Because introvert entrepreneurs can be successful media practitioners too!
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What type of person comes to mind when you hear the word “entrepreneur”?
You’re most likely thinking of an excitable, perhaps boisterous individual who thrives on being the center of attention, right?
It makes sense: entrepreneurs need to get their businesses noticed, so you would think one of the prerequisites of running a company would be the ability to live life in the spotlight.
But that’s far from being the case. You don’t have to be an extrovert to succeed in business, or indeed using the media to promote your businesss. In fact, some of the most successful entrepreneurs of our time – including Steve Wozniak and Mark Zuckerberg – are actually known to be incredibly introverted.
How did they do it? How did these inward-thinking, prefer-to-be-left-alone types figure out a way to become so seemingly comfortable in the media spotlight , allowing their business to soar in the process?
The following article will explain the ways in which introverted individuals can put themselves “out there” in order to become successful entrepreneurs while maintaining a semblance of comfort and sanity throughout their career.
COMMUNICATION IS KEY
Many people equate “introversion” with “shyness,” which leads them to think that introverted individuals aren’t exactly the best communicators.
That couldn’t be further from the truth.
In fact, those who think this way are only focusing on one aspect of communication: talking. They neglect to realize that communication is a two-way street.
Introverts, on the other hand, understand the importance of listening, and they also feel that there’s no point in speaking just to have your voice be heard unless you actually have something important to say.
STEP 1: LISTENING AND PREPARATION
As an introvert, you most likely enjoy taking a backseat during conversations and letting someone else drive the discussion toward different topics.
As an entrepreneur, this puts you at a distinct advantage over others who say whatever they want, whenever they want, regardless of if anyone really wants to hear them.
By taking a step back and listening to your audience, your competition, and other influential members of your industry, you gain a true understanding of the nuances which underlie the goings-on in your niche.
Luckily, modern technology has made it incredibly easy to lurk around and listen in to what others in your industry are saying. Use some of the following techniques to read up on what’s trending around the world, so when you do speak, it’s with devastating efficiency and gravitas:
- • Hashtags: While casual users of social media use hashtags much too liberally – usually for comedic value – those who use Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and even LinkedIn have distinct purposes for using them. When someone uses a hashtag in a post, it allows anyone searching for that specific word to easily find the tagged content. As a lurker, you can search for hashtags specific to your industry (eg: #travellingabroad) to get a decent idea of what people are talking about.
- • Forums and Groups: Use discussion board forums and open groups on Facebook, LinkedIn, and throughout the Web if you want to see what people are saying in a more conversational medium. Forums are more interactive than hashtags, in that a single post will usually act as a springboard for discussion, which in turn will offer much more insight into industry trends.
- • Blog Posts and Comments: Some of your most valuable insights will come from keeping up with the most popular blogs in your industry. If some new hot topic starts trending, you can be almost 100% sure it came from a single blog post.
But there’s more to get out of a blog post than what’s within the article. Check the comment section below the author’s work to get an idea of questions and ideas being tossed around by the most valuable members of the industry: the audience. Here is where you’ll gain insight as to what your potential customers need that isn’t being provided anywhere else – and where you’ll be able to step in.
- • Sites like Quora and Yahoo Answers: Much like blog comments, sites like Quora that allow users to post questions for industry experts to answer, can inform you of what your audience still needs that they aren’t getting elsewhere. This will help you provide products and services that stand out above the crowd – and hopefully lead to your brand becoming the next big thing.
STEP 2: FOCUSING YOUR OUTPUT
Once you’ve done some research into the current trends within your industry, you’ll have a much better idea of how you’re going to put yourself “out there” in a meaningful, intentional – but not overbearing – manner.
- • Collect Your Thoughts, Display Them Clearly: Perhaps the main reason many people believe introverts are shy is because they don’t open their mouths nearly as much as their extroverted counterparts. Instead, they tend to keep their thoughts in their head and ruminate on them so that when they do say something, it comes out exactly as intended. This method of clear communication is incredibly beneficial when it comes to the media. When you know exactly what you want to say, you can trust that you won’t end up saying too little and leave your audience confused or saying too much and leaving your audience disappointed. From the Gettysburg address to twitter, those who’ve mastered the art of brief, impactful communication have always prospered.
