Christian Harris

How Personal Branding can Enhance your Safety Career

Mary Conquest talks to Christian Harris, who helps Safety Professionals understand the importance of personal branding to improve their status and deliver better Workplace Safety outcomes. Full of great tips to help you leverage social media and boost your online presence, this is essential listening for modern HSE professionals looking to raise their profile.

In This Episode

In this episode, Mary Conquest speaks with Christian Harris, the founder of Slips Safety Services, who also hosts the Safety Roundtable and the Safety and Risk Success podcast. Christian, a social media communications expert, joins us today to offer EHS professionals practical guidance to strengthen your online presence.

Christian begins this insightful conversation by sharing his life-changing personal journey into Safety before explaining the concept of personal branding and why it’s so valuable for modern HSE professionals.

He provides a comprehensive guide to developing your personal brand and discusses the dos and don’ts of leveraging social media.

Packed with actionable advice such as being prolific rather than perfect, which channels to focus on, and the importance of developing a unique style, Christian also shares his fascinating views on the future of safety branding…


- [Mary] Hi there. Welcome to "Safety Labs by Slice." In the past 20 or 30 years, the concept of branding has become widespread. Companies sponsor events, they develop a recognizable voice, and they maintain consistent visual representation, so logos, fonts, colors, that sort of thing. The idea of personal branding, that is branding yourself as an individual, is newer.

And depending on which circles you run in, the idea of a personal brand is either championed or ridiculed. It's also a topic that doesn't get discussed in the context of safety very often. Whether you think personal branding is crucial for a safety professional's career, or if you think it's silly and it's not worth discussing, I hope that today's guest will give you some new ways to think about it.

Christian Harris is the founder of Slip Safety Services, which specializes in preventing the most common injuries and claims in public places, slips and falls. As a safety professional, he's also active on social media and drives safety discussion and community. He hosts the Safety Roundtable, a weekly interactive roundtable discussion, and the "Safety and Risk Success" podcast.

Christian teaches and speaks about social media communications, how and why to strengthen your online presence. He joins us from London. Welcome.

- [Christian] Thanks, Mary, and thank you for the lovely introduction. I couldn't have written it better myself.

- You're welcome. So before we get into the meat of the topic, because this is interesting, you have a personal story about how you got passionate about safety, and I'm hoping that you could share that with the audience.

- I would love to do that. I'm just going to make one quick note before that, which is you able to produce a very eloquent introduction and talk all about me without us ever having gone through it at all because I've got a good personal brand. So there's a good lesson there for everybody. Yeah. So I got involved in safety due to something that happened to me, and it was about 11, 12 years ago now.

It was 11 years ago. It was the summer of 2012 when, if you remember, we had the Olympics in London. And I lived in London then, just as I do now. Actually, I lived relatively close to the Olympic Park. I used to jog along the canal in about 20 minutes to get to the outskirts of the Olympic Park.

And it was a really fantastic time to be in London because, you know, we'd had the global financial crisis and lots of economic challenges, and it just felt as if the Olympics was bringing everyone together. So there was a real excitement in the air, and everybody was looking forward to the Olympic games. Anyway, so in middle of May, my girlfriend at the time, who's now my wife, and I, this was before kids, so we had a relatively relaxing weekend, unlike nowadays.

We had a bit of a rain on a Sunday morning, and we decided to go to this place called Columbia Road Flower Markets, which sells flowers, but you can get sort of lunch and so on and so forth. And had a stroll around and had a lovely time. And on the way back, we popped into supermarket to go and get a paper and some groceries.

And we were driving, so we parked our car in the car park, which is at the back of this store. And this store was a bit strange because it didn't have direct access from the car park to the store. You had to kind of walk out onto the road and around and through into the front door. And so I remember parking the car, locking the car up, walking up to the barrier of the car park and going through there to walk onto the road.

And then that's the last thing that I remember for about 4, 5, 6 hours, or something like that. And what had happened was after I turned the corner and started walking down the pavement, or the sidewalk for anyone in North America, a car had come around the corner too fast, had lost control, sort of mounted the curb, swerved from side to side, mounted the curb, and basically ran me over.

