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Selena Soo on Learning to Make Connections and Leveling the Playing Field

BBR 245 | Learning To Make Connections

Entrepreneurs willing to become a sponge and learn everything they need to solve problems for their business is great. But the best take away from that experience is to be inspired to do same and then do better. Selena Soo got inspiration from the people she looks up to, and now she is doing the same as she helps entrepreneurs get excited about the work of other, building long lasting relationships in the process. She believes that by being helpful and adding value, you are making the playing field between you and the client level. Selena shares what she teaches on her yearly program to help investors in learning to make connections to get their message to the world.


Thank you to Tess Hansel, Owner and Founder of Dry Swan Bladder Control in Queensland, Australia for introducing today's episode. What she loves about The Business Building Rockstars Show is the variety of guests and their genuine desire to share their expertise. She also loves how Nicole asks the right questions and manages to uncover those precious golden nuggets of knowledge that make all the difference when it comes to building a business online.

If you would like to introduce an episode and share your love for the Business Building Rockstars show, go to www.BBRShow.com/fan.

Selena Soo on Learning to Make Connections and Leveling the Playing Field

Selena, you are up to some seriously big things right now, so I appreciate you taking the time out to hang out with us here on The Business Building Rockstars Show. Welcome.

Thank you for having me.

Why don't we talk about what are you doing right now to serve and support people?

My biggest passion is helping entrepreneurs get their message out into the world and to ultimately reach millions of people. The best way to do that is one, the power of publicity, and two, relationship building. I have offerings around that and programs. That is what I'm up to right now.

Take us back to the beginning. What you're doing now, is this what you always saw yourself doing when you were growing up?

[Tweet "People don't just need more information about how to solve their problems, they need inspiration. @SelenaSoo @NiczTheName "]

Yeah. This all began in my late twenties when I had a quarter-life crisis. I found myself in this woman's life coaching group and I was feeling very confused, feeling depressed, and just lost. I got exposed to different authors and thought leaders, people like Deepak Chopra, Marianne Williamson, Louise Hay, and eventually this incredible world of online entrepreneurs and the next generation of thought leaders. I realized that in moments of confusion and pain, what helped me were these inspirational role models. People don't just need more information about how to solve their problems, they need inspiration. These people that embody their message of possibility, and I knew then that I wanted to spend my life helping these entrepreneurs, experts, authors, people who are dedicated to making other people's lives better, get their message into the world into a much bigger way, so that's how it began.

When you came across this program and you started being exposed to this, what were you doing at that point? Were you already in publicity?

No, I wasn't. I was working at a women's non-profit. In a way, I was getting attention for the cause and creating buzz, but I wasn't a traditional publicist in any way.

How did you figure out like, “I want to help these people impact millions. I want to help them get their message out. What I need to do is X.” How did you figure out what X is?

I was just naturally doing what I loved, which was connecting people. I would meet people who had an amazing message and I would say like, “You need to know this person in the media,” or, “You need to connect with this influencer.” Over time, people started getting opportunities, getting on TV, getting book deals, all these different things, and so I saw that I had a knack for this. I was really good at helping people get excited about other people's work. That's a skill that we all have. Sometimes people think, “I should just hire a publicist,” and sometimes maybe you should if you have a book launch or you need to get more support on that. At the same time, you need to have the skill of getting other people so excited about your work so that they would want to open up their platforms, whether it's 10,000 or 100,000 or even a million people, to you. That's a very important skill for every entrepreneur to have.

You built your business a little bit differently than a lot of people do in the online space. Tell us a little bit about the startup and the beginning of the journey when you realized you have a service, a message, or a method that you can monetize. Can you talk a little bit about from the realization of that to how you began monetizing it?

I would just start connecting people, helping people, pitching people.

You weren't making money from that, right?

