Ever wondered how to build a personal brand? (Hint: remove your home address from your résumé and add your LinkedIn URL instead.) How about best practices for social media? (Engage and interact with your audience instead of just pushing content!) These were just some of the topics and comments tossed around at the first-ever “Speed Networking” event hosted by the newly-constituted NYU Publishing Alumni Committee last week at NYU’s Torch Club. Committee co-chairs Laura De Silva and Jaime de Pablos and their devoted event committee members have been working on this for months—and their efforts showed. The committee invited seasoned and senior publishing alumni to serve as “speed facilitators” at each of five tables. Each facilitator was assigned a specific theme to discuss. Committee members were also assigned to each table to help with the discussion.
The “editorial trends” table was hosted by Jaime de Pablos, Publisher at Random House‘s Vintage Español imprint, and assisted by Karina Mikhli, Director of Content Development at On Demand Books. Neil De Young, Executive Director of Digital Media at Hachette Digital, Inc., hosted the “digital media” table and was assisted by Rebecca Hytowitz of the Alumni Committee. Lavinel Savu, Assistant Managing Editor of InStyle, and Stephen Acunto, Jr., Account Manager at The Week, hosted the “personal branding” discussion table. Mark Steffen, Product Manager at ABC News, hosted the “social media” table with Kastoory Kazi, Founder and Editor of Pomp & Circumstance. The “careers table” was hosted by Angela Bole, Deputy Executive Director at Book Industry Study Group (BISG), with Liz Peterson, Production Editor at The Forum Newsgroup.
In order for the 50 alumni (and a few current students, too) in attendance to meet as many alumni as possible, they were split into five groups at the start of the speed-networking rounds. At the sound of a bell, everyone headed for assigned tables. They initially spent seven minutes at each table. “Not enough time!” protested a few alumni, and De Silva made an executive decision to up the table duration to ten minutes per round. Each time the bell sounded, participants moved on to the next assigned table; the process repeated itself until everyone had visited all five tables.
At the “personal branding” table, the discussions centered around using the participants’ experiences to improve their personal brands as well as on immediate actions that might help. In addition to recommending that people “use Twitter” or “know when to blog and when not to blog,” one alumnus noted that when sending an email to your bosses or an influential person in your network, make it personal; always include a link to an interesting article or piece of content you think they would appreciate. Similarly, whenever possible, send individual messages and avoid mass emails. Alumna Erin Semple, Online Education Manager at F+W Media, advised her group to bring a whole box of business cards to a networking event. (Why risk running out?) In a bold example of personal brand promotion, one participant described handing his résumé to an influential person at a networking event and saying: “Consider me when you might be hiring.”
Discussions during the five rounds at the “digital media” table fell under the general umbrellas of piracy and rights, and the evolution of digital media. While discussing piracy and copyright, one participant commented that JK Rowling’s decision to forego DRM was “brilliant but scary.” The primary suggestion made about fighting piracy was to increase ease of access. One participant complained that after she loaned a friend her digital copy of The Hunger Games though Kindle, she could not access the ebook after the loan period ended. Other comments centered on procuring backlist rights and how the inclusion of digital rights in contracts has become very important.
At the “social media” table, one participant suggested that everyone “wipe your Facebook page of all photos except a few [sanitized] recent ones.” You never know when a potential employer is looking at your page. Pinterest was another hot topic, and the consensus was that it works best for companies or brands that focus on crafts, designs, and textures. As for the metrics of social media, everyone agreed that it’s still hard to measure results in actual dollars; it’s important to focus instead on increasing mindshare and marketing reach.
At the end of the fifth round, everybody gathered to assess the evening and agreed that it had been a resounding success. Great connections were made and everybody wanted to know when the next “speed networking” event would take place! No promises were made as the planners need to recover from all the work surrounding the first event! But stay tuned for news of another speed networking event in the near future. And get those business cards ready.
Special thanks to Judith Jackson, Director of Alumni Relations for NYU-SCPS, and her team for all their hard work with the Speed Networking event. Thanks, also, to Anna Condoulis, Assistant Dean of Student Life and Alumni Relations.
by Rebecca Hytowitz