So, not the best way to spend a Sunday afternoon. So, my wife luckily was standing to my right, so she was unharmed. And it was about 50 yards away from a bus stop, and it was kind of middle of the afternoon on a Sunday. So it was a miracle, really, that no one else was hurt. But anyway, so I basically suffered lots and lots of injuries on my left-hand side.

So, a broken wrist, a broken collarbone, broken ankle, cuts, bruises, scrapes, scars, exhilarated wear damage to my neck, and various other things. Still to this day, I don't remember the accident at all. I've got a total mental blackout of the whole thing. I think that's kind of some sort of psychological defense mechanism, or something like that. But, you know, when something like that happens to you, you certainly start to take safety pretty seriously, and it becomes quite personal to you.

And once you've had that kind of unexpected, but very serious, thankfully not as serious as it could have been, incident happens to you, then, you know, it does give you that purpose to try to prevent that sort of thing from happening to other people. And many people ask me, you know, why did I not go into road safety? Well, if you look at the data for road safety, it's kind of a constant decline in improvement over the years.

Whereas if you look at safety data more broadly and you start to analyze causes of accidents, injuries, and claims, you see slips, trips, and falls, but within that, slips being the vast, vast majority, flatlining. So, it's not only the biggest issue, but it's also been a flatlining issue that therefore people haven't been able to solve.

So to me, you know, if you're going to work in this area, why not try and focus on this very large, very impactful, untapped, unsolved issue? And so that's kind of how I got involved in safety and why I decided to work in this particular little niche of safety as well.

- Interesting. Well, I'm sorry that happened. I'm glad that something good has come of it, it seems, you know?

- I always say I was very unlucky that it happened, but very lucky it wasn't worse. And I think, you know, that's the attitude you have to have about these sorts of things.

- Yeah, for sure. So, let's start with the idea of personal branding. When I say that, what does that term mean to you?

- I think to me it means what somebody would say about you if you weren't in the room with them. So, I think your brand is kind of, yeah, how you come across to people and what people would perceive you as standing for and behaving like, and standing for, and acting for, and supporting and, you know, all of that cool stuff on a positive sense.

And obviously, it could be a negative thing as well. So, it's something that stands alone and can support you in your efforts when you're not there.

- Interesting. So then in that frame, it's always existed, right? It's existed before the concept of branding or before, you know, that sort of commercial view of it.

- Exactly. Yeah. So, everyone's always had a personal brand, but it just wasn't something that people, I guess, spoke about or realized the impact and value of when it came to building your career, or building a business, or trying to influence people, or trying to sort of stand for a cause and make change happen.

- Okay. So I want to get to something I alluded to in the introduction, which is that some people think the idea of personal branding is silly, or frivolous is what I was thinking. So, what's your take on the importance of personal branding? And in other words, what would you say to those people, and specifically, why should safety professionals care?

- So, I wouldn't disagree with them in that I think people who seek to build a personal brand to be an "influencer," to me that is frivolous and that is silly, and it doesn't stand for anything, and there's no meaning to it.

And therefore, why would you do it? And that does strike me as a little bit strange, A, and B, I guess that doesn't resonate with me. That kind of wanting to be famous doesn't resonate with me. So, therefore, you know, it doesn't compute in my brain. But what I would say is that the way I approach this, and I encourage others to approach this, and I think this is particularly relevant to safety professionals, is that you want to think of it that you are not standing in the spotlight, but you are shining the spotlight.

So, you are almost like the lighthouse, for want of a better term. So, you are not building up your personal brand so that it's shouting out, "Me, me, me." You are building it up so that you have the credibility and the influence and the brand from the perspective of being known, liked, and trusted, hopefully, to talk about this, this, this, in other words, to talk about your issue.

So that could be, you know, in my world talking about slips and falls. It could be you're safety professional in a business and you're talking about, you know, operational risk, or you're talking about a particular campaign you've got, or whatever it might be. But I think the personal brand helps you to get that message across more clearly, more powerfully, and with greater resonance.

- I think that you kind of got right at the core of the difference there. It's the difference between look at me and look at this, this being an idea or whatever it is that you're trying to...your expertise, right?

- Yeah.