- • Use Mediums You’re Comfortable With: Modern entrepreneurs are lucky enough to live in a world in which they can pick and choose how they get their brand noticed. You don’t have to hold massive press conferences if it’s not your forte. But you will have to pick up the slack elsewhere. Introverted entrepreneurs should determine which methods for media relations work best for them – and become masters at using them. If you’re not comfortable spreading out to various mediums, focus on one or two that you are comfortable utilizing and put your all into creating the best content you possibly can on them. Your business will benefit much more if you offer high quality content in one spot rather than offering mediocre content through five different sources. However, you shouldn’t discount the importance of paying attention to your audience. If, for example, 70% of your target demographic reports they would rather listen to a podcast than read a blog post, you’re not going to be able to persuade them to read your blog, no matter how good it is. So make sure you formally or informally survey your audience or customers and see if you are connecting them in the way they prefer. If it comes to it, you might have to bite the bullet and expand your comfort zone little by little.
ENGAGING WITH YOUR AUDIENCE
One of the most prominent characteristics of introverts is their intensity when it comes to topics they enjoy learning and talking about. Though introverts tend to be standoffish when it comes to more “everyday” topics, they’ll be quick to dive into conversations revolving around topics they specialize in or find interesting.
As an entrepreneur, you need to use this to your advantage whenever possible.
- • Mentally Reframe Press Time: When approaching media coverage opportunities, you might at first shy away from the idea of standing up in front of a crowd or being interviewed by a journalist on live TV. But you wouldn’t feel the same way if you were interacting with a small group of friends while discussing a topic you enjoyed, right? Take a moment to realize that the people listening are listening because they’re interested in what you have to say. Don’t think of it as giving a press conference to an audience of hundreds or thousands of people. Instead, think of it as creating the potential springboard for thousands of intimate conversations with audience members who care just as deeply for your cause as you do.
- • Keep The Conversation Going: Remember those methods of lurking and listening we discussed before? If you want to have your voice heard, you’ll eventually need to join in these conversations. Ask your own questions to other experts within your industry. Answer readers’ questions on your own blog. Point those in need on forums and sites like Quora toward your service.
As an introvert, you likely don’t find press coverage for the sake of advertising appealing; it just seems so phony sometimes. But by engaging with your audience, becoming recognised as an expert in your field and providing value – all the while pointing them toward your product – you’ll have found a way to advertise your services while maintaining your authenticity and integrity.
[See how Henry Pryor built a sizeable property business off the back of becoming the go-to expert in his field by listening to episode 1 of our podcast]
This piggybacks off of the last point about authentic communication. Being an entrepreneur means you’ll have to build relationships with your customers in order to establish trust – and recurring income.
Of course, as an introvert, too much socialization can lead to burnout. While others thrive on the small, less-significant interactions that occur throughout the day, you see these moments as a drain on your time and energy.
But dealing with the media is actually a shortcut to creating that trust. So temporarily moving into the media spotlight can save a huge amount of uncomfortable ‘getting to know you’ time with potential clients, because they’ll feel like they know you already. Here’s some ways that you can get the media onside without pushing yourself out of your comfort zone.
STEP 1: AUTOMATE OUTREACH
Even extroverted entrepreneurs who enjoy constant interaction with others know there’s just not enough time in the day to respond personally to every inquiry, email, or phone call they receive. As an introvert, you shouldn’t feel pressure to do so, either. There are a couple ways to stay connected with your audience while not having to take time out of your busy schedule to communicate with each of them.
- • Mailing Lists/Autoresponders: Whether dealing with your audience or the media, you’ll want to set up a mailing list and an auto-response system to keep them informed of goings-on within your company. Services such as Constant Contact and MailChimp provide ways to send out public relations materials to anyone who has signed up to receive them via your website. Whether you have a major update to announce or simply want to keep everyone in the loop on a weekly basis, newsletters can provide just as much value as a weekly podcast or press conference without you having to put yourself in the spotlight.
