Two MAJOR Things to Consider When Looking for Community Partners

shaking-handsThis year I did a soft launch of my organization Curate Your Life, and since then I’ve been doing a lot of behind the scenes work in terms of ironing out the blueprint, creating my programs and getting things in order for the BIG launch in 2018. In the interim, my goal has been to continue to generate buzz and continue branding through community partnerships and sponsorship while hosting small and sporadic events along the Eastern coast.

Here’s the thing about community partnerships, they can either be the best things for you in terms of reaching your organization’s goals OR they can be your organization’s worst nightmare, so if you are looking to make community partnerships and sponsors for your organization, here are some things to consider.

Do A Culture Check. 

No, I don’t mean culture in terms of race, ethnicity and societal norms, what I mean by culture is the look and feel of the organization you’re interested in partnering with. Are the employees happy? Are the people they service happy? How effective is this organization to the population it serves?

This is important because your organization is important to you!  The last thing you want to do is open up your organization to another organization that doesn’t have a high morale because how are people going to get excited about what you have to bring to the table when the table is messy. Which brings me to my next point:

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Is the Organization Ready for a Partnership?

I’ve learned that before change can happen, there’s a lot of rootwork that is sometimes required. It’s like clearing out all of the weeds and preparing the soil before you begin to plant the seeds. Ask yourself these questions: Is the organization I’m looking to partner with in a good place for partnerships? Do they have a solid foundation? A strong clientele or customer list? Are they unorganized and is there a lot of things unclear and out of order that could prevent you from executing what you want to do effectively? Otherwise, planting your organization can lead to a lot of unwanted chaos and more work on your part in the aisle clean up department.

You want the partnership to aid in sustaining and growing your organization. You don’t want to walk into a situation where you find yourself helping their organization fight to stay afloat to the point where you don’t have space and opportunities to roll out your services and showcase what you wanted to offer.

Fostering community partners can be a challenge, but the most important thing to remember is who your audience is and what the potential synergy can do for both brands involved. So moral of the story, do your research, observe the day to day operations of the organization before expressing interests in a partnership, and make notes on what they currently offer and how what you have to offer can enhance their brand, but keep in mind, what you stand to gain and/or lose in the process.

 

Preparing for a Speaking Engagement

Since I’ve started the ground work to building my own inspirational lifestyle brand, I’ve learned how to market myself more by attending networking events, reaching out to like minded individuals and brands via social media to connect and get advice. In putting myself out there I’ve had opportunities to speak in front of schools, community organizations, churches and other youth groups. I find the hardest thing for me in terms of preparation is getting over the pre-engagement jitters. I’ve found it difficult to figure out what I’m going to say to these impressionable minds. Sometimes when I’m asked to speak, there is a theme like a career day, or relationship workshop or some guideline to help me figure it out, but then there are cases where I’m just told to show up and inspire the masses and I’m left thinking…and excuse my french, but “what the hell am I supposed to say?!” Here are some tips:

Know Your Audience. 

As said there are times where you might not know what the theme of the event is or you might not have been given a guideline, but you should still at least identify your audience. Is this speaking engagement at a school? If so, is it an elementary, middle or high school? What’s the age range? Is there a specific gender? Where is the event being held? By researching the event, you should be able to better prepare for it.

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Less Slides….More Stories. 

Creating Powerpoint presentations and having visuals are certainly helpful. They are great ways to keep yourself on track with talking points, they help you stay on topic and they give your audience something that appeals to a very important sense. However, when using Powerpoints you want to spend less time reading them or else your speaking time turns into a lecture. Share stories and give lots of examples.

For example, I was invited to speak at a career day in Brooklyn and I talked about my work as a writer and freelance journalist. Rather than lecturing them and reading the powerpoint I had prepared verbatim, I simply used them as talking points. I shared specific events and stories from my adventures as a writer to keep them interested and to generate questions in their heads. I tweaked my presentation to focus on what journalism and news would be like for their generation.