- What is the role of knowing thyself when you're trying to develop a personal brand? Or as I'm asking this, I'm wondering, do you you develop a personal brand, or how do you go about that?

- I think you can develop your personal brand because you can obviously, like with anything in life, improve the way you do things or amend/change the way you do things. So, you know, if you take me for example, people probably think I'm very confident, I'm very outgoing.

Actually, I'm quite introverted, but I've sort of forced myself to be comfortable in this kind of setting or to be comfortable up on stage because I've done it again and again and again and again, and now it comes kind of a second nature. And so I've actually worked on my personal development, and that has driven my personal brand, and that has helped me to be able to influence more people and achieve greater things, and so on and so forth.

So I think you can work on it, and therefore, I think, it's important that you understand where your strengths and weaknesses are. And I'm a firm believer of playing up on your strengths and sort of trying to downplay your weaknesses rather than trying to, you know, really work on your weaknesses, in this regard, anyway, because I think we've all got it in us to be able to influence people, but we might do it in a slightly different way.

And so whatever way is going to work best for you, then really try and do it that way to start with. But of course, if you can become more rounded over time, then that will be helpful. And there are going to be certain key skill sets that are going to be very beneficial. So, being able to come on a podcast or stand on a stage and do some public speaking, or record a video to post on social media, or share on your Slack work channel or whatever it is that you use to communicate with your team, you know, getting video out there because that's the kind of preeminent sort of alpha, if you were, of content type.

So that one skill would be beneficial in working out. But I think, you know, whatever your style is, play upon that and go hard on that to try and get that working for you as well as you can.

- So is a personal brand you see it as someone sitting down and thinking consciously, I'm going to develop my personal brand, or do you see it more as someone developing other things like skills, self-knowledge, expertise, that sort of thing, and personal brand is then something that follows from that?

- That's a good question. And I think it could happen either way. Again, I think that there are people who will go out there with the intention of building a personal brand. And then I think there are those people who will, through happenstance and through hard work and perseverance, get to a point where they've achieved a certain level of notoriety and they kind of have a personal brand of some kind because they've achieved something of note.

And then it's a case of, do you want to capitalize on that and do something with it or not? And obviously, either choice is fine. But as you said earlier, I think you would still have a personal brand because people would still be talking about you when you weren't in the room, if you use my definition of what a personal brand is. So to me, why would you not try to make the most of that and make that as positive as it could be?

And I think that one of the key driving forces for this is that we have to remember that we're dealing with people here. Particularly in safety, you know, we're dealing with people. We often get caught up in this data and statistics and things like that. But actually, anything that happens to know, what happened to me, it's a personal story that's happening to a human being.

And people resonate with people. So, if you look at, for example, I'll give you two examples, Richard Branson, who is, you know, a very well-known entrepreneur. If you look at his social media following, and you look at the following of Virgin, his brand that he's built for 40 years, his own personal social media following dwarfs that of Virgin.

Another example where you've got another CEO and another iconic brand is Tim Cook of Apple. Now, Tim Cook and Richard Branson are like chalk and cheese. Tim Cook is quite introverted. He doesn't put himself out there, he's not very bombastic, whereas Branson is the opposite. But actually, look at the data, it's still exactly the same. It's something like 7 or 10 times more followers for Tim Cook who never tweets and never does anything.

I don't even know if it's called a tweet anymore, but you know what I mean, an X, a post I think it's called, isn't it, versus Apple. You know, Apple spends a lot of advertising dollars, probably hundreds of millions, billions, maybe, a year of advertising dollars on their brand and their following is minuscule in comparison. So, if you remember that principle that we connect better with people and, you know, we know, like, and trust people more than brands, then again, that's a driver for why it's important to, in my opinion, sort of cultivate as best you can, your personal brand so that it works as best as it can for you.

- It's almost like personality, right? Humans have personalities, corporations don't, and so they have to kind of build them and create them. They have to be quite a lot more conscious about it. I'd like to get more specific about tactics now and talk about social media. What kinds of goals do you think a social media presence could help an individual achieve?

