“Losing a job always feels like a big failure, so in that sense I have failed, but I now know that failure is a precursor to success, and often, being open to failure leads to success.”– Nicole Brydson, journalist, creative strategist, manager, and founder of Brooklyn, The Borough
In Be Your Own Best Publicist, we interviewed a number of smart, interesting people on how to build a brand and stand out. As part of our online series of Q&As, we recently talked to entrepreneur, strategist and blogger extraordinaire Nicole Brydson and got her to share a little about her professional evolution, the importance of being yourself — and why she believes that you don’t have to start your entrepreneurial path outside of the traditional workplace.
Why is it so important these days to stand out in the workplace?
Successful ideas can help you stand out and can mean spinning off entire new companies by yourself or with your employer. I went out on my own to build BrooklynTheBorough.com, but I recently met the entrepreneur Nora Abousteit at a DIY Business Association event. Along with her former employer, the German publisher Hubert Burda Media, she turned their stodgy old sewing magazine into a social media sewing circle phenomenon called BurdaStyle. Then she left to build Kollabora – a site where you can buy materials. She’s proof you don’t have to start your entrepreneurial path outside of the traditional workplace, and that companies who seek to innovate well and invest in their talent will be rewarded for risk taking.
What skill or technique have you, yourself, used to get ahead or get a job?
My motto is to go straight to the source. If you arm yourself with primary-sourced information, strong analytical skills and pair those with a healthy listening capacity, you will be knowledgeable about how to proceed on any matter. For the corporate world, the “48 Laws of Power” is a must-read on getting ahead. The first rule is telling: “Never outshine the master.”
What’s an example of when you’ve been your own best publicist?
I firmly believe that being yourself is the best way to be your own best publicist. Personally, I’m a huge nerd, and tend to get overly excited around my intellectual heroes – most recently at a fireside chat that the MIT Enterprise Forum hosted for Media Lab director Joichi Ito. As he was explaining the future of innovation in business to a room full of corporate manager types, I frantically nudged my friend Daniel as Mr. Ito described how entrepreneurs innovate most efficiently at the edges of industry. In all my excitement in feeling a kind of validation, I forgot where I was, and Mr. Ito called on me thinking I had a question. “No, I’m sorry!” I replied, “You’re just describing my life!” After I apologized later for interrupting him, he kindly gave me his business card, as did everyone else I spoke to that night. That’s when I learned the old adage is true: advertising you pay for; PR you pray for.
What are your top networking tips?
Read a variety of news sources everyday, be yourself and listen to what people are really telling you – read between those lines. It’s okay to promote yourself but the best way to get someone to listen and connect with you is to show you are able to do the same. Once you really listen to what they are saying about themselves you can decipher what information you have that is relevant to them and share it – you never know what you will inspire in people, or what they will inspire in you.
How important is it to break through the clutter when you’re trying to stand out—and what’s the best way to do so?
Get baby blue glasses from Warby Parker? Jokes aside, I think that if you are genuinely true to yourself, follow your love and trust your gut, you will stand out no matter what because most people do not. Being clever helps, but so does being honest with yourself about what you want from your gig, because if you’re happy with your work you will be good at it and inevitably stand out.
What’s an example of a creative way you have attracted attention for an idea, yourself or a client?
The website I founded, BrooklynTheBorough.com, is my creative way to attract people to the idea of building local community in the digital space. It’s ostensibly a local arts blog to the unsuspecting eye, but in fact it’s a community that connects people hyper locally. When we know our neighbors, we’re much more likely to understand them and growing up in New York City, getting people to understand each other is like a small coup each time.
Do you use social media and the Web to market yourself or further your career? If so, how?
Is there another way? I’m dying to know how to get rid of my three Twitter accounts, multiple Facebook pages, and don’t forget Instagram. I’m keeping LinkedIn though! Way back in January of 2009, I was laid off from the New York Observer at the height of the recession. After writing a weekly column called ‘Brooklyn, the Borough’ there, I took what freelance work there was between my unemployment checks and started to build BrooklynTheBorough.com. For the first time, I found myself in a position to take all these communications platforms for a spin in a natural way that I, not my employer, directed. So I would say, follow your instincts with these new tools, because after all, they are still new and the old definitely doesn’t like the new very much. Now, in January 2013, I am launching a new business model for local media that invites the community to participate and benefit from the newsgathering process, while strengthening the backbone of the local arts economy in Brooklyn.
What’s your best tip for how to get what you want at work?
One thing I say a lot is that there’s a big difference between one’s work and one’s job, and getting what you want in either requires vastly different maneuvering.
When pursuing entrepreneurial work, the best tip I have is to trust your instincts and balance your unshakeable confidence with healthy skepticism. Bruce Springsteen said it best in his keynote at SXSW in 2012 – “Rumble, young musicians, rumble. Open your ears and open your hearts. Don’t take yourself too seriously, and take yourself as seriously as death itself. Don’t worry. Worry your ass off. Have ironclad confidence, but doubt – it keeps you awake and alert. Believe you are the baddest ass in town, and, you suck!” I think the core of that is to trust your instincts and their non-linear splendor. However, if you’re working in a traditional office, I might refer you back to my second answer.
What do you think is the best/worst recent example of managing your profile?
When it comes to social media profiles, I really cannot stand food pictures, especially food pictures taken after the food has been consumed. But in the broader sense, I thought the Jill Kelly-inspired David Petraeus scandal was really telling about how Americans think about ownership of their digital selves. Jill Kelly seemed to think she could control what her FBI investigator friend would and would not read in her email, but once they’re in, they’re in, and whoops, there are all those emails you wrote to that other general.
That was a “whoops!” moment. So – on that note, would you mind sharing a bit about a time that you failed and what you learned from it?
Let me count the ways! Losing a job always feel like a big failure, so in that sense I have failed, but I now know that failure is a precursor to success, and often, being open to failure leads to success. My most recent failure was during the early development of BrooklynTheBorough.com. I did not immediately consider alternative business models to the traditional banner ad or local event series for which local media is best known.
I ended up making the same mistakes as my previous employer did, hemorrhaging money on a start up during a recession while bringing in what I like to call “Google pennies” on my AdSense account. For a local site, that is not scalable in the way that say, The New York Times is. It doesn’t make sense to continue on with the traditional ad box business model that rewards page views and not quality content. That failure brought me to the model the site is launching now with an IndieGoGo campaign, which serves citizens, musicians, artisans and local businesses by helping them sell and promote their independent commerce locally while also supporting free community media by and for Brooklynites.
Learn more about Nicole’s IndieGoGo campaign here: http://www.indiegogo.com/Brooklyntheborough.