Recap—Spring Forum: Matt Gambino, "Personal Branding and You"

Recap—Spring Forum: Matt Gambino, “Personal Branding and You”

How can I finish my story first?

That’s the question Matt Gambino encouraged us to ask ourselves. More than 20 Bookbuilders members gathered last week for our first educational event of the spring: a workshop on “Personal Branding and You.” And Matt—a principal for EdTech Skills Development, an educational consulting firm, as well as a frequent speaker and trainer—got us thinking what story we’re trying to tell.

The workshop got me thinking about my own story. I traveled back to my recent job interviews, the cover letters I wrote and reworked, how I tried to differentiate myself from everyone else. I needed to finish my story first – I needed to create the vision I wanted those employers to see.

Matt talked through techniques designed for everyone who attended. The group spanned members who work in publishing right now (including salespeople and others who pitch regularly to clients) and people seeking full-time or freelance work. Your personal, mobile brand is integral to all these scenarios. As an example, Matt called on a member who’s looking to land an interview with her dream press.

Step one to get that interview? She needs to identify the problem the company is having. From there, finish the story first by telling the company how she’d solve it. Her particular set of skills make her brand unique: the press publishes books on gardening and plants, and she could bring years of production experience and her own work with horticulture to them. The goal, Matt advised, is to pitch the press by saying, here’s what life looks like with me as the solution. “Here’s the problem I see. You have trouble finding people with both of these skills. You need someone who knows production and knows plants equally.”

Every time I write a cover letter, the first draft is always filled with “I” sentences. I’m an experienced professional, and I would love to work for you, etc., etc., etc. Matt’s advice here was simple: Your company, your client, your buyer wants to hear about themselves. We spend so much time starting at the beginning of our own story, and we forget to ask what their needs are.

“I don’t do anything without getting something in return,” Matt said. It’s so easy to give away everything, in the hopes something will stick. But instead, we have to think of this as an opportunity for both sides. “Tell me about your needs. I can help you with this opportunity, and in return I’d like the chance to talk you about this in person.” Let’s work on this, and if you can help me connect me to Dream Press Employee #1, that would be great.

And be persistent. One follow-up email isn’t enough, Matt advised, not if you’re working toward your dream press. Use those connections. Send a second email, then find another way to follow up. That’s usually when I let it go, but Matt told us not to give up after one or two tries. Most callbacks come after the seventh attempt.

So next time I send out a letter, I (there’s that word again) need to focus on the “you.” What is your situation? And here’s what it looks like you need to solve it.

Our thanks to Matt Gambino for leading this event, and Pearson, for sponsoring and hosting  it. Bookbuilders attendees: Let us know if you enjoyed the event and if you want more workshops like this in the future!

Josh Garstka

About Josh Garstka

As Contracts Manager at O’Reilly Media, Josh Garstka negotiates the fine print with O’Reilly’s authors and training instructors. Previously, Josh worked for six years at Pearson Education in rights and permissions. Outside of publishing, he plays violin with the Cambridge Symphony Orchestra and writes a film blog at