Keynote: Porter Gale, interviewed by Jory Des Jardins


Porter Gale, author of Your Network Is Your Net Worth, and BlogHer Co-founder Jory Des Jardins kick off BlogHer PRO with frank talk about how to maximize your network to speed your success.

Jory: When I read your book I thought here's someone who was head of marketing for Virgin America, I thought I would get tactical tips for networking. But I was surprised. This book was more about transition, and how to transition well using networks. I actually did the exercises in this book and learned a lot more than I anticipated. It was about more than what you're doing, it was about what you are about. Can you talk about changing the way you think about networking.

Porter: Yes, people expected hardcore marketing, but it's really more about being authentic, finding your voice, working relationships. I had an insight a while back, I was quite shy, hard to network. I realized my life was better when I had more confidence in myself. Network is not just tons of business cards but about knowing who you are, being passionate and authentic. New model is asking: What's holding me back, what will make me happy, how can I deepen my relationships?

Porter Gale quote

Jory: You are a master of transition -- 6 or 7 careers, which were all over the place in a good way: Filmmaker, modeling, marketing, advisor….

Porter: The link between all is storytelling and listening. Being a good marketer is about understanding, being a documentary filmmaker is also about that. How to ask the right questions, how to tell a good story, how to listen, how to value others.

Jory: You've reinvented yourself but not totally, you've taken a thread through every new existence. How do you bring what you already have to the table?

Porter: Some of my transitions weren't actually by choice. But these pivot points can be huge growth opportunities. Steve Jobs said you can't connect the dots until you look back -- you don't realize how much you're going to grow. When I lost my job as a single mom, I had to get another one, and I got the opportunity at Virgin American and instead of saying "I have no experience," I said, "Why not go it?" Especially women but also men, sometimes we are our own worst enemies: I'm not smart enough, I don't have qualifications. When you have those pivot points, I challenge you to raise the bar. Try new things.

Jory: How did networking play into you getting that job?

Porter: A friend of mine from a past job told me about it, reference checks were past coworkers. Your network is really the thing that develops opportunities, encourages you to focus on productivity. Focus on relationships the way you focus on planning for retirement? Am I telling the people I've worked with I'm so grateful, or they inspire me? Those are the relationships that will help you the most. Giving pack and looking at the "we" is really the secret sauce. Collaboration is where the true magic happens, love hearing collaboration chat in this community.

Jory: The first 10 questions we get, you get a book!

Jory: Inspiring stories of people who had good outcomes just out of following their bliss.

Porter: The Funnel Test Exercise. Companies that have a succinct vision/clear mission are more successful usually. Think of yourself as a brand. What are the 3 things you're most passionate about? Identify those things. It makes you focus and helps you have a roadmap. That helps you decide who you want to network with, what content you want to write. Emily Olson was passionate about food, did tea sampling parties, met an entrepreneur who was passionate about tea and formed friendship on shared interest, when she started Foodzie that person was a VC. It's about being who you are and seeing what you attract. Lisa Stone said she felt like the book helped people be authentic. I chatted with an introverted CEO who did the exercise and answered family entrepreneurship tech. When he entered a room he would lead with those topics that gave him a comfort level and ease, being honest and real. You have very strong passions as bloggers. Even at your tables, you just start to share those real ideas.

Jory: There's a belief that if I talk about what I do someone's going to take it. I've always thought the more you talk about it, the more people will say, Oh, I have someone you should meet.

Porter: I've found in Silicon Valley there's more sharing. Software gets better when people test and try to break it and it's the same thing with ideas. When I decided to write the book I told everyone, and then I had to do it because I told 100 people already.

Question: Jill Gibson -- I want to start a business and radio show to support women of color in careers. If I decided to reach out to VCs to collaborate, how should I prepare to ask for what I want?

Porter: Think about what value you could bring to the person. I'm about quality meets over quantity so do your homework . Don't let the noes stop you. I had 20 agents who said no to me before I found one who said yes.

Question: DeDe Brown, fashion stylist and marketing expert - what is the one thing you wish you knew starting your career that you know now?

Porter: I grew up in MN, with a "don't ask for help" mentality. I lived a "do it yourself" philosophy until I was 25 or 30. Thought I had something to prove. If someone offers to help you say "thank you very much; I would love that!" Don't pretend you know the answer if you don't. Look at every opportunity as a learning lesson. That comes with age.