- So, if we're thinking about safety professionals specifically, because that's going to be the main audience of this, I think I would say there are two or three key goals that a personal brand on social media could help them to achieve. Firstly, I think it's going to help you to develop your career because if you are putting yourself out there, demonstrating your capabilities and your achievements, building a network of other safety professionals and other business professionals as well, that's going to put you across in the best possible light so that if somebody's going to be looking at you from the perspective of, should we hire this person or someone else, you know, you are going to come across very, very well in my opinion.

So, I think building your career is one definite advantage of developing a personal brand as a safety professional. I think building your knowledge and expertise is another one. Because again, if you are engaging, if you are putting your own opinions out there, if you are willing to listen and discuss and debate with other people, you are going to find that doors open to you around knowledge that you didn't have before and you're going to get invited into discussions that you weren't involved in before.

And that's going to develop you and your key skills, both soft skills, but also the more technical side of safety skills as well. And I think thirdly, it's going to help you internally in your own business as well, because the act of building your personal brand, the act of intentionally developing your soft skills will help to deliver better outcomes for you in your day-to-day safety role as well because you will be able to engage with your colleagues or your other key stakeholders better.

You will be able to influence those people more effectively and more efficiently to achieve the kind of safety outcomes that you want. You'll be able to sell and inverted comma safety to the born or to your insurance company. So you might be able to get, you know, some funding for your insurance company for a project you want to work on.

There's all sorts of things that you can achieve by working on your personal brand, your communication skills, your influencing skills. So certainly highly recommend it.

- Yeah, I think you pointed out something that, to be completely honest, I hadn't really thought of explicitly, which is that we say social media and I think a lot of us, I anyway sort of think of saying things, putting things out there, my thoughts, my ideas, that sort of thing. But you've just pointed out it's not just that, there's listening involved. It's not just talking, there's listening.

So yeah, I think it's important to remember that it's not as though you're just standing up on a pedestal and making a speech. It's more like you're walking through the marketplace and having discussions.

- Yeah. And I think if you, I mean, look, we have two ears and one mouth, right? So use them in that ratio. But I think if you are broadcasting, then that annoys people and that puts people off. And that wouldn't achieve the objective that you want to achieve. So, you do need to be having those two-way conversations.

But, you know, social media, LinkedIn is my preferred sort of platform. I do most of my stuff on LinkedIn. You know, it's full of tens of thousands of safety professionals. And so you have a great opportunity to put your opinions out there, but also digest and engage with other people's opinions.

And that's why when I do events, I don't tend to do I'm lecturing at you webinar type things, I do interactive sessions because actually, you know, to me, it's the act of interacting and talking among each other and sharing opinions that can have the biggest effect on people.

Because you can give a bit of your view, take something from someone else, hear a story, hear an anecdote, how can that apply to me? And that's interesting, go ahead and think about that. You know, that's a much better way of learning and developing your skills, in my opinion, anyway, than just sitting there listening to a lecture. So, if you are just broadcasting, I think you're doing it wrong. You do need to be putting your opinions out there because that's how you, you know, people want to see you've got an opinion on something, particularly if you are trying to sort of niche down and stand for a particular cause, you've got to have an opinion on that.

And you're never going to make everyone happy. So, there'll always be people that disagree with you, and there'll be people that agree with you, but that's also good. It's quite fun to be disruptive, to be fair as well. But it's about that active listening and that empathy that really comes through. And again, if you think about it from the perspective of what do you want somebody to be saying about you when you're not in the room, you wouldn't want them to be saying, he's a broadcaster or she's a broadcaster.

You'd rather be saying, you know, they've got good empathy, they're a good listener, they really understand. They take the trouble to understand what's know, that's what you want, really. So think in a rounded way. It's a two-way street and you need to achieve that kind of well-rounded outcome.

- Let's talk about the idea of influencer. You touched on this before. I think there's different ways you can look at it. How would you define an influencer, maybe as opposed to, or as it relates to influencing? Does that make sense?

- Yeah. So, influencing is, in my opinion, bending reality to take a different path. So, if I do a talk and someone's in the audience and they have a preconceived notion about whatever the topic is that I'm going to talk about, and if I'm good at influencing, throughout that talk of 30 minutes or whatever, I can get that person to think differently and sort of bend the reality of the way they think about the world.