Yeah. I didn't have a business. I was a student. I was in graduate school. At the time I was thinking I would want to work for a corporation. Also, part of it was I was in the US on a visa and I didn't know if I was legally able to start my own company. One of my mentors, Ramit Sethi just really believed in my work. I had to interview him for a leadership course and we were talking about career stuff. At the time, I thought maybe I'm working HR or something that was helping other people, and he was like, “You have a lot going for you. There's a lot more that you could be doing. I feel like you're just seeing the small picture versus the big picture.” He knew that I had this passion for publicity and I had already been helping him in different ways. One of his friends, Marie Forleo, had reached out to him saying that she needed help. He connected us and we hit it off in a really big way. Danielle LaPorte also endorsed me to Marie.

As all these people got to know me better because I was adding value, they became my biggest fans. I was like, “If my idols think I'm good at what I do then I should believe in myself, too.” As I looked into it further, I actually could start my own business. It was possible. I could do it for about a year and then I would need to get another visa, but it was possible. That's how I got started. I got my first client through a networking event that I had attended. She had known about me because of my previous work in the nonprofit world and being the state connector there. When she learned what I was doing, she wanted to work with me because she wanted to work with an individual versus a bigger agency and someone that would really dig her teeth into it, so that's how I got my first client.

It's something that I've actually been talking with a lot of students and clients about recently, which is that you don't necessarily have to do all of the things that everybody's teaching, like, “You got to do this, you got to build a funnel, you got to have webinars, you got to get on podcasts, you got to start your own podcast, you got to, got to, got to, in order to make any money.” A lot of times, people get so stuck in that spin that they're not making money because they're trying to do all the things. I personally was there as well. Something that I have learned through people like you and others who have built successful businesses based on relationships is that when you give value first and you support people, they want to champion you. They want to support what you're doing and are happy to introduce you to other people. What was it like for you to charge the first time? Did you have that support from your mentors, helping you pick a price, or did you wing it? Did it happen organically? How did you establish, “Here we go, I'm making money. This is real,” and you got it?

Pricing is one of those really tricky things to figure out, especially when you're a brand new business owner. I went through LinkedIn and I identified the people in my network that worked in publicity. Some of these people I hadn't spoken to in three or four years, but I reached out to them and I said, “It's Selena, we last connected at this event or we know each other in this way, and I'm reaching out to you because I'm starting a new business. I'm so excited. My first client is this person.” I describe them and I said, “To be honest, I don't know what to charge. Can you give me an idea based on what I'm looking to do for this person of a range that would be reasonable?” I asked several people. I got several ranges back, and even though they were somewhat wide ranges, it still gave me an idea of what was reasonable. That's how I picked what I was going to charge.

BBR 245 | Learning To Make Connections

Learning To Make Connections: You need to have the skill of getting other people so excited about your work so that they would want to open up their platforms to you.

Was it just natural referrals that kept coming in or did you do anything to market your services?

After I got my first client who was a very inspirational person but for various reasons, it wasn't like a perfect fit, I didn't want to accept more clients. Sometimes when there're things in the business that are off, you turn business away because you're still figuring out, “Should I be restructuring my offerings or should I be targeting someone different?” That wasn't good. When people wanted to work with me because they saw my website and I had all these endorsements from Marie Forleo and Danielle LaPorte, I didn't want to accept clients. Around the same time, I decided I want to do a workshop at my home. It was called Elevate Your Brand. I charged $600 for two days. I used to be so terrified of public speaking. I'm not the most confident person on stage.

I used to be afraid to even introduce myself in a classroom for ten seconds when I was in business school, so it was crazy that I was going to be leading this two-day workshop. Sometimes my mind knows I can do it and I just go with that, versus like, “I'm feeling terrified,” this other part that's like, “You can't do that, Selena.” I did a workshop. I got seven people to show up. I made more than what I was making on retainer with a client for a month in a weekend. I thought, “I really enjoyed this kind of work, so let me do more of that.” Eventually, I hired a business coach who helped me structure and price my offerings, and start a combination of one-on-one and leverage services. It's great to have the combination. That's how I got started.

You still do things like that, but now you're in the online space and you are impacting millions. You have a program and that's been going for how long?

My program, this will be my third time running it. We open it once a year.

