Platforms- why everybody needs one
As an aspiring writer, I've already accomplished some of the hardest parts of getting a book out. I've written a novel, had it edited, submitted it to agents and publishers, re-written it, had it re-edited, and submitted it to agents and publishers again. Crickets.
The uncomfortable truth in writing is that there are a bazillion people like me trying to get books published. (Another bazillion try to get recording contracts, acting jobs, make it in professional sports, and get started in competitive spaces every year) Unfortunately, there's a catch 22, meaning no one thinks you're worth listening to unless other people think you're worth listening to.
Our world has become more noisy and competitive, and if you want to get noticed, you need to have a platform to stand above the crowd. But what is a platform? It's a strong, safe place where you can truly be you and people can find out what you're about. It's your brand. Kind of like Coca Cola and Apple, but for people.
Businesses already know about the importance of platforms, which is why they advertise so heavily to make their brand of products and services known. Most of us as individuals rely on the sad little document known as the resume to be our one and only platform. People look at it and judge you and your brand in seconds. Most of the time people don't even read them- computers search through them for keywords that match what employers need, as well as traits deal-breakers they want to exclude. Some employers even dive into our social media accounts to figure out who we truly are.
I learned about platforms today in an informative writing seminar with national expert Jane Friedman and fifty ladies from the Romance Writers of America. Ms.Friedman taught us how to build our brands through websites, blogs, emails, and lots and lots of writing. In the real world, your brand can be things like the way you dress and wear your hair, but online it's what color scheme and font you use, what photos you use, and how consistent you are. By writing, we put ourselves out there, and if it's authentic, it becomes our brand as a writer and a creator. That's what I'm trying to do with this blog.
In my other life, I'm also a Certified Public Accountant. I have a platform there too. As I think about it more, I have unlimited opportunities to make my presence known to my clients, co-workers, and community. Some of them know what my skills are and how I can help them. But to be truly effective, I need to make more of an effort to make sure that they aren't just making another transaction for money and a service. We are building a relationship and my brand is professionalism, empathy and integrity. As an accountant I see very private and personal information, and trust has to be my platform. As a writer I cover sensitive and important topics sometimes, and my platform has to include both entertainment value and truth.
I submit to you, dear reader, that you have a platform too. What are you known for? Your cooking? Your looks? Your communication skills? How well you can put together a spreadsheet? All of that bucket of skills that you possess, and the many more that you'd like to obtain can all be a part of your platform. You don't have to have a website (though these days it's not such a bad idea), but you need a statement besides that dry and boring resume everyone judges you by. You need something that says "this is me!" Then you need to work on improving yourself and that statement the rest of your life. Some questions to think about as you consider your platform:
- What accomplishment am I most proud of?
- What will people remember about me the most?
- What would my best friend say is my best quality?
- What energizes me the most in a positive way when I think about it?
- If I had a 60 second commercial in the Super Bowl, what would I want it to say?
- What do I want on my resume that is not currently on there?
Will my book ever get published? I have no idea. There are close to a million books published every year. Over half of them are self-published books that are only read by a handful of people. Making the best-seller lists is a steep uphill climb. For now I just put one foot in front of the other and see where life takes me.
The dictionary definition of platform is either a raised surface upon which something stands, or a declaration of principles upon which a person or group stands. We all need to feel safe and secure in where we stand. We need to accept our strengths and weaknesses, visualize our opportunities and threats (SWOT analysis for you business nerds), and keep building that base upon which to stand and face the world.
So if you're a creative sort like I am, get busy making your websites, videos, drawings and novels that show the world who you really are. Listen to feedback and make it better and better. If you're not so creative, that's okay. You can still have a platform at home and at work by putting a little bit of yourself into the things you do. Pour your special energies into your children, customers, and co-workers. We tend to run on automatic pilot in our everyday tasks and lose sight of what makes us special. Don't count on your boss, spouse, or strangers to point it out. Only you know what your platform is or could be. Good luck.
www.janefriedman.com - Jane's excellent website.
www.buengeraccounting.com - My accounting platform
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