You could call it career hustling, or you could call it career smarts. Social media expert Sam Mutimer calls it leveraging your personal brand to get that board seat. That’s how the founder of Thinktank Social secured her role on the board of Rugby Victoria – by mixing video, social media and a personal face-to-face strategy.
Q: How did you get your first board seat?
A: I wanted to serve on the board of Rugby Vic, because I played rugby for England and I work in the world of social media. My goal is to really increase participation in rugby union. For my application, I filmed a video so they can see who I really am. I discussed my background and what I could bring to the board and they loved it. Obviously a video shows a lot more about a person and more personality than just an email application form.
After that I connected to board members on LinkedIn and said I would love to take them out for a coffee to get to know them and the organisation more. So I learnt where the board is heading and luckily, I got the role.
I always say that in this day and age, if you don’t put yourself out there, you will probably get overlooked. It’s about showing interest and being bold.
Q: Why is personal branding important?
A: It’s all about personal brand these days. In my social media agency, we are really seeing a trend now towards CEOs and board members starting to create their own personal brand. If they are able to build their brand with social media and gain a valued following, it may help them later to get their contract renewed for two to three years, or it may go further and it lead them onto another board.
In terms of a personal brand, you have to decide first how you want to come across, then add pieces of content to add value to your brand and build trust, so the right people will follow you. There are really smart people out there now who know they can do this in a positive way and that social media can be a great tool. They video themselves, tell stories, share statistics and examples of things happening like positive news stories and what they do in the community.
Q: How useful is social media in your role as a director?
A: I sit on the board of Rugby Vic but I also advise them on social media strategy too. So with clients or sponsors or in this case a board role, social media is always the first port of call for me - then I take it offline. That is the best approach to take.
At the end of the day, it’s about getting attention from the right people and with social media you can do that. Especially on LinkedIn. So if I try to get on a board, I start to follow the CEO and people who are already on the board, like some of their posts, comment, or create posts that may fit with their board strategy. Then when a board position becomes available, they know who you are and what you stand for. Then I go in and ask for a meeting.
There are also Facebook and LinkedIn groups which are a great way to start networking with other likeminded people. Social media is a really powerful tool.
Q: How do you build a personal brand offline?
A: Once you are on the board, it is important to walk the talk. I speak at different events for Rugby Vic – on the rise of women in sport and other topics. I also attend community events and played rugby in October just to show I’ve still got it - for the Country Fire Association Bendigo Goldfields Cup.
As a board member, you really need to get out so you are seen in public. You have to build up trust. If I just sat on the board and was not seen to be doing anything, that would not work. I want to be an active board member. At Rugby Vic, all of us as board members do what we can for the community and to attract sponsorship for the game.
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