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That time when I learnt to harness the power of advocacy

A basic rule that all businesses should apply liberally is that their people are their biggest asset. They only exist because of those people, and will only grow as long as they harness the energy of those humans in the right way.

I’m happy to say that the business world seems to be realising this fact in growing numbers. People are everything.

At Shazam, this is absolutely how we view things. Our people are at the epicentre of everything that makes us good and great. My job coming in was simply to find a way to keep hiring more of those great people.

Easy right?

To share the essence of what makes your organisation truly brilliant with the rest of the world, you really have to take the time to work out what that is first. My first task therefore, was to really crystallise what it meant to be a Shazamer, and do some work to figure out what our value proposition truly was.

We did that with the help of an agency called Pink Squid around four years ago, whom we invited in as external partners to conduct discovery sessions with our teams around the world. From that data they were able to tell us what we did really well, but also what we didn’t do so well.

That’s the thing with self discovery, sometimes you might discover things about yourselves that you don’t like, and that can smart a little. We decided to use this whole project as a learning exercise, and saw it as an opportunity to try to improve the things that we weren’t so great at.

Employee experience has to be at the heart of the way an organisation runs. Without crafting a great experience for the humans that help to make you the amazing company that you are, your war for talent will be lost.

Create a business of happy thriving humans and your war for talent will be almost won.

Now to the business of actual attraction. There is little to be gained from pretending to be something that you are not; in life and in business. You need to let your ‘vibe attract your tribe’ across the whole gambit.

So once you have your vibe, and you’ve figured out who you really are as a business, it’s important that you take that honest messaging out into the world. Your people are far and away the best messengers for this.

My mission at Shazam therefore, was to not just to hire the very best people, but to hire the very best people who also resonated with our mission and values. Similar brief; waaaaay better end result.

Given that our people are our biggest asset, and by far the most honest and effective talent attraction tool we have, I learnt quickly that what we needed to do to was to start to build a culture of advocacy.

In some of the teams we had people who were already comfortable speaking on their respective conference circuit, but we had a gap in terms of what we were telling the world from a technical standpoint, which is arguably one of the key areas.

I started out by running a workshop on personal branding around 18 months ago. Working at a business like Shazam we are in incredibly fortunate as our business garners a huge degree of interest. What that means for our people, is that they each have a real opportunity to build their own brands based on that interest, give there is no shortage of invitations for speaking engagements or requests to work with us or feature us.

I asked the team to consider doing an audit of their online presence, and really framed the opportunity that they were presented with. I encouraged them to look at things like:

  • Their online profiles, how evolved and detailed they were.
  • What they share online, and to consider being more mindful over what that is.
  • To consider growing their online presence, whether in the form of a blog or just general usefulness.
  • To think about whether they are curious about public speaking, and whether they might like some support to help them get there.

We then looked at a few top tips around blogging and starting to get involved in public speaking. I happily was able to draw upon my own experiences to do this.

This session wasn’t an immediate success, but what it did was plant some very important seeds.

Within the following months we’d seen one person start to blog and a number starting to say yes to speaking engagements.

Last year we decided to step this up a gear by finally developing our ‘Inside Shazam’ blog. The key to success here came in the form of influential internal sponsors; finding people who could help corral a team of blog founders, led by me. The Blog Squad was born.

I ran weekly meet ups with the team, where we encouraged one another to write blogs, whilst also plotting for who could write the next ones and how that might happen.

By getting the right kind of investment from the team, we managed to get our blog off the ground.

When it comes to getting people invested in speaking at events, we’re learning we are most successful when my team acts as the conduit between the events organisers and the business, therefore we are constantly on the lookout for new opportunities to pitch to the wider team.

We’ve already seen some real results in terms of the feedback we get from the candidates we are meeting with. Many cite either our blog, or an event they attended that we took part in as things that made them feel compelled to speak with us.

So whilst I’m all for bigger branding campaigns when you have the opportunity and budget to do them, it’s super important not to overlook the brilliant marketing team you already have within your business: YOUR PEOPLE.

That time when LinkedIn told me I had a Power Profile

So it happened. Me and a bunch of incredibly awesome humans, were awarded as having ‘Power Profiles in the UK 2015‘ by LinkedIn. When they first called me up to talk to me about it I was like: hold up – is that a thing? But my friends, it appears it is. A new thing. But a thing nonetheless.