- • Hire a PR Representative: As your business grows, your thoughts and comments will become more and more in demand. Again, you likely don’t have the time nor the energy to constantly answer phone calls or emails, and you certainly won’t want to have to deal with the media at unplanned times on a daily basis. You might want to consider hiring someone who specializes in public relations to do all this for you. Hiring a PR rep might go against your fundamental beliefs as an introvert (in that you prefer all communication and interaction to be meaningful and authentic), but it could do wonders for your business. As an entrepreneur, you have to come to terms with the fact that dealing with the media is something that needs be done – even if done superficially. A PR rep’s responsibility is, quite simply, to deal with any sort of request from the media and find opportunities for media coverage so that you can focus on running your company to the best of your ability. In other words, let them do the dirty work while you run your business with integrity.
STEP 2: PARTNER UP
(Sports reference alert!) Anyone who grew up watching basketball in the 90’s knows how unstoppable of a duo Karl Malone and John Stockton was. John Stockton, the all-time leader in assists, would dish the ball to Malone any chance he got and watch his partner slam it home. Sure, Stockton could take a shot if he was open, but he was much more comfortable passing the ball to his teammate and letting him finish it off.
The point is, both Stockton and Malone had a common vision: get the ball in the hoop by utilizing their strengths in conjunction with each other. (Sports reference over)
As an entrepreneur, your goal is to gain an ever-growing customer base. Of course, you’ll need to have some sort of media presence for this to happen – and dealing with the media might not be your strong suit.
Perhaps your best course of action would be to partner up with someone who shares your common vision and absolutely thrives on media relations.
The most common example of extrovert/introvert pairing is Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak. The Woz was incredibly influential throughout Apple’s rise to dominance, but he always preferred to keep to the shadows and let Jobs have the limelight. Considering that Wozniak is worth around $100 million – despite usually being considered second banana to Jobs – it’s safe to say this partnership worked out for him.
Find a partner you can trust who is comfortable working with the media and is happy to let you do your thing behind closed doors. As long as you share a common vision, your business will thrive.
BE IN TOUCH WITH YOURSELF
As an entrepreneur, you need to be honest with yourself about your strengths and weaknesses. If, as a natural introvert, one of your main weaknesses is your inability to deal with the pressure of various social situations, you shouldn’t delude yourself into thinking you can “get by” without having to deal with these situations at some point or another.
To succeed as an entrepreneur, you need to realize that excuses get you nowhere. You’ll need to do some growing on a personal level if you want to see your business thrive.
STEP 1: PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT
It’s easy to think you’re “just not good” at public speaking or speaking to the media and live your life in the shadows.
It’s a little more difficult to recognize that you’re not good at public speaking because you never practice it.
Yes, some people are naturally outgoing, and unfortunately you’re not one of them. But that doesn’t mean you can’t learn the skills needed to get by when speaking to the media or at a public forum.
Your community or local college likely offers courses on public speaking in which you’ll not only get to practice in front of an audience in a low-stakes environment, but you’ll also learn some tricks of the trade to maximize your efficiency when doing so. In fact, you’ll likely find you already know a lot about what makes a good public speaker or media practitioner (listening, focusing, and engaging).
If the hard part for you is actually getting up and speaking in front of a crowd, speaking into a microphone or putting some written content into the world. The only way you’ll get better is to actually do it. You’ll also realise that criticism hurts, but you very quickly forget about it
STEP 2: FIND A BALANCE
An introverted entrepreneur is somewhat of an oxymoron. While the entrepreneur in you thinks and operates outside the box and is always looking for new ways of doing things, the introvert in you is more than happy to live life from within the confines of your comfort zone.
You absolutely need to let the entrepreneurial side of your personality take over if you want your business to get noticed. This means the introvert within you will have to deal with being uncomfortable at various times throughout your entrepreneurial journey.
But, this doesn’t mean you should just completely ignore your introverted personality. Again, doing so will immediately lead to burnout.
Instead, make a list of goals you’d like to accomplish as an entrepreneur, and how you’d like to accomplish them as an introvert. For example, if your goal is to connect with a news outlet in order to expand your reach, you might choose to do so through email rather than cold calling. Or, if a media outlet reaches out to you for an interview, you might rather Skype with them than be brought into the studio.
And, once you’ve finished with your entrepreneurial duties for the day, reward the introvert in you with some quality quiet time at home.
For more tips on dealing with the media as an introverted entrepreneur check out an interview Pete did with Beth Buelow of theintrovertentrepreneur.com
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