Are you familiar with the Golden Rolodex?

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It’s a sales expression as well as a human resources expression. The Golden Rolodex is your personal database, your personal set of connections and relationships that you’ve built over your career. When companies are looking to hire top talent in sales and executive functions, very often the Golden Rolodex is an implied but strong hiring factor. The moment that, say, a top salesman comes aboard, it’s implied that he’ll tap his Golden Rolodex on behalf of his new employer and bring in some easy wins.

While the Golden Rolodex has been powerful for decades, it’s never been more powerful than today. Today, the Golden Rolodex (your network) is mandatory for your success. Today we have the Golden Social Rolodex, the Golden Audience, the people who travel with talent from place to place. As long as the talent consistently provides value to his or her audience, the audience comes along for the ride no matter what the company and title on the business card says. Do companies value this? You bet. There wouldn’t be as much debate and angst about personal brand vs. corporate brand if things like the Golden Social Rolodex didn’t matter.

Friend and serial connector Jeff Pulver often says that we live or die on our database. He’s not talking about a platform or a set of SQL tables. He’s talking about your network, the network you’ll use to bring your Golden Audience to whatever you’re working on now.

How do you build your Golden Audience? As always, the answer is simple. You need to isolate the unique quality that you bring to the table no matter where you work, no matter what you do, and be able to express that quality to your audience and to yourself. Your audience will ultimately prize you for that quality and for your ability to help them and provide value to them based on how you work with that quality.

For example, one of my essential qualities is bridge building. I’m good at understanding marketing and technology as a whole and being able to speak to practitioners of either discipline to help them work together. I can see more possibilities than the average marketer because I understand the technology that powers so much of our marketing today. When I worked in financial services, I spoke that language plus what was effectively PR 2.0.

Here’s the important part: many of the people who got to know me then are still friends with me now, even though my business card says something very different. Why? That same essential quality continues to provide them with value.

Here’s another example. CC Chapman, now a published author, was originally one of the web guys at Babson College when I first met him. In every aspect of the stuff he did at the college, he managed to get people energized and passionate. When he moved to a digital marketing agency, founded his own, got acquired, etc. he brought that same essential quality, the ability to inspire passion in others, to all of his work. When you pick up his new book, Content Rules (affiliate link), do you think it’s reasonable to assume that same passion will infuse his writing?

His audience has followed him from one company to the next, from one podcast to another digital venture, on a wild ride over the years because he has remained true to that essential quality. They’re remained a part of his Golden Audience because they value his ability to inspire them.

Look over your own experiences, look over your own background and what you’re doing today, and ask yourself what’s in common. What did people value about you ten years ago? Five years ago? Today? If you’ve managed to build an audience, even a small one, talk to them and ask them why they’re with you, what they value about you. Take the recent tip from my newsletter about plugging all of your recommendations into Wordle to see how people describe you. Take a tip from DJ Waldow and start saving public testimonials about you on Twitter and other social outlets so that you have ready access to them.

Look at how you behave in different contexts and see what’s similar in all of them. I definitely have different friends in the martial arts world than I do in the World of Warcraft universe, but those friends I’ve attracted in both worlds value me for many of the same attributes. The audience I’ve attracted in social media (you, and thank you for being here) perceive the same values and qualities that my employer, Blue Sky Factory email marketing, values as well. What do your friends in your different circles value about you?

You can’t be anything to anyone. That’s a recipe for being nothing to everyone. Instead, take the time to investigate what people value about you and distill it. The faster you do it, the faster you’ll be able to create the value that powers your Golden Audience that will propel you no matter what you choose to do.

Footnote: For the under-30 crowd, a Rolodex is your Facebook friends page made of paper.


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