So it got me to thinking about what made me have a ‘Power Profile’ in the first place. There’s the obvious fact that I work in recruitment and that I lead hiring for Shazam. Those two very things make me someone people want to interact with all the time. But there are tons of people with jobs that are even more awesome than mine, so perhaps that in itself wasn’t enough.

Honestly, I think the thing that perhaps meant that they reached out to me rather than a bunch of other folks, could have a large amount to do with how unapologetically ‘me’ I am. I’ve written before about how much I believe it’s time for the rise of the individual, and I truly, truly believe it.

I am no different than lots of other people in terms of my work ethic and the work I do for Shazam, but I am someone who isn’t afraid to be silly, and wears her heart on her sleeve, and isn’t afraid to be honest with the world about my challenges and how I have worked to overcome them. The moment I stopped trying to be someone else and just became me, was the moment that things truly started opening up for me in my world.

So considering this point got me thinking further about who we are and how the rest of the world views us. Are we projecting the truest versions of ourselves online? And if not – how do we do so?

First and foremost, find your authentic tone of voice when writing online. This happened for me as a natural side effect of living as the truest version of myself. Once you start to do that, everything else just becomes authentic at the same time.

How do you do that? By slowly conducting a life audit and by getting rid of whatever the things are that don’t work for you and by making choices based on what makes you truly the happiest. This is another blog post in itself. I’ve written a lot about this on my blog; www.thepenfold.me. Have a dig and see what might be useful for you.

In the meantime, here are some simple points to consider when writing your LinkedIn profile:

  • Your profile is 14 times more likely to be viewed if you have a picture. Does your picture really reflect you? Do you look comfortable? Do you look like you? Get someone you know really well to take a picture of you that feels appropriate; they will likely get the best results!
  • Does your introduction really reflect you? Can you inject some personality into it? Can you inject some passion into it? Consider why you love doing what you do – what you love about your job – and let that enthusiasm inflect how you pitch yourself here. We don’t just want the facts; give us a flavour of who you really are.
  • Give us an overview of the companies you have worked for, but avoid any real depth on your role. This isn’t your CV. If people want to find out more about you, let them ask. And they will. Trust me.
  • Tell us about your interests. Tell us what makes your heart sing. Give us some idea of what you like to do when you aren’t working. Don’t be afraid to be a little silly here, if that feels authentic for you.

Be useful. Be engaged with the rest of LinkedIn. Share cool and interesting (but LinkedIn appropriate) stuff. Join groups. Get involved with discussions. Here is the video I made with LinkedIn recently to give you a few more ideas.

As with all interactions in life, we all need to make sure we are presenting the right ‘brand’ to the people we interact with and that they go away with an authentic but ideally positive view of who we are. Online is no different. I use this at a litmus test: is the ‘brand’ that I am displaying, in life and online, one that I want to be associated with? There is nothing that I share on any social platform that I wouldn’t want my boss or the members of our board to see.

When it comes to your online interactions, whether in comments or via email: would you feel comfortable if the words you used were read back out to you? Comments sections all over the Internet are rife with a very nasty kind of interaction, let’s call it ‘I’m in the safety of my own car’ syndrome. Since my video was released by LinkedIn last week, I have sadly become a victim of some less than favourable comments myself.

My general rule of thumb for communication in life is: Is it kind? Is it true? Is it necessary?

Kindness costs nothing. We should all shower it around us like confetti. When I walk into a coffee shop, I know that I can make someone’s morning better, just by being kind. Sincerity is also a key factor on this one though – if you are missing that part people will feel it! Let that also be the case online.

The truth has always and will always be a very important thing to me. The most important person we need to be honest with at all times is ourselves. With others, let’s check out that the truth meets the kind/necessary criteria before we unleash the facts as we see them. As long as those components are there it becomes much easier to be honest, even when it’s over something difficult.

Necessity is also a big factor. Does this person need to hear this interaction from you. Is this information you need to pass on, whatever it is. What are your motives for doing so? Are they kind and so on. You get my drift.

So take a bit of time doing a little audit of your online presence, and do an extra check that it feels like it’s a living, breathing version of you that people will get to meet before they meet you. If not – take steps to let it be so.