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Website: Jen Su
Jen Su wrote the book From Z to A Lister: Building Your Personal Brand and advocates the fact that you are your own brand. This isn’t optional, it’s a necessity. Your brand is what you are able to offer others, a trait that is unique to you. Once you have created and established that brand you can start to market your personal brand.
Elevator Pitch: Who is Jen Su?
Jen Su is a television and radio presenter. She’s been a news anchor for Business Day Television and also Sky News African Business Report. She worked as the Hollywood reporter on Gareth Cliff’s show for many years and later on CliffCentral as well. Su was also a presenter on SABC 3’s Expresso. Acting lists as another one of her many talents. These days she does a lot of brand ambassadorships, events and social media activities.
Jen’s long journey spans six countries. She was born in the USA in Philadelphia but is of Chinese descent. Her school years were spent in Taiwan and from there she moved to Thailand and later Hong Kong. After that she relocated to South Africa and recently to Shanghai, China with her expatriate husband. Moving so frequently was especially difficult for somebody so career-focused, because she had to start from scratch in each new location. The immigration consultant wasn’t very hopeful that Jen would be able to secure a job in South Africa with her Chinese face and American accent. It was difficult and Jen had to work very hard at it but she was eventually called for a few interviews.
Upon finding out they were moving to South Africa she was scared of the way the country is portrayed in the media as a crime-ridden place. Only once the immigration consultant told her of her slim chances of working in the entertainment industry did she feel motivated enough to give the country a fair chance. What they perceived as her drawbacks – looking and sounding so different – actually became her unique selling proposition.
Manage Your Reputation
Consistency is very important. Jen suggests working hard, being persistent, networking and follow up with all your contacts. Show appreciation by writing a thank-you note every once in a while. Use social media to your advantage. Combine all that with what Jen calls “old school grace, charm and etiquette”. Whenever somebody was sick at work Jen would fill in for them – that highlights reliability. Be thoroughly prepared for your job and always look your best. Be sincerely interested in people’s lives. Keep in mind that you need to continue this process even once you ‘make it’ to uphold your image.
Passion for Your Work
Jen loves the fact that she can help others through her platform – that is why she wrote her book, to help others with the struggles she faced. It’s this passion for her job that gets her up in the morning. She agrees that her job can be very exhausting especially when you don’t get the feedback you anticipated. Charity work helps Jen see why she is in this business, helping others is worth all the hardships and criticism.
Writing a Book
A book is a fantastic way to establish your own personal brand and a great marketing tool – it stays with you for life! Take extra care that the book is well written. Don’t bother writing it chronologically, just start writing! You can also try using voice notes on your phone and speak it out if you find that easier. Jen’s strategy was to write a short anecdote every time she was on an airplane. Slowly but surely her content grew. Writing online is another good idea. This could be in the form of a blog. If you’re comfortable in front of a camera you may want to try a vlog.
Starting Out with Social Media
When asked which social media platform to focus on when you’re just starting out, Jen mentions that it is dependent on your market and the business you’re in. Once you’ve thoroughly researched your target audience you can decide which platform suits them best. When using Facebook you may opt to use Facebook Ads to reach the right audience. Even once your page is established you should still continue with research. Use Facebook Analytics to track your progress and to gain further insight into your audience. Twitter is great for short messages whereas Instagram is a very visual platform, ideal for bright pictures, especially targeted at a younger audience. Invest in good equipment if you want to film or record yourself and keep your messages short and concise.
Multiple Revenue Streams
Social media influencers are on the rise at the moment. There are a few ways you can make money from your social media channels. If your YouTube channel attracts enough attention they will contact you and pay you for advertisements on you channel. Another way is to be a brand spokesperson or brand ambassador. These people often get paid per tweet and remuneration can be anywhere between R1 000 and R20 000 per tweet! The art of being a social media influencer lies in not making it look like a hard sell. Jen herself is paid an endorsement fee when she attends events. A person could also generate income by being a MC at events. Jen suggests that you don’t oversaturate your image with too many brands as this dilutes your power. You also want to be able to devote enough time to each brand.
Making Mistakes and Learning From Them
You should always take care of your appearance. You never know at which event you could meet your biggest client and if you don’t look professional an opportunity may pass you by. As an example Jen talks about the MTV Europe Music Awards. She was about to wear an unassuming outfit when a well-known South African celebrity suggested something else. Her new fire-red dress turned heads and had celebrities approach her as a journalist on the red carpet. This resulted in wonderful footage and many a great interview. This incident made her realise that you can never rest on your laurels when it comes to your appearance.
Jen recorded herself for the purpose of listening to her voice and improving the tone. She remembers a time when she would walk into an interview without rehearsing and now sees the value in rehearsing your questions and answers. Also take note of your non-verbal communication, your body language. People often form an opinion of you before they start talking to you based on how they perceive you. Another skill Jen suggests you learn is how to deal with negative criticism on social media. Oftentimes she writes a response in a Word document and saves it for later after she’s cooled down. More often than not she’s glad she didn’t post the reply immediately.
Building and Maintaining a Network
Every time Jen meets a person she follows up with them. She always thanks the organisers of the event even if it wasn’t her favourite event. RSVP if you plan to attend and be on time. You could mention them on social media or send them a WhatsApp message to follow up. Send them a message on their birthday or even a small gift to the office as a token of your appreciation. Make sure you possess the right contact details to reach the right person. Jen mentions using modern-day technology with old-school charm and old-fashioned good manners. Don’t forget about face-to-face interaction as a message can be misinterpreted or lost in translation when in text message format. Charity work is also a great way to put things into perspective and to realise how lucky you really are.
Building your personal brand is a lifelong process. Whatever you do should align with what you decide your personal brand is. All your efforts are indexed on social media and in search engines. In order to stand out from the rest you want to be unique – rock at what you do, be the go-to person in your field. Find a way to balance your life, your work and your family. Stay positive and keep moving forward towards your goal. Stay focused and don’t get caught up in the little things. Do what you do for love and not money and always look your best. Reinvent yourself when you need to and keep up to date with trends and what’s happening in the news.