When you started the program three years ago, what led you to that? What was that shift that you decided to go into that one-to-many but from a distance leveraged format?

A part of it was I wanted to help more people. I was working with people in a mastermind format. There are about 10 people at the time. I know there are a lot of people that it did not make sense for them to be in a mastermind, they couldn't come to retreats, maybe it wasn't something that was the right business investment for them. I wanted to create a program where I will be sharing the same information I was helping my high level clients with.

How was that? How did that translate? Did you find it super simple to go from the live in-person interactions to the virtual interactions, or were there some bumps along the way?

It's always a challenge to put things into an online course and also just understand that there are people at different levels joining the program. When you have to put something in an online course, in some ways it forces you to make it better because you really have to create a very clear step-by-step system. I'm a perfectionist. I've taught the course live each year. At the end of the program, I will look at what questions came up during Q&A, what were the questions that were posted in the Facebook group, and see what gaps there are and think about how I can improve the program each year. It's easier when you're working with people one-on-one or in a group where it's more of a Q&A format, so it definitely was a lot of work, but I also got people to support me with that.

Each year then is getting more and more robust. I also got a sneak peek behind the scenes. We talked a bit about podcast guesting and you're making some modifications.

You gave me such great insights, with you being a podcast host yourself. The interesting thing is it's different depending on what media outlet you're targeting. If you're pitching a magazine that's going to feature an article, that's very different than getting a podcast host to say yes. I love being able to share all those nuances with people.

I love that you seek out people so you have an amazing little black book of people who are in decision-making situations and who are journalists in all these different mediums, and you bring them into your program as well. You're getting the latest, hottest information that's relevant to share with your students, not that you can go back to over and over without updating, but digital recordings that you can use again and again, you're actually updating and also teaching live so that there is that audience interaction. Tell me about what has been the biggest boost for your business since you started? When I say boost, I mean the shift. How many years have you been in business now?

I've been in business for five and a half years.

In that time, what have been the key pivot points where you're like, “I've got this under control. Now, it's time to grow.”

For me, the biggest thing has always been the types of clients that I attract. There's this saying that the success of your business depends on how you select your clients. For me, as someone who works in the world of PR and relationship building, I'm known for the results that my clients get. I've had situations where I held on to certain people for too long, especially people on the publicity field. We see someone's potential, we get excited about their message, and then later after we’ve already fallen in love with them, we realize this is not a fit for a variety of reasons, whether it's a personality thing or willingness to do the work. I have been really lucky to attract great clients. A part of it is because I got in publicity because early on I was in Forbes and Fast Company and had those media logos and did really big guest posts that attracted thousands of people.

I also had endorsements from some of the key influencers in my industry like Marie Forleo and Danielle LaPorte, so that attracted people in their world. When I attracted high-quality people together, we got these amazing results. That really is the number one thing. Then some of those clients ended up supporting me by referring people in their community to join my programs. Definitely the relationships piece and the clients I've had the chance to work with are the number one thing for me.

For this episode, I’m actually sponsoring it myself. With that, I want to share with you about my one-day business breakthrough intensive. Let’s face it, no matter what stage of business that we’re at, there are always areas that could use a little bit of outside perspective. Without which, they hold us back from our goals. That’s why the most successful people in the world have people that they turn to in order to optimize their resources and get unstuck fast.I’m Nicole Holland, host of The Business Building Rockstars Show. This is one of the things I love doing for clients is helping them get really clear on the underlying issue that is manifesting all kinds of funky stuff in their life so that they can get more productive, more profitable and more joyful as quickly as possible so they don’t have to spend time trying to figure it all out. I have a unique way of honing in really fast on what’s going on, and spitting out a complete road map, step by step to get out of that sticky stuff. That gum that’s just holding them back. Whether it’s processes or lead generation or conversion or any number of things, that is one of my innate gifts and how I serve my clients at my highest and best.

If you would like more information about the one-day breakthrough, visit BBRShow.com/ODB. If you decide to join us, you can use coupon code BBRShow to take a whole $100 off of the tuition. Again, that URL to get all the details about my one-day business breakthrough intensive can be found at BBRShow.com/ODB.