And the really key thing is not just to make them think differently, but it's to make them act on it and do something afterwards as well. So that to me is influencing, so it's all about changing the way that people act fundamentally. Being an influencer I think does have a slightly negative connotation. But actually, to me, there is a positive side of this too.

You know, I would hope that I would be considered an influencer of some kind in the world of safety and specifically around slip and fall safety, because that's kind of where my passion is and where I spend a lot of my time trying to influence people. So, if I'm not an influencer in some way, then I'm sort of failing. But I think that there's this notion of like being an influencer, and I think that is obviously something very different, that is not actually trying to change the way people act for good reasons or for positive outcome.

It's about doing that from a monetization perspective and a commercial angle in my opinion. And so you have to tread that line because, you know, fundamentally, I've got a business and I need to make a profit because that's why I'm in business. So, of course, there is that side to it. But that's where I think if you can be, again, shining a spotlight on an issue and a cause and people can see that you are genuinely interested in that cause more, you know, you're not just in this to make money, then you can tread that line and achieve the right outcome of influencing, being an influencer of some kind, but not being that sort of brash in your face go and buy this product sort of influencer.

- It sounds to me like authenticity is really what's the differentiating factor there, right? I'm sure that influencers in the sort of way that we think about them, they don't care really if you buy this brand or that brand. They just want to get more brand deals...

- As long as they get paid. Yeah. I mean, interested to know, you know, from your perspective, you know, would you say there are influencers in...?

- That's funny, I have that exact question to ask you. I would definitely say that there are. Just looking at our LinkedIn profile, you know, or the profiles of people who engage. Some people generate a lot of comments, some people just generate a lot of engagement. And that sounds maybe, I don't know, mercenary or something, but actual engagement, I'm not talking about it as a metric of likes or followers per se.

- Generate discussions like we were talking about. There's a two-way conversation going because if's kind of like who would you invite to a dinner party, isn't it? You know, that classic question of if you could invite six people to a dinner party. You're going to invite people who you think you could have an interesting discussion with. And therefore, those, I suppose, are influencers.

I do think that I always slightly disappointed about the number of people that try to do this in the world of safety. So, a challenge that I would put out there to people is get involved more, put your opinions out there more, try and influence more people, stand for something, and shout about it. I do think that we need more of...we don't want to turn into double glazing salesman, definitely not, but I do think there are lots more discussions we could have if we take that attitude of two-way communication and engaging and commenting.

But also, you know, you've got to put yourself out there to start with. So I would throw that out as a challenge to people to try and get more involved.

- And I would add to that in a respectful way where you are actually listening, because there are, unfortunately, people who are quite negative about other people's perspectives. And you know, you may not agree, but there's rarely a reason to get personal. And we do see that.

- Well, especially when you start thinking about, you know, safety II and safety differently.

- Yeah. Exactly. There are people who strongly...

- People have strong opinions. And unfortunately, we do live in a polarized world where's good when people stand for stuff, but you've still got to have that empathy and you've still got to be able to listen because it's very rare that anybody is 100% right about any given topic. So, if you stand there with your blinkers on and think that it's my way or the highway, you're definitely in the wrong space.

And I think people in safety know that, because we know there are nuances to everything, we know very little is black and white. So it does surprise me slightly that there are such strong opinions about those things. And I sort of try to not get too involved in that kind of stuff if I can help it.

- I wonder sometimes, too, if just the fact that of writing a short message or a comment on social media is devoid of tone, you know, some people are more skilled than others at expressing their meaning in writing, and one phrase could be read in several different ways and mean several different things.

So, I think sometimes there's a loss there.

- Fully agree with you there. I mean, I've had plenty of times where either I've written a comment on someone else's post or someone's comment on one of my posts, and I've sort of thought, oh, that's a bit aggressive, or that's a bit passive aggressive, or whatever. And then you sort of take a step back and you think, oh, you know, perhaps there's a bit of context here and, you know, either they haven't quite put it across in the right way, or perhaps I'm reading a little bit too much into it.

So that is one of the challenges. And you've got to take some care about that, but equally, I would always advise people that you're better to be... There's a guy I love called Daniel Priestley, and he talks about personal branding. And he's got a book called "Becoming a Key Person of Influence," which I'd recommend people read if they're interested in the concept of building a personal brand.

