Personal Branding: “Sell” yourself

Photo: ' Law School Elevator' by Tate Johonson CC2.0

Photo: ‘ Law School Elevator’ by Tate Johonson CC2.0

When perfecting your personal brand, it is useful to think about how you are ‘selling yourself’ to colleagues and prospective employers. A really important tool to have in your toolkit is the elevator pitch.

The idea of the elevator pitch comes from an imaginary scenario where you are sharing an elevator ride with someone that you want to impress, be it your boss, a senior figure in your funding body, or a stranger that might become a strong advocate (or even donor) for your library. You’ve got somewhere between 30 seconds and two minutes to tell this person something that they will remember, and make them want to seek you out and find out more. What do you say?

In that tiny timeframe, you need to cover:

  • Who you are
  • What you, your department, your service or your library does
  • Why that matters
  • What the other person can do about it

For example, you might say “My name is Sarah, I’m responsible for buying books for the local public library. My work means that members of our community have access to information they need to manage their lives, seek jobs, educate themselves and their children, and read for leisure. We struggle to get enough money to buy this material, but it’s highly valuable to our users. We’ve got a funding drive on at the moment which I can tell you more about.”

Some key points about elevator pitches:

  • They need to be understandable by your audience – which might mean cutting out jargon (note in the example above Sarah was not the ‘acquisitions manager’, because this title doesn’t tell non-librarians what she actually does)
  • They need to be relevant to your audience – what do they care about?
  • All unnecessary information should be removed – practice your pitch, and take out any unnecessary words. This gives you more time to answer questions at the end
  • You need to be passionate about what you’re saying – your passion will increase the impact of your pitch

Try developing an elevator pitch for the following scenarios:

  • The boss of your library asks you what you’re working on
  • A wealthy philanthropist asks what you do
  • Someone who doesn’t use your library asks you why they should

Remember, elevator pitches can be used at networking functions, in line for coffee, at a dinner party, and on the information desk at your library.

More about elevator pitches:

We had a go at the ‘Pixar Pitch’ described in the video above from Nonprofit Hub and came up with the following:

Once upon a time librarians around the world worked in isolation from each other. Every day they wondered how libraries in other countries operated, but could only read published material. Most of them couldn’t afford to travel to international conferences. One day, three librarians in Sydney created a way to connect librarians around the world at no cost. Because of that, people were able to develop professional networks outside of their own country. Because of that, our community could ask questions, solve problems, and share expertise around the world. Until finally, over 3500 librarians became part of an international network of librarians.

What do you think?

This post originally appeared on April 21 2015.

Posted in Discussion topics, Round 2015B and tagged , .


  1. I once won an elevator speech contest for this response to a scenario wherein you are in an elevator and someone mentions that libraries are “on their way out”…
    “Libraries on the way out? In this economy libraries are the place to be! Where else can you get music, movies, books, internet access, all legal and all for free?! Do you read e-books? We have classes on how to buy the best e-reader, how to use it and how to get the latest titles all for free. Do you have kids? Libraries have programs for babies, kids and teens, homework help, game nights, craft classes, book clubs, all free! Any seniors in your life? We can help them navigate the web, learn about new technologies, get their taxes completed, even start tweeting –again, totally free. Do you know anyone who has been laid off or is job hunting? Library staff can help them with their resume, access the best job sites, and even help with interview skills. Where else can you do everything I just described, legally, for free, 7 days a week with knowledgeable help on hand?! I could go on and on about libraries but instead why don’t I just give you my card and you can come visit and see for yourself. Oh, my floor, see you soon!”

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