Jory: We talk about that all the time. BlogHer asked a lot.

Porter: How amazing that you guys have paid out 25 million to bloggers over 4 years! For people who are blogging their passions! Look at what you can do for others - be community oriented.

Jory: You talk about that in your book: Give, give, get.

Porter: The giving back chapter. We all have our ups and downs and one way to get out of that is to give to other people. It's surprising. There were kids in a lower income LA school when I was at Virgin America, they made a video asking Sir Richard Branson to help them in a contest. It was so compelling. And I knew Sir Richard somewhat and so I sent it to him, and he was in LA and said "bring them to the Sunset Marquis and I'll meet them!" When he gave them that 45 minutes, I believe it changed their lives. If you asked anyone, could you get a meeting with a millionaire? They would say no. But tech is making the world smaller so we can connect faster. 6 degrees of Kevin Bacon has become 3 degrees.

Jory: He might be outside.

Porter: He could be coming to the party, who knows?

Jory: Give, give GET. There's a way to apply to any situation, just in giving that puts you in motion. You managed to find many people who found the next step in life by giving.

Porter: Online and offline, doing because you want to, not expecting a return -- you need to bring a philosophy of authenticity. Tit for tat and high expectations don't get you anywhere. If you approach doing the best you can, that's a better way to be.

Jory: Online and offline. Online is powerful, things like having a huge Twitter following can bring more sponsor opportunities. But that's hard to maintain, as are offline relationship. How do you cultivate your network?

Porter: I have made amazing friends mainly through Twitter. I love events like this -- they're a great way to move online to offline, try to do that. Don't be online all the time or you won't get special 1:1 connection. Overlap interests with relationships: Hiking with friends, cocktail parties at restaurants.

Jory: Do you follow everyone back?

Porter: No.

Jory: Where do you draw the line?

Porter: A quality following and focused community has more value. I don't follow back because I wouldn't be able to watch or follow what I'm looking for. I follow my interest. If someone tweets to me, I always read and say thank you.

Question: (Didn't identify herself) I'll translate for my baby because he doesn't speak human yet. We've heard the importance of the elevator pitch. It's intimidating because 30 seconds is all you get; in fact that's a lot. How do you get remembered besides carrying my baby around?

Porter: The Funnel Exercise again. Identify your 3 passions, find your tonality, write 15 words, which is like an elevator pitch. Practice it with friends so you talk with ease. Be passionate, keep simple and focused.

Question: I'm Chrissy Watson, I have a kids' activity blog and law blog for people in the social media space. I'm multi-passionate. How did you narrow down to three passions?

Porter: If you can start identifying crafty kids who are also interested in law, that would be perfect. I think there's a magic in three, but that's flexible. Apple has the trio: Beautiful, simple, useful. My three things have changed over time. Figure out am I nurturing these, do I have people who support me in these buckets? Maybe you have a good network in the kids' space but need to build in the law space.

Jory: Last week someone gave me her pitch and I asked how it was going and she said, well I have a kid. She saw having a daughter as an impediment. You have a daughter -- how did you navigate?

Porter: How many parents in the room? 80%? Being a mom is the greatest thing in my life, and I'm a single mom. Some of my transitions were figuring out creating revenue streams from my living room, to be with my kid. That was a priority for me. I'm very goal-oriented. When I was working on the book I made my page goal every single day. Miracles of success are an accumulation of a lot of very small steps. They don't happen overnight. Don't think about launching your business tomorrow. Ask yourself, what are the 3 things I can do today?

Question: My name is Arielle Solton, I have documentary film background, I'm doing video production for food clients. How do you tell clients video is valuable?

Porter: I love video, it's exciting. Use case histories to demonstrate value. Stories with beginning, middle, end, that show results. I use Dollar Shave Club video to demonstrate power of storytelling. 97% of people carry smartphones. You're in a great space.

Question: Ellen - As someone who's changed careers a few times, I have conflicts. I'm a designer building a brand but still get opportunities to do other work. Those opportunities broaden my experience but take me away from building my brand. What's more valuable to building authority?

Porter: Million dollar question. I face it myself, going in and out of entrepreneurial tasks and companies. It's faith and fear. Build your credibility: Blogging, bylining articles, win awards. I asked a multiple award winner how she won and she Googled awards in her subject. Keep LinkedIn updated. Google yourself. Use photos that are good for your personal brand. Public speaking, give back with your knowledge.