[Tweet "Pricing is one of those really tricky things to figure out, especially when you're a brand new business owner. @SelenaSoo @NiczTheName "]

As far as you getting on Fast Company and you getting all of the As Seen Ons, how did you go about doing that? Was there a method to your madness or is that how you learned what to do and what not to do that you teach your clients?

I had already been helping people with publicity before that. For a while, I wasn't actively pursuing a lot of publicity for myself. My focus was getting my clients in the media, but because I was interacting with the media so much, they would be like, “What about you Selena? Can we talk about you? I find your story interesting.” I was fortunate to have people coming to me but only because I had been doing so much pitching on behalf of other people.

What's your favorite platform? What are your favorite types of publicity to get for yourself?

Podcast interviews are the best. With podcast interviews, you can reach a very niched audience and the people that listen to the entrepreneur podcasts are my people. There are other forms of media where you have to adapt your message because there's a different audience and speak more mainstream, but I love talking about my favorite topics which are publicity and networking because I'm just so passionate about helping people with it. Podcasts are fine and the fact that we get to talk in-depth is cool, too.

Let's talk a little bit about networking because you've talked about relationships. I'm curious about your stand. For me as an introvert, if I go to networking events, if I don’t see somebody I know or feel comfortable with already, or if people recognize me and they come talk to me, I'm like, “Alright, we're good.” If I'm there and even if I know who people are, if I don't think they knew who I am or we haven't had any interaction, I hesitate to put myself forward. It's something I've been working on for years and I'm continuing to. I'm getting better and better every day. At time of recording, I get to test this because I'm going to a big event that's freaking me out. What are your strategies and tactics for getting into networking environments and making them work for you?

The first thing is just redefining what networking means to you. A lot of people think of networking as someone passing out their business cards like it's a frisbee, and that's not really what it's about. It's about forming meaningful connections. When I go to a networking event, I just think that if I just form a meaningful connection with one or two people, that's time really well spent. The other thing is when the word networking comes to mind for me, I think about it's me spending time and helping people that I care about. That's my personal definition. That's how I network. It’s just meeting people that are interesting and forming these meaningful relationships that add value. That's the first thing. A lot of times we go into these events and we're already bracing ourselves, “I'm not going to like it,” and that kind of thing, but if you're like, “I'm excited to go there and meet a couple of people and be a helpful person,” that changes your mindset 180 degrees.

I like that be a helpful person because for me, when I go to events, especially ones like this one coming up where there's a lot of influencers that I do know who they are and they are people who inspire me and who I'm like, “Yes, I'd love to meet them and hang out,” but still some little part comes out and shrinks. I don't know, I shrink in those situations, so I love that reframe that you shared. Thank you.

I'll also share one of my favorite sayings, which is “the moment you put someone on a pedestal is the moment they start looking down on you.” It doesn't mean that we can't admire people or look up to them, but a lot of times we'll approach people and think, “They are such a big deal and I have nothing to offer.” When you have that self-concept as you’re going into a relationship, it creates this weird energetic dynamic. The fastest way to level the playing field is to be that helpful person to add value. One of the reasons why I haven't been afraid to approach big influencers is because I don't think I'm looking to take anything from them. I know that if I'm going to be interacting with them, I'm going to just be looking to be helpful to them in some way. I'm connecting because I admire them, I want to support them. It sounds a bit weird, but knowing that in a way that it's in their best interest to get to know me because I'm not looking to take anything away. That helps take the pressure off.

Selena, let's talk a little bit about the launch because I'm supporting your launch. In fact, in my business as we talk about different shifts and ways that we run our business, I'm actually getting away from the online one-to-many virtual space. Not to say that I'm not in there at all, I am, but I'm not looking at running programs. I am super excited because many of my people in my community, both listeners and also email subscribers, just people who've been in my world for a few years now, they look to me for learning about how to make connections and how to get yourself the yes from the host and stuff like that.

