By Stefanie Smith
At the June 2010 World Cup opening ceremony in South Africa, Shakira sang Waka Waka to hundreds of millions of fans at the stadium and watching on television; however, Shakira wasn’t always center stage on the global music scene. First, she had to get the world’s attention, and then keep it.
How did it all happen? My client Helena Verellen had a lot to do with it. Called “the international über marketer” by an MTV executive, Helena has run promotional programs for Tony Bennett, Jackie Evancho, Ricky Martin, Beyonce, Mick Jagger, Julio Iglesias and other prominent artists.
Here’s how she describes the backstory to Shakira’s remarkable rise: “When I started working with Shakira in 2001, she was popular in Latin America, but no one outside that region had really heard of her. I knew straight off she was a superstar and had huge worldwide potential. I made it my mission to knock on everyone’s door—television producers, radio execs, press—selling them our message: "Listen closely, because she is unique and you have a chance to be an early part of her success." Once they did, her artistry, music, and talent convinced them. She has since sold over 20 million albums outside the US alone. Her music has been licensed for millions by Pepsi, Seat, Sony Ericsson, and more. Today, Shakira has 42,000,000 Facebook fans and her videos have 1.4 billion You Tube views.”
Sitting across the desk from Helena, surrounded by platinum discs, stacks of international music magazines, and flashy concert posters, I mused, “Wow. Don’t we all wish we had an expert marketer like you declaring our star quality to the world!”
Helena smiled and replied in the elegant accent of a woman who speaks five languages fluently, “But that’s exactly what you do for your clients. You transform their self-perceptions and teach them to present themselves to the world. My entire career has been about promoting and enhancing my artists’ international image and I have been very successful at it. But until we started working together, I never realized the importance of marketing my own personal brand and achievements. You are, after all, a marketer of people.”
Struck by Helena’s observation, I reflected on our work together and decided to share our strategies for enhancing professional presence.
What’s in it for you?
I often tell my clients: “What they see is what you get!” When people are impressed with your image, you gain more:
- Job Security
Alexandra Zaporozec, a high-end executive recruiter, succinctly sums it up, “Professional presence is like the stock market, it’s a leading indicator! It starts with the résumé, continues on the first phone call, and carries through to the in-person meeting.”
You can become more successful by working on the five elements of professional presence:
1. What people see: your clothing, grooming, posture, body language.
2. What people hear: your voice, manner of speaking, vocabulary.
3. Your introduction: your verbal or written description of your job, talents, experience, and goals.
4. Your online presence: what people learn when they Google your name.
5. Your industry and media presence: your roles beyond your company and client base.
Here are three strategies to attain greater opportunities and recognition while also benefitting your organization and team:
1. Present Your Best Case. In television shows like Mad Men we get a glimpse of how Madison Avenue pros pitch a product or campaign. These guys are slick and think through every sentence in advance; they don’t just pull ideas out of thin air. Neither should you!
Pitching your strong points means preparing your lines so you can describe your assets and aspirations concisely and clearly. Presenting ourselves often feels challenging, so I recommend an approach that reduces the angst and works extremely well:
- Draft six to nine sentences describing your current job, what you have done very well in the past, and what you seek next.
Keep it positive because people are naturally attracted to winners. Even if you are frustrated with your boss or between jobs, express yourself confidently and convey your talents with quick illustrative examples.
- Practice your pitch aloud to smooth out the phrasing and vocabulary.
Ask your colleagues and friends to provide feedback. In my coaching and workshops I watch people become both more relaxed and convincing after only a few run-throughs. The same will happen for you—but you have to put in the effort.
2. Kick Your Online Presence up a Notch
Your online presence is the first or second impression scores of people will have of you. People who want to meet you or have just met you will likely do a Google search on your name right off the bat—whether before a meeting, conference call, lunch, or after an encounter at a trade show, networking event or plane trip. Here are some tips:
- If you’ve got it, flaunt it. If you have published articles, been quoted in the media, have a leadership role in an organization, or speak foreign languages—add it in. Post updates to highlight interesting news and draw in communications from your circle of contacts.
- Make the most of your “photo op.” As I tell my clients, “Don’t make them imagine you at your best: show them.” Choose a head and shoulders shot that reflects polish and poise. This is not the time to prove you’re cool. This isn’t a beauty contest; it is a vital visual message.
3. Step Towards the Spotlight:
Most of us aren’t comfortable stepping straight into the spotlight. Take it slowly and build on your strengths.
- Organize an event for an alumni or industry group. When you host an event, you become a focal point and gain authority and credibility. Invite a speaker, put together a panel, or arrange a networking dinner. If appropriate, media participation could lead to some positive press.
- Present to an audience. This could be an informal “lunch and learn” or a formal presentation at a conference. Every time you practice, you strengthen your skills and grow in experience.
These actions worked their magic for Helena. After she honed her professional bio and posted it online, she began to present herself more powerfully at business events. Soon, she was invited to speak at a conference. While she had never done this before, her preparation emboldened her to accept. After speaking to a room of people eager to learn her tips for brand promotion, she received numerous e-mails and calls from appreciative new colleagues. She called to say, “You should be really proud of the results of our work.” What mattered more was she was proud of herself, and through her ability to share her expertise, she made an impact.
Your fan club starts with you
That brings us back to Waka Waka. The song sold over 200 million copies and topped the charts worldwide for reasons beyond the catchy tune and the popularity of the World Cup. The title means, “Do it!” The rousing lyrics apply just as much to scoring a goal for yourself:
“People are raising
This is your moment
Today's your day
I feel it
You paved the way
Most of us can’t sing and shake it like Shakira, but we can respond to her inspiration. Even without an international marketing department at your service, you have all you need to ignite your star presence at work. Set the stage for your future, and enjoy the show.
© Stratex Corporation 2011
About the Author(s)
Stefanie Smith leads Stratex, an executive consulting and coaching firm based in Manhattan. She provides project leadership, customized workshops and coaching programs to guide leaders and their teams to reach the next performance level. Ms. Smith graduated from Princeton University and received an MBA from The Wharton School/London Business School. Her ebook: The Power of Professional Presence: Get Their Attention and Keep It! is available on Amazon.com, iTunes and BN.com.