Be Conversational.

Don’t just talk at people. Talk to them and allow space for healthy dialogue. As I was talking about what a typical day looks like at a newsroom, I asked audience members to give me an example of news that they had seen that day. I explained the pitch process and editorial teams, and research strategies. The important thing is I allowed them to be apart of my presentation.

Be Engaging. 

As I said, allow your audience to be apart of your presentation. Have activities for them throughout your presentation. I did a “Day in the Life” where I had the students break up into editorial teams according to usual editorial verticals such as fashion/beauty, sports, entertainment, news, etc. They each had to come up with one story idea that they thought was a trending topic for their age group. Then they had to create a pitch and roleplay as if I was their editor and sell me their idea. They had fun and really got to see what it’s like to work in editorial.

Don’t Be So Serious. 

Have fun with it. Even if you’re talking to a room full of adults don’t bore them to death. If you rehearse your presentation and you feel bored, then most likely your audience will too. Be your own worst critic at home, but have fun with your audience.

Speaking engagements always lead to more speaking engagements. There’s someone in the audience who’s going to want you to come to their event and so forth. So have fun, be relatable and know your audience.

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Networking for the Socially Awkward

I decided on a career in journalism when I was in junior high school but, of course at that time I didn’t really know what it was it just had the word “journal” in it and I loved journaling. By the time I got to college it was pretty much set in stone that I was going to major in journalism because I just wanted to write. I learned early on that it was my superpower. As I began my studies I learned about the different types of journalism: print, broadcast radio and television, being terrified of talking to people, I decided on print because I thought it was more behind the scenes. Little did I know journalism required a whole lot of talking and networking.

The idea of walking up to random strangers for quotes and commentary for an articles scared the crap out of me and when I took an advanced journalism class that required us to complete this semester long project interviewing sources and people on the street I knew that I had to put on my big girl panties and woman up! I remember I had gotten an assignment investigating taxi accidents in NYC which required me to get quotes from taxi drivers, pedestrians and traffic cops and I remember I would walk for hours looking for someone “approachable” and less intimidating. I would see a person and circle the block trying to figure out what I would say to them and if I should just start with a simple “hey my name is…” Yeah I was that scared and awkward to the point where I would make up different personas about how I’m not from around here or how I’m the new girl as a media company just so people would talk to me.

How does this relate to networking?

For an awkward girl like me, networking can be the most intimidating thing ever just as it was approaching those people. Since then I have approached a thousand more people and I have gotten more and more comfortable with it. Networking doesn’t have to be so bad when you remember these simple things:

Small talk makes a BIG difference

Sometimes you need a little small talk to segway into a good conversation. If you’re nervous and have no idea what to say start with asking about a TV show, or something related to the networking event. I attended a networking happy hour hosted by Cosmopolitan in March and there were a hundred girls there looking to build connections, but only about five people who worked for Cosmopolitan there to network. They were probably used to hearing the same questions all night and asking for advice on getting themselves a job there, but I decided to take the small talk route and ask them questions about current events and things happening in pop culture which in turn opened up the floor to do some small pitching and possible article ideas with them.

Social Media isn’t just for personal rantings

Majority of the connections I’ve made this year have been via Facebook, Instagram and Twitter while marketing my blog and brand. I’ve joined several networking groups and have even made friends with some of these media folks. If you’re not comfortable meeting in person social media is definitely more than just a place to share your personal life. It’s great for networking.

You both have #SquadGoals on your mind

The purpose of networking is to build your connections and assemble a squad of individuals who would be beneficial to your mission. Networking is about give and take so if you can be of service to them, I’m sure they could be of service to you as well. I think Taylor Swift started a movement with her Squad.

Remember

If you are a job seeker, don’t be in such a rush to ask for a job right then and there. It’ll definitely make for an awkward situation. Don’t oversell yourself, be cool and remember to have an action plan before going to the networking event if you are attending one.