Tuesday, July 03, 2007
How to build your platform & promote yourself as an expert & speaker: Q & A with Ramon Thomas, MD of Netucation (Part 2)
In the second part of my interview with Ramon Thomas, MD of Netucation, he shares some of the strategies he used to build his platform as an expert on how technology affects relationships and as a speaker.
Just yesterday, Ramon was interviewed on CNBC Africa. He has also been interviewed on 3Talk (South African Broadcasting Corporation prime time talk show), Carte Blanche (MNET prime time show), etv, SAFM, 702, Cape Talk, Business Day, The Mail & Guardian, The Sunday Times, The Sunday Independent, Cosmopolitan, Men’s Health and Style.
Ramon is also a strong advocate for children's safety while online, and has written a Parent's Guide to Mxit (a popular mobile phone platform).
Q and A
What did you do at the beginning of your career to build your profile?
I learned from my mentor, Arthur Goldstuck [MD of World Wide Worx], the following formula:
- Find an area where there is no research.
- Conduct the research through interviews and surveys.
- Produce a written report and send it to the media.
You have to know how to write a press release which summarises your findings and you have to build a media database. I was very fortunate that Arthur shared his media database with me. And I've since expanded it to over 600 producers, radio DJs, editors, publishers and journalists from online, magazines, newspapers to radio and television.
What did you do to get major media outlets to be interested in you and to use you as a source?
My very first project was conducting original research into the local online dating industry. The interviews were pivotal in introducing me to the people running the online dating websites. This allowed me to build relationships with them I would not otherwise be able to do.
The online dating industry is both a controversial and something which people are endlessly curious about. So it was the perfect project to position me as an expert. I am also very fortunate to have an easygoing and relaxed way about me so I was very comfortable in front of the camera.
One other thing which helped me was that I worked with the producers to find guests. So by helping them do what they do best I built very good credibility with them. This is one of the secrets i.e. to have good relationships with the people behind the scenes.
How does your media profile help drive your cause of teaching people about emerging Internet trends?
My media profile has not had a huge impact in positioning me as a trainer and speaker. That is changing now that I have those services available for people.
In the past I only offered consulting services which is often a hard sell. With speaking and training I have something to offer to a wider audience. I have found radio interviews, especially on talk radio like 702, Cape Talk and SAFM, to be the best way to promote events like training or speaking gigs.
You mentioned during our initial email conversation that you were going to Durban to speak at 4 / 5 schools. When did you first start doing school tours?
I started speaking at schools in January 2007. This came about from my Parents Guide to MXit ebook. Again I did the work upfront, my own time and resources. This guide as you know is freely available and I used it to sell myself as a speaker.
I also joined Toastmasters late last year. This has helped accelerate my career as a speaker. I now do about 2-3 in a busy week up from 2-3 per month.
How many schools have you addressed since the beginning of the year?
I've not tracked the actual number but it's about 30-40 schools. These schools have mostly been private schools. My fee is R1000 but I don't think it's the fees that restrict my scope to private schools. It's a lack of awareness from public schools. So this is where you can see the digital divide playing a role to limit people’s access to information.
How do you arrange the school tours? Do you have a sponsor or are the trips paid for the by schools? Who coordinates the tours for you?
As mentioned my fee is R1000 for a 40 minute presentation with 20 minutes of Q&A. When I travel outside of Johannesburg there is a small surcharge to cover my travel, car rental and accommodation. This is done directly with me and I'm now getting to a point where I need a full time Personal Assistant.
There is a need to gain a sponsor who could cover my costs to speak to more public schools especially in townships like Soweto and any other previously disadvantaged areas.
These talks can help raise awareness in all areas because MXit and cellphones are certainly having an impact across racial, cultural and income groups.
I know you’re a very busy man as MD of Netucation. I understand you’re also as director of the Computer Society, studying for your Masters, doing research and planning to update your “Parents Guide to MXit” ebook. How do you structure and manage your day so you can get as much done as possible?
I follow the time management system developed by Dan Sullivan, Founder of The Strategic Coach (www.strategiccoach.com), a lifetime coaching program for entrepreneurs.
One of the core concepts is the difference between the time and effort economy vs the results economy. Entertainers and sports stars are excellent examples of professionals who operate in the results economy.
Basically when you use their time system you split your time in free days, focus days and buffer days.
A free day is a 24-hour period where you do not read any books, magazines related to work have discussion about work or take any work related phone calls.
On focus days you do what is defined your unique ability - for me this has turned out to be public speaking for you it would be your writing.
A buffer day is where you do all the planning and admin required to make things possible. So what you want is to continually increase free days and focus days. The more focus days you have the more your income and the more support systems you can buy which frees more time.
What are the three self-promotion tips you’d like to give authors and small business owners?
1) Find your niche and narrow your focus. When you narrow your focus you operate in a place where you can claim leadership. This positions you as an expert.
2) Share your expertise by contributing to your industry's online communities through LinkedIn, MySpace and other online forums.
3) Find your unique ability.
Take time out to do some personality tests like Meyers-Briggs, which will help you understand your strengths and weaknesses.
Study your personality type.
Focus on improving your strengths and delegating your weaknesses (to people for whom it's a strength).
Anything else you’d like to add about self-promotion?
- Study your role models.
- Try to meet them and ask them questions. At the very least you can email them.
- Never shy away from promoting yourself. You must first believe in the product you are selling, which is YOU.