Jory: Speaking of LinkedIn. Increasingly as people are transitioning, they keep their old companies in there, or put "looking for opportunities" under description. How to you position your transition?

Porter: Honesty is the best policy. Use real start/end dates; don't dig a hole. It's tricky because some people may not want to network with job seekers. I went to an event with Guy Kawasaki and someone asked him why he doesn't carry business cards. He said nobody ever followed through. If you are reaching out, you are ahead of most people. Be active.

Question: Melody Brumes? With NABO National Assoc of Biz Owners. How do you carve out time to network in a small window of time, with a family and business, in an authentic way?

Porter: I'm pretty schedule-focused and TypeA. MTW I focus on my daughter. My travel schedule is pretty extreme but clear communication works for me. I overlap events. I invite people instead of coffee meet, to join my friends for dinner. I tell people, I'm in San Francisco, if anyone wants to meet me I'll be at this taco shop.

Question: Heather - Rookie Moms. WE are passionate about parenting, fun, we have a very clear idea of the brand but sometimes for execution, we are paralyzed by number of awesome ideas. Do we pursue all 30? Do we prioritize? Also, re pivoting. My former professional network loves me doing the same stuff. l They keep getting me jobs that I hate. How do I go lateral?

Porter: It could take a longer conversation, but you are the one in control of what jobs you're going to take. I told myself I couldn't be a filmmaker because I wasn't creative. I had to believe in myself and then teach myself and put myself in the right community.

Jory: You address finding holes in your circles. Rather than continue to rely on the same people for different opportunities, figure out what you are looking for.

Porter: If you want to move from A to B, ask if you need more skills in B. We are so lucky to have so much online education now.

Question: William Johnson with VigLink, software that helps bloggers turn passion into business. Your thesis seems to be know who you are and focus on that. But when do you focus on figuring out who you are, and when do you focus on what you lack?

Porter: I had to focus on the barriers holding me back. Self-esteem, education. I also believe in keeping your life as simple as possible so you don't have huge financial responsibilities that stress you out. I have a simple house; I could take time off to write a book. There have been times I've taken consulting jobs that weren't really what I wanted but I needed the money. I didn't know it, but not only did I get a paycheck but those skills helped me later on. There's learning in everything.

Jory: It's like a portfolio, a mix of sure bets and sexier stuff, with different weights and portfolios so you can work them all.

Porter: 1/3 of what I do is things I really believe in. Sometimes I don’t even get paid. I supplement with the book, online courses, and other revenue streams that may be small but they're still coming in. There is more localization with technology. More revenue streams, like Airbnb. They can be complementary if you nurture, especially while you're building a blog or other business.

Question: (Not identified) My platform that I just drafted is to find practical ways to bring clarity, focus and purpose to people's lives as someone who spent much of her life being told what to do and as an introvert who need every ounce of energy to raise my hand right now. Do you have practical tips to build self-esteem?

Porter: Talk about topics you're comfortable with. Susan Cain wrote a great book about celebrating introversion called Quiet. Celebrate your need to recharge. Eating cleanly helps me recharge, and I need an hour of quiet after gigs like this.

Jory: Notion that you have to earn it by navigating difficult people. Is it possible to just be around positive people?

Porter: I am really good friends with someone I had to meet with and we didn't really like each other then. Preconceived notions, first impressions, aren't always right. Give someone three tries to see the chemistry. There will be personalities and styles that don't work. You can't change them; you can only change how you react. Everything is a mirror for some sort of growth.

Question: I'm Jenna of Pinterest Fail. We all have limited resources. How do you gracefully eliminate dead weight from network. I find myself feeling bad like I owe people I don't click with something.

Porter: Can we be friends? I like honesty. Say, "Thank you so much for your invitation, but I don't have the bandwidth right now." You can't be a people pleaser all the time. Often we don't nurture the important relationships. I adore Lisa Stone and only get to see her every six months. It's quality over quantity so don't feel guilty. But if you can't or don't want to make the time, be honest.

Porter: The amazing connections that you guys can make in the room over the course of the next two days can be powerful. I encourage you to chat and meet and see who each other is. I met an agent, best friends -- a lot of you have common interests; share them.


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