262: Networking with Authority and Authenticity - with Ruthie Bowles
Ruthie is a US Army veteran, wife, and mother to four young children. She currently runs a small content marketing agency called Defy The Status Quo, where they focus on bringing stellar content to their client’s marketing channels, specifically focusing on B2B Consulting and service companies in industries like supply chain and business development.
To start, why don't you explain to our listeners, what is authority marketing.
So authority marketing, at least the way that we execute it at DTSQ is a blend of content marketing and online PR. So in a lot of cases, what I typically see across the very wide span of the internet, is that you have people who do PR, they connect with people like you and they want to be on your podcast, they may do speaking engagements, they might also look at more traditional PR media, radio shows, and things. But then perhaps their own content spaces, things like their website, their social media channels don't quite match up with the person that they're presenting in all of these opportunities. So I perceive this as a gap in the marketplace. That's what we do, yes, we look at the different types of expertise showcasing opportunities, which are in abundance right now, because so many of them are virtual, which means location is no longer a barrier for speaking, for example. But also making sure that when somebody is intrigued by you from a podcast interview, or a speaking engagement, when they go look, research, and check out your website, and now they see your videos, and they see that you're really active on LinkedIn, or Instagram or wherever it is, all of those things now match instead of you presenting as a very strong and knowledgeable professional but having limited content yourself. Then the same goes vice versa, you have some people who create wonderful content, and would actually appreciate getting out there and kind of getting in the spotlight and using their personal brand to grow their business. But maybe they're not sure how they're not sure where to start. They don't want to figure it out themselves and so we help from both ends.
Let's talk about increasing our marketability for guest opportunities. How can we do that?
Well, that really boils down to leaning into what makes you unique. So that's something I talk about a lot like on LinkedIn is I talk a lot about authenticity, and especially in the b2b space. We talk about authenticity, but when you look at a lot of the brands, and whether it's b2b products, b2b services, or whatever it is, we're kind of stripped of what we would consider an authentic personality, a personality that a real person would have. That's not to say that big brands can't still embody that type of brand. It's just that too often we dilute our brands down to professional, friendly, and competent. When you look to your left, and you see professional, friendly, and competent, and you look to your right, and you see professional, friendly, and competent, how do you market it? So what that means is leaning into what makes you unique. For us as people, it's our stories, and it's our experiences. As a consultant, I have a vast amount of experiences that I can tap as it relates to my story, but also my authority, and therefore, my marketability. So for example, I've done two podcast interviews that related to my military service, one of them specifically related to my military service, as it's helped me as an entrepreneur. Now, that's not a story that everyone has, but you have stories that I don't have. But if I hadn't been able to talk to that specific podcast host about that story, that I was willing to share in its highs and lows, and therefore provide a great experience for his audience, I wouldn't have had that opportunity on his podcast. So leaning into the different stories, and one of my buzzwords for this year is intersectionalities, which I've picked up from working with some DENI folks on their content. But your intersectionalities, as you know, a woman business owner in my case, a minority business owner, a Veteran Business Owner, a mom, and I've done podcasts about the fact that I'm a mom, and how that's impacted me as an entrepreneur. So there are a lot of ways to kind of lean in and use the niche audiences that are presented with all of the various groups that we can talk to in all of the interviews that we can do to increase your marketability, and provide a better experience, not just for the host, but also for their audience. And that I think is paramount. I love that everything that you said there and, and you taught me a new word here.
Why did you decide to focus on authenticity as your pillar of work?
I had always talked about authenticity, but it was more of something that I had done in a more intuitive fashion because I just kind of the way I am kind of hard on the sleeve and it's pretty empathetic. So I'm really good at reading a crowd or even, you know, just reading people, whether it's virtual or not. I was sitting in a webinar, and it was just chock full of what felt like to me toxic positivity, it was April, and that almost everybody in there in this webinar was talking about how they were gonna, you know, take this COVID energy and just use it to transform their businesses. Everyone was just really hyped up and that wasn't me that day. From the outside looking in, I basically had, you know, nothing to worry about, which I was incredibly grateful for. But at the same time, I had all four of my kids home, my husband was now also home since he was not normally there, just like my children were not normally here which made things completely different and it was very stressful. So these people being super amped up, I was like, "No, this is not for me. I don't know what you guys drink in your coffee this morning, but I didn't get that in my coffee." I went on LinkedIn right after, I recorded a video, I hadn't really done any videos on LinkedIn, not the talking head kind, I just got on there. I didn't do makeup, I didn't do anything extra, Because what I wanted was for people to really understand if they were out there like me, who just was struggling, even if they had no apparent reason that other people could perceive that they were struggling from a mental health perspective. And I just said if you're not okay right now, that's okay, and if you are feeling really good right now, just try and understand that there are people around you who might not be doing okay, so make sure you're doing some extra check-ins, but I just wanted to talk for like five minutes, and created some space where people could be honest about how okay or not they were. The post just took off, it took off, people in my network and outside my network, were just like, "I thought I was the only one everybody just seems so positive, I thought it was just me." That was when something clicked right there because I was intentionally authentic. I was like, "You know what, I'm gonna just show up the way that I am so they can see me and understand that I'm really trying to connect here and just create this space." Since it took off in the response that I got, I realized that we weren't seeing enough of that. That was why it became such a pillar and what I do.
Can you share with our listeners, one of your most successful or favorite networking experiences that you've had?
