in their own way.
Go beyond work: Discuss interests beyond work as well. Initiative and organizational talents at, say, setting up a soccer evening or an office picnic also make their own statements about your levels of enthusiasm and commitment to the workplace.
Use public forums: Make presentations in industry workshops. Besides creating visibility, this will ensure goodwill for your company. You will also slowly be recognized as an expert in your field not only by individuals in your company but by a larger section of the marketplace, including potential hires among students, trade organizations, and competitors.
Be there: Being there always works. “Attend every CEO wedding anniversary party, every kid’s party. Be visible,” says Beri.
And do what it takes: You need, as Peters sums it up, to communicate that you are the following: “First, you’ve got to be a great teammate and a supportive colleague. Second, you’ve got to be an exceptional expert at something that has real value. Third, you’ve got to be a broad-gauged visionary—a leader, a teacher, a far-sighted ‘imagineer’. Fourth, you’ve got to be a businessperson—you’ve got to be obsessed with pragmatic outcomes.”
Yet it needn’t always be that difficult. As Anjali Raina, executive director at Harvard Business School, India, says: “A communication recording appreciation, setting future goals and standards, may in the process provide a measure of publicity for what you’ve achieved.”
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