Personal Branding: Building a Consulting Practice

Frequently, I need a refresher dose of reality to pull me away from going into automatic mode when explaining career issues with clients and students. What I mean is that experiences in my own life remind me what it's like to face the same issues my clients and students face. It's frequently humbling, and more often illuminating. 

Sometimes, I learn, all over again, what clients go through--dealing with rejection, the lack of concrete feedback, not quite knowing if things are working right--when they're interviewing for jobs, or building a consulting practice, or just figuring out what their next moves should be.

Recently, I was reminded how building a consulting practice could be executed beautifully.  

I had decided to hire a public relations professional to help with marketing The Fun Forever Job: Career Strategies that Workas well as to help me secure more speaking engagements that would match this marketing. While my indie publisher and I (she, a relatively new publisher, and me, a completely novice book writer) had done well (way beyond our expectations--more than 15,000 books moved in the first three months), we wanted to take things to the next level. Reach a wider audience.  

Through a little networking, I found a couple of well-recommended PR professionals. Again, I was in a novice position, never having had to work personally with someone in this arena before.  For clients, yes--but for myself, no.

I set up phone meetings with both. Unfortunately, they both used cell phones--something I encourage my clients and students to avoid because it’s bad business. The sound quality is almost always poor, especially if hands-free or speaker is used. Why make your potential customer strain to hear?   

Even so, the first publicist was terrific on the phone. Her background was impressive. She knew what she was talking about. We clicked immediately. However, she had not done much due diligence on me or my book or my professional background. In fact, she was only first checking things out while we spoke. I told her what I was looking for, and she said she would send me a proposal, with pricing in a week or two--which was fine with me.

While I enjoyed the conversation, and felt comfortable with her, her lack of preparation gave me the impression she wasn’t particularly interested in the project. She may very well be, but she certainly didn't show much enterprise in how she approached me.

And I didn’t hear from her afterward--there have been no follow-ups, no questions. Although I do expect to get the proposal within the time frame she mentioned, I already know she’s not going to get the assignment. A prospective employer needs to feel that the applicant is excited, has done her homework, and follows up. 

The second publicist made a great first impression; she immediately told me she had read the entire book the night before. Yeah, of course, that was flattering, but she immediately explained how the book would lend itself to a campaign and how easy it would be to develop talking points and other materials. She was off and running. She had carefully vetted my personal website and the book website and had comments about both. In a first conversation, of course, she was complimentary about most of it, and made a few very minor, inoffensive suggestions. She was proving her value almost immediately.

I just wish the phone connection had been better.

She, too was going to send a proposal within a couple of weeks.

But! She wrote immediately afterward to thank me for the time, and to ask a few clarifying questions. We have been back and forth several times in the past week. 

The kicker was that yesterday she wrote and told me that if I would write a brief blog piece on a specific topic, she thought she would be able to get it onto a major website that is significant in my field.  

One hour after I submitted it, she wrote back and said it had been accepted.

My decision has been made. I don't know about financial parameters of the proposal yet, but, assuming they're reasonable, I will work with this professional. And I do mean professional.

Her approach could not have been better. Well prepared, homework done, enthusiasm, follow- up, and a demonstration of what she could do.  

The choice will be easy.

Does this real-life personal story apply to most career transition scenarios? I definitely think so.