So I went through a lull where I didn't really do too much, I got a bit zoomed out. Now I've been more intentional with the groups that I've been going to. One of my absolute favorite things that happen in networking groups, my favorite thing is the breakout rooms that some of the hosts have been doing, where you'll get five minutes one to one or five minutes small group talk where they'll give us a topic to discuss or whatever, and we can all just go back and forth and get to know each other a little bit better. Most of the events that I go to a reoccurring, so it gives you an opportunity to build good relationships in a very low-pressure way. Having those smaller groups or even the one to ones is a huge thing for me because it's an element that we're missing in networking right now. Because if you were hosting an event and we were all able to show up, I would be able to walk around the room, and just chit chat with people. But we can't do that anymore so people are doing all these events and one of the big reasons I attended events in person before everything was because I had an opportunity to talk to people. Yes, I wanted to go learn something or, experience something new, but I also got to talk about that and bond with people over that experience. So the breakout room thing is huge, and if anybody's running a networking event where they're not doing that, they should definitely consider adding it into the timeframe that they have for their event.
How do you stay in front of and nurture your network in your community that you've been building?
So LinkedIn is huge for me and I find that out of all social media platforms, I really hit my stride with LinkedIn. I think as soon as LinkedIn, really beefs up their group features, I would probably spend a lot less time on Facebook, it's just Facebook groups, really blow it out of the water. I even have my own small Facebook group, which allows me to stay engaged with a kind of core audience if you will. But I probably spend the most time going back and forth between Facebook groups and LinkedIn for sure. That's because I approach it in a very intentional way because when I see the same people commenting and reacting, and engaging with my posts. Maybe I don't know why they're doing it, but it's definitely a basis for conversation. Just today, I had a conversation with somebody, we had met in person at an event and we had kind of kept the relationship going, but obviously, I'm seeing that person in a while. I was like, "Hey, I noticed you were really showing the support of my post, and I really appreciate it, can we schedule a call, so I can see how I might be able to help you?" If the person is interacting and engaging in my content, I think it's pretty hard to turn down that type of conversation. Not every conversations like a client conversation and so that's the other thing I think that a lot of people miss in terms of social media, networking, and social media marketing is not every person you talk to as a client. But when you go in thinking relationship first, you will nurture those relationships. You never know what type of fruit those relationships will bear, but it's always something. It may or may not be tomorrow, but it's always something when you're able to nurture those relationships along in an intentional way.
What advice would you offer the business professional who's really looking to grow their network?
I would say hands down right now is to find those really good events, the virtual ones to attend and network. If you're practiced at speaking, a lot of those events are looking for speakers. So it's a great opportunity to attend an event and kind of get a feel for it. Then if you develop an idea that you can talk to the event organizer about then pitch that idea, and then you put yourself in a position of authority there. Also attending new events and getting out of your comfort zone of seeing the same faces in that zoom checkerboard there will do so much to grow your network. Then because we're all connecting on social media, now, instead of handing out business cards anyway, it gives you that opportunity to nurture them on whatever social media channel that you're on. One of the big reasons I love events is that they are typically organized by one person or two people, or maybe a company is a driving force behind it. Event organizers, and then podcast hosts like yourself, I consider them power nodes in my network because the more I get to know them, the more I know how I can offer to help them out whether it's recommending their event, recommending podcast, or sharing their content. The more they get to know me, they may come to realize that there are people in their network who are a good fit. If they continue to get to know me then they may be willing to connect me with those people.
If you could go back to your 20-year-old self, what would you tell yourself to do more or less of or differently with regards to your professional career?
Hmm, that is a hard one. Only because my 20-year-old self was still in the army. At that time, I thought I was gonna retire from the army do like 20 or 30 years, I wanted to be the first woman Sergeant Major of the Army. That's where I was aiming, there is no higher enlisted position in terms of being up there. Just from professional development, and probably even some personal development, I would tell 20 year old me to care a lot less about how I was, quote, unquote, supposed to be, and who I was, quote, unquote, supposed to be. Really examining my actions and being like, "Was this an authentic move, or did I decide to do this because I thought something about somebody else's perception of me?" That has brought me a lot of self-awareness, but also a lot of happiness. I've gotten to know me so much better and I'm grateful that it happened now versus never. I'm getting to know me so well, and I like what I'm finding. I think that that is important to be happy in your own skin. 20 year old me was probably wrapped up and concerned with how she was perceived.
Do you have any final word or advice for our listeners with regard to growing and supporting your network?
Ask on a consistent basis. Somebody asked me earlier, what was one of the big reasons I've been able to continue doing speaking events and podcast interviews. They're like, I feel like you're posting about something like every other day that you've done. Well, when people ask me what they can do for me or how they can support me, I let them know. I'd reach out to say that I'm just still on the lookout for any types of speaking opportunities, or opportunity to share my story and experiences with people to help them and you know, start more educated conversations around the variety of topics that I talk about. Because I keep saying it, when people see things when they're scrolling on LinkedIn or Facebook, and they see opportunities pop up, I am one of the first people that they tag. A PR friend of mine tags me on stuff. She tagged me on something the other day that is going to result in me interviewing with the person whose posts she tagged me on. But I got to other people that I'm going to be doing interviews with because she tagged me once. If I had never asked, though she wouldn't have known that it was something I was truly interested in doing. So it's something that I say, and I ask consistently, I mentioned it consistently. So now I've got eyes where I normally wouldn't have them and that's helped me so much.
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