Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Networking his way to a Challenge

I've been giving a lot of talks recently on The Importance of Networking in a Recession. In the talk I focus on the three key ways in which individuals and companies can benefit from networking, becoming better-known, better-equipped and better-connected.

In the audience at my talk last night was Steve Trister, the creator of the £1 Challenge. Steve is completing the London to Southend bike ride later this year and, rather than ask a few close friends and family to sponsor him, has decided to raise £1 million for the British Heart Foundation by asking one million people to each donate £1.

Not a simple challenge. What is interesting is that Steve has used his networks exactly as I described in my talk to take the challenge forward.

The first thing Steve did was to bring his challenge to a peer-support group to which we both belong, Wild Card Pack. The group spent over two hours listening to Steve's aims, asking him a lot of tough questions and then providing ideas and solutions to help him move the challenge forward.

As a result of that support, Steve went forward better-equipped than he had been before, with answers to a lot of questions that he hadn't even thought of before! Inspired by the session and realising he couldn't do it alone, he left to form a team around him, from his network, who would bring the skills to the table that he lacked and would help him achieve his goals.

With the help of that team, and other supporters in his network, Steve then got stuck into the job of raising the profile of the challenge. One team member took the task of publishing regular updates on social networks like Twitter and Facebook, while others commented, shared and retweeted those posts. Friend of Steve's invited him to events they were attending or organising and, where possibly, arranged for him to give a presentation about the challenge.

In fact, over the last month it seems as though I can't go to a networking event without Steve being there! He is certainly using both his networks and other people's to become better-known, something that is vital if the challenge is to succeed.

One of the ideas that came out of the Wild Card Pack brainstorm was the importance of celebrity endorsement. As a result, Steve has reached out to his network to connect with celebrities who have been willing to record short viral videos promoting the challenge.

Celebrities who have contributed to date include the former World Champion athlete Kriss Akabusi, DJ and chart topper Fat Boy Slim, football legends Tony Cottee and Graham Roberts and astrologer Russell Grant. These celebrities, and others who have contributed, have come through referrals from Steve's network, not cold approaches. His networking, coupled with a focused approach and strong message, have helped him to become better-connected.

In just a few weeks over 1,000 individuals have donated £1 each to the challenge. There's still a very long way to go to achieve Steve's goal of raising £1 million, but he's already achieved so much more than he would have done trying to raise some sponsorship on his own.

He's used his networks, and other people's, to ensure the challenge could become better known, that he would be better equipped to deal with the hurdles in his way and to get the connections he needs to drive it forward. It will be an amazing achievement if he succeeds. With the help of those around him, he stands a very good chance.

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