And he talks about being prolific, not perfect. So, in other words, don't sort of sit there and craft the very best response to someone else's post and take 45 minutes to write this very long paragraph comment and move on and comment on something else and comment on something else. Or if you're going to write a blog or your own post, you know, just get it out there. It doesn't have to be perfect, it just needs to be good.

But better to put stuff out there prolifically because as much as it'll be great as somebody who takes time and care and attention in crafting stuff that I put out there into the world to think that somebody could see one piece of content that I produce and it changes their worldview forever, the reality is that isn't the case.

It takes that kind of consistent viewing of things to really influence somebody to change.

- Yeah. The more you put out there, the larger the data pool that people have to understand you by, I guess.

- And there's science behind that as well there. Google did some research, and there's a guy called Robin Dunbar, who did some research. And if you put those two things together, there's a little sort of 7-11-4 notion, which is that it takes about 7 hours of interaction of face time, I suppose, with somebody before you feel as if you know, like, and trust them. So, you've got to have've got to clock up your hours with people.

That's best done across 11 different interactions. So, in other words, sitting down on a flight from let's say Chicago to London for 7 hours, you clock up your 7 hours, but you don't feel you know that person as well as if you'd had 7 one-hour meetings with them. And then a small number of other shorter meetings.

So 11 interactions and then 4 locations. So again, if you sit and meet somebody in a cafe and then you just always meet them in that same cafe, that's not as good as if you then went to the cinema with them, or you went for a walk with them, or something like that. So, on social media, we could think about that as being, you could be interacting with somebody in on their posts.

They could see your posts. They could see you do a video. They could see you do a podcast. They could have a call with you. They could watch your webinar. So there's all these different platforms or locations as well. So, 7-11-4 concept is kind of the science and the numbers behind how to influence people.

So, if you want to be able to influence people don't think of doing one big thing, think of how you can rack up 7 hours of time with them across 11 different interactions and 4 different types of interaction or locations of interaction. And if you can rack that up with, you know, as many people as possible, that's how you can start to have good influence.

And that's where something like LinkedIn or social media can help you because you can do that at a big scale.

- Interesting. So, I actually wanted to ask about channels. So, LinkedIn is, obviously, the social media channel that's associated with the workplace. Where else should people look if they want to expand their presence on social media? Are there other channels that you recommend?

- Yep. So, I think the first thing I would say is that it's very easy to spread yourself too thin. So if you're going to try and cultivate, build your personal brand, in my opinion, my advice would be to focus on one channel and kind of master that channel or get to a point where you are a 7 out of 10 or something in that channel, and then maybe move on to another one.

So, for me, for example, all roads really lead to LinkedIn. So I have Twitter or X, I have a YouTube channel, I have Facebook and various other things, but they all sort of signpost through to LinkedIn. That being said, other channels, I'm not on here, but TikTok, I'm seeing lots and lots of people having great success with because it's, you know, very engaging, very accessible.

And so I think you could do some really interesting things on there. There are some great groups on Facebook. So, Facebook changed its kind of algorithms a couple of years ago to be more focused on groups rather than your sort of feed. And so LinkedIn's focused on the feed, Facebook's focused on groups. And there are some great groups there where you can be, again, getting involved, putting your opinions out there, engaging with others, building relationships and networks on Facebook groups.

Twitter or X is great from the perspective of you can find really very senior people on there and start engaging with them, and you can make some quite big waves quite quickly, I think, if you focus on that platform. But it all depends on what your goals are, I suppose, and who it is you're trying to build your network with.

The main benefit to me of LinkedIn is that you can actually find and target the right sorts of people to engage with more easily because there is that kind of searching functionality by job title and company and location and stuff, whereas on these other platforms, it's a bit more like a needle in the haystack. So I think you need to be working more on a sort of attraction model on some of the other platforms of building yourself up so people find you, whereas on LinkedIn, you can be more intentional of reaching out to people that you want to find.

