Meet Elena Nunez Murdock
Elena Murdock is the founder of Ascend Communications, specializing in PR, strategic partnerships, & branding for startups, venture capital, and private equity groups. She managed a 350 million dollar brand, rebranded a 1.5 bil-dollar company in 6 weeks, developed GTM strategies for multi-million dollar tech products, & creates branding strategies for CEOs. Elena is giving a talk at the Stanford Business School titled, "Leveraging Your Brand as a Young Executive." Networking is her superpower.
What are some tips that you can share with someone that actually hates networking?
My two top tips are, number one, research the event beforehand and the event you go to, now virtual, and just see who's going to be going and then message them on LinkedIn. If you don't have LinkedIn, definitely get a LinkedIn and start messaging them so you have at least five to ten people that you already know before going. Then secondly, I would also go with a friend. So it's just you. If you still feel uncomfortable going, find a friend to go with you, and then bring them along. And that way you'll have at least somebody to lean on for support.
How do you avoid or get out of any sort of awkward or uncomfortable conversations that someone might be in a networking event?
So the really great thing about networking events is that they always have food at them. I know this might not be a standard “get out of jail” free card, but I always get a little bite of something to eat, but don't fill up your plate because then you can always be like, oh, I have to go throw this away. Greet someone and then excuse yourself to go throw your plate in the trash. Then go and fill up a plate, but if you fill up your plate, you're kind of stuck there and you're just awkwardly nibbling on the plate. So just always have a little bit around and just kind of circle the room. And for me, that's always worked.
Let's talk about social clubs a little bit. What are social clubs and why are they important?
One of the things I talked about when I was at Stanford is the importance of social clubs. And it's a little bit hard, especially during this time to go out and socialize. But hopefully when the world gets back to normal, I really advocate for people becoming a part of social clubs. A social club is basically a community that you pay a membership fee to go to and there's three tiers. Tier three being the lowest and what I would see as like the Soho house, if you've ever heard of the Soho house, they have them in select cities all around the world. And it's more for the creative types or if you're in communications or marketing, it's a great place to go and meet other creatives, directors, actors. Tier two social club would be a golf club. They're like mid-tier professionals and all the directors. You can find very senior executives there as well. And it's more formalized as there is a dress code. Then level one would be something especially in Los Angeles on the west coast called the Jonathan Club. There's also the California club. In New York, for example, there's a University called the New York and similar clubs like that. And those memberships are typically upwards of $60,000 a year or more. I would highly recommend if you're a senior level executive that can afford that kind of membership to do that.
Can you share with our listeners, one of your most successful or favorite networking experiences that you've had?
So one of my favorite ones is something that happened to me last year. I had heard through the grapevine of a community that I'm involved with that this billionaire who has this company at the time was worth 1.5 billion, that he was looking for somebody with the exact services that I do. So I specialized not only in PR but on LinkedIn getting clients trending on LinkedIn and the topics and also in the news section. And I had heard through maybe a 10th degree connection, like in passing, this guy was looking for somebody like me, and I was like, I have no idea how I'm gonna get in contact with this guy. It turned out that my friend knew him personally, and had known him for over 10 years and made a direct email intro pretty much the next day. And then, because of that email intro, I had a phone call with him, which I was super pumped about. It was an amazing call and he ended up becoming a client. And he was the company, the $1.5 billion company that I ended up rebranding in under six weeks.
So how do you stay in front of our best nurture your network and community?
One thing I do is after meeting someone, I will write a handwritten note which is pretty common not overly done but I got this custom wax seal which has like two initials for E&M. And then I have like the wax kit, and then hand stamp it and if I can also hand deliver it to the office or to the person. That's something that people have really noticed but that's something that I love to do.
What advice would you offer the business professional who is looking to grow their network?
I would say that I would always find a way to serve other people. If you're just getting started in networking, or if you're coming out of college, or you're just in general trying to expand, I would say, always try to find a way to serve the other person. I've seen that too many people, when they go to networking events, just take and take and take. It's all about them. It's all about how they can grow their network. If you have no idea how to serve someone, guaranteed, you can find some way whether it's offering them a freebie, or something that you can offer that's not going to sell your whole business for free, but something that will help them just like a little bit. That's how ultimately they're going to come back to you and see you as somebody who's serving them.
Traditional networking or digital networking, which one do you find more value in?
I personally love traditional networking 100%. I love connecting with people in person and hearing their stories and there's ultimately no other way to substitute for the energy and passion that you have when meeting somebody in person. Now it's connecting to 10 to 15 people a week via phone, which is not as optimal but you know, we do what we can with what we're given and with the time given to us. But again, traditional networking 100%.
If you could go back to your 20-year-old self, what would you tell yourself to do more of, less of, or differently with regards to your professional career?
I definitely would have been more intentional with my relationships. I think as a 20-year old in general, you don't really know what you're doing in college. But I would have kept in touch with the professionals where I did my summer internships. Just being overall intentional with my relationships and less so with forgetting about them in a sense because when you're 20 you take these classes and then go on, but if I had kept in touch having those networks open to me would have been beneficial as I was getting my MBA.
So we've all heard of the six degrees of separation, who would be the one person that you'd love to connect with? And do you think you could do it within the six degree?
So one of my top line goals for the next two years is to be the youngest woman in America to be named to a board of a publicly traded company. Currently, the youngest woman is 32 and I'm about to turn 30 later this year. So one of my goals was to find a mentor who could help me navigate that journey. So I ended up being at an event that one of the top hedge fund managers in New York City was at. And I knew somebody at about three degrees of separation who knew him. He was hosting a private event and I snuck in through the back actually literally stuck into the back to meet him. One of my friends was at the event who was able to introduce me, and I had been following his career. So I asked him would you be willing to mentor me? This is my goal. And he was stunned. But he actually said yes I'll be your mentor. He gave me his card. And that was a pretty incredible moment for me.
Any final words or advice for our listeners with regards to growing and supporting your network?
Just to find a way to be of service to your network. One thing that I would just keep in mind is keep in mind the top line goal. So just keeping abreast of like, who does what and like, what they're interested in and who they serve. So then if you have an opportunity to send them something that you know you can do at little or no cost to yourself. That's it. Spreading more kindness and serving others ultimately, and then, you know, hopefully they can do the same for you later.
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Bonus Available: https://www.ascend-npcommunications.com/gsb-bonus