I'm really honored and excited to be collaborating with you in that I am pointing people now to what you do because I can't see why not, like it's the best. I am so inspired and appreciative of that constant work you're putting into it and the constant updates. You're on the leading edge and you're actually taking questions from your people and creating content around that, and you're bringing in producers and journalists and the people who are making decisions. With all of that, can we talk a little bit about what your program entails in terms of how you are delivering value to people outside of that private group of ten but in this program?

I can talk about what we teach in the program. The first thing is creating a media strategy. Sometimes people will say things like, “I wrote an article for the Huffington Post or I was mentioned in this interview and my business didn't blow up. Does that mean publicity doesn't work for me?” It's like when you're having a launch and you're saying, “I sent one email, but sales didn’t blow up.” There's a whole process. You want to consistently get out there in order to be known. You want to tie the publicity back to your business. If you're looking to get high-end clients, maybe you're selling $5,000 coaching package, podcasts are a really great way to get in front of niche audiences who are investing their time into learning, who are more likely to sign up for your coaching program. Whereas if you have a book coming out that is $19 versus $5,000, then mass media like magazines and TV are really great. In fact, when you get those opportunities, that can help you get a bigger book deal and reach many more people. I want people to develop a clear strategy so that the publicity that they pursue is worthwhile, and also that they’re leveraging in the right way. Then we talk about how to make yourself attractive to the media so when they learn about you, they're drawn to you and, “Of course I want to feature this person. The story resonates so deeply. I love that she's an expert in X, Y, and Z.”

Then we talk about the different types of publicities. We have a different module on each because getting on a podcast is actually very different than getting on TV even though you're talking. A podcast interview may be an hour long, your TV interview maybe 90 seconds, so you need to prepare for it differently. There are different things to do to leverage the opportunity. You go into each piece of publicity in depth. I also know that people learn in different ways. I pull a lot of the best ideas and teaching points from the course. I put them in the Facebook group for us to engage in conversation around it.

BBR 245 | Learning To Make Connections

Learning To Make Connections: The moment you put someone on a pedestal is the moment they start looking down on you.

Also throughout the year, after the 90 days of live training, I bring in a different media expert, maybe it's one from the Today Show or someone who writes for Entrepreneur or Oprah Magazine, and they can help me brainstorm story ideas and also give you feedback on your pitches. I know when I share this, some people think, “There's going to be so many people and I don't know how I'll have a chance,” but honestly as the program progresses, I'm having to personally reach out to people and say “We've got someone who used to produce for the Today Show, do you want to get their help?” There is a lot of opportunity, and sometimes with publicity, even though it is so important to build that buzz around our brand and get people excited, we can get distracted in the day to day tasks of our business. It is helpful to have that community of people that are cheering you on and pursuing the same big goals as you are.

I love that you have that interaction. When you bring those extra people, these outside voices in, it's not just a one-way information session, but it's an interactive opportunity for every person to get heard. A lot of times in programs that I've been a part of or that I've observed or that I've run, it's 10% of the people actually take advantage of the great opportunity to be one on one with the person facilitating or the expert coming in, whereas many people don't ask the questions. My students that ask those questions are the ones who are getting the absolute best value. It's not for everybody, some people just want to sit back and listen, but it is such an amazing opportunity. I've listened to some of the recordings of your sessions and I know that you go long and you let people get customized feedback for their unique situations. It's amazing what you're doing and I'm super excited to support it.

One of the reasons why I do it live is I find that when I show up, other people show up. For our very first class, we had 70% attendance rate, which blew my mind because there are people joining us from all around the world, maybe the course is at a weird hour based on their time zone. The more value we have upfront, the more people consume and get results from the program.

The course isn't open yet. You only open it once a year, but we are coming up to a little video series that you've put together. Do you want to talk about that?