So, for example, if you go on LinkedIn and just in the search bar type #safety, hit enter, that's going to show you all the posts where people have used #safety. And if you are engaging with this podcast, you're going to be involved in safety. And therefore, that to me would be a great place to start. Well, do that search for the hashtag, follow the hashtag, but then start to read the posts that are coming up and start engaging with those posts.

- Is there any channel you think that professionals should avoid, or is it really the is it really depending on context and goals?

- I wouldn't say you should avoid any particular channel. I think, again, it depends on what you're trying to achieve and what outcomes you want to get from that channel. I think there are certain types of activity and content that I personally would advocate people avoid.

- I was going to ask about that next. Yes.

- So I've got certainly some opinions on that, but I can't think of any that I would necessarily avoid because anything could work for you depending on your goals. I guess it's about understanding what the pros and cons of each of these channels are, and then putting your time into investing into the channel that you think is going to give you the best reward.

- Yeah, each channel has its own sort of personality, its own pros and cons. So let's talk about messages though. What do you recommend that people focus on? What do you recommend they avoid if they're just starting to develop their social media presence?

- So let's start with what to avoid. So to me, politics is a no-no because it's just too polarized and you're just going to turn people off. So, definitely don't get involved in that. If you're running a business, don't criticize your competitors. You know, stand for what you stand for and stand on the merits of that.

Don't be criticizing other people as much as possible I would say. What else should you not do? Don't sort of be too overly personal, as in there's a lot of criticism about how LinkedIn has kind of turned into Facebook in the last couple of years because since the pandemic particularly because people have been...there's a lot of dogs and cats and things like that.

So to me, there's a benefit to a small amount of that, but not sharing photos of your cats dogs, particularly. I think you want to get your face out there and you want to get people to know who you are and your personality and things like that. Absolutely. So, there is a place to do personal stuff, but I think you need to be intentional about it and understanding why it is that you are doing it.

In terms of what to create, what to post, I tend to look at it in three areas. So if we want to influence people, if we want to achieve an outcome, whether that be in our career, internally in a business, or if we're trying to sell something, what are the three things we need to achieve? We need to achieve know, like, and trust. So, if I were advising people as I do to start posting or to improve their content creation, I'd be saying, you need to create some content about know, which is getting people's attention.

Attention is the most valuable currency in the world right now because the world is so busy and noisy. And if people don't know who you are, then they're never going to build a relationship with you. They're never going to employ you. They're never going to give you a promotion. They're never going to buy your stuff, etc.

So, we've got to get known. So that is where using some of this personal stuff can be beneficial because people, again, like engaging with other people. So having your face on stuff is beneficial rather than having stuff branded. So, we want to get certain type of content out there that is about getting known, getting people's attention.

We then want to have a second thing around, like, and there's two aspects to this. Most people would think that like is that I the person creating the content want to appear likable. And there is some of that, but I would say that's maybe a third, two-thirds is that you want your audience, whoever it is you are trying to influence to feel as if you like them.

So therefore, what I mean by that is you are giving them value, you are giving them actionable things that they can do, you are sharing your expertise, and they start to like you because you are giving them this value. And then the third thing is trust. So trust is all about showing that you stand for something, showing that you walk the walk. Don't just talk the talk.

Showing the outcomes that you've helped to achieve and shining a spotlight on your customers if you are a service or product provider, or your colleagues if you're an internal health and safety professional and you've achieved some great outcomes for them or whatever it might be. But again, shining the spotlight onto something rather than the spotlight onto you. So, if you can think about kind of creating those three types of content, know, like, and trust, in my opinion, you won't go far wrong.

- If you were talking to two people who both wanted to develop a personal brand, a social media presence, and one was a business owner...this is within safety, I should say, one was a business owner and the other one was just kind of looking for career advancement. They're an employee, they don't necessarily want to stay with the same company, but they want to advance their career.

Would your advice to them be any different?

- I think I would give them the same advice, but I think it would be a question of degrees. So if, like me, you're a business owner, you've got a bit of latitude to perhaps push the boundaries a little bit more and go a little bit further on certain things. So, you know, some of the best content you can do is something that's disruptive. So try to pull scorn on a widely held belief, and then create some discussion around that, for example.

Whereas if you are working in a corporate environment and trying to build your career, you know, that