Absolutely. I put together a three-part video series for people to get to know me and to be introduced with publicity and to see how they can use it in their business. It's a mini course. One thing that's really cool is when you enter your name and email to get the videos, after the third video, you'll have an opportunity to answer a few questions about the video series, which are very straight forward, so I know that you've watched it, and you could enter to win a trip to New York City. All expenses paid, you get to hang out with me, I'll mentor you in the area of publicity, and then we'll also go to a really fun influencer dinner party together where you'll get to meet people in the media.

The series is free and if people watched that series and they actually get value from it and they let you know that, then they have a chance to win that.

Yeah. One person will be the lucky winner.

I know how much value I got from hanging out with you over dinner, so I can only imagine what it's going to be like for the person who wins this to spend that much time and also with all of those influencers. We've put together a special link, so if you go to BBRShow.com/Selena, it will take you right to that page so you can opt in to get your free video series and get lots of value and enter to win. Is there anything I have not asked you that you'd love to share with my audience?

I have a quick story to share with people because people think publicity is something that they should pursue down the road and there are a lot of fears that can come up. I can relate to that because I personally have struggled with being seen. I'm naturally shy. I'm an introvert. I love helping other people get their ideas out there which is why I do the work I do, but when I’ve had opportunities, sometimes I shy away from them. When I first started my business, a client told me that she found my work so transformative and she wants to share my ideas with her audience. She invited me to do a Skype interview and I remember thinking, “I'm not going to do that. That's so scary,” but then deep down, I was like, “You've got to do it, Selena, because this is a good growth opportunity for you.” We did this interview and I remember afterwards getting the recording back and I was watching it.

At the time, I was working on my public speaking because it's something I struggled with and I was using a lot of filler words. I had my interns count how many times I said um, you know so, and all that. We're watching the interview and I covered my face with my hands like I was watching a horror movie. I was like, “I have terrible eye contact, I'm not smiling.” My interns counted I had something like 137 filler words. I was just so horrified and I said to them, “This was a train wreck. There's no way I could ever share this with anyone.” One of my interns was like, “Honestly, I don't think it was that bad. You had a lot of really good things to say.” That was really powerful for me because it made me realize a couple of things.

[Tweet "We are our own worst critic. @SelenaSoo @NiczTheName "]

Number one is that we are our own worst critic. I went into that interview not saying like, “Let's see what I did right,” but rather, “Let's see all the ways that I messed up. Let's record it.” That's the same for all of us when we think, “I'm not ready to write that guest post, to be seen in the media, for that influencer to know who I am.” We're being so self-critical and it's holding us back. The other thing I realized pretty quickly was that I was only going get better over time. We look up to these incredible entrepreneurs and thought leaders who are speaking on big stages or doing publicity, and the thing is they've been doing this for ten or twenty years. On day one, it's unfair to put that pressure on yourself to be at the same level as them. I just realized I'm only going to get better over time.

The third thing is I need to ask myself different questions. It's not, “Was I perfect?” because that's my default. I'm looking for where I went wrong, where was it not perfect, but rather, “Was this helpful? Did I show up and put my all into this? Is this advice going to help someone improve their life in some way?” If I went there and showed up fully and gave and added value, then that is enough. Even now I can't help it. I'm still a bit critical. I notice things that could be better, but I'm able to take a step back and look at it and be like, “Was I helpful? Was I adding value? Did give it my all?” If the answer is yes, then that's a great interview and that's it. Moving on, I'm not going to stew over where I could've been better.

Thank you so much. Those are wise words to end on. I appreciate your time being with us and a welcome back anytime.

Thank you.

Resources mentioned:

About Selena Soo


BBR 245 | Learning To Make ConnectionsSelena Soo is a publicity and marketing strategist for visionary entrepreneurs, experts and authors who want to reach millions with their message.

She’s helped clients and students get featured in places like O, The Oprah Magazine, Forbes, and Inc., and land interviews on popular podcasts and national TV. Many of Selena's clients have become industry leaders with 7-figure businesses, raving fan bases, and hundreds of thousands of followers.

Her signature approach comes down to building powerful and long-lasting relationships with influencers and the media in a thoughtful, authentic way.

Thanks again to Tess Hansel for supporting the Business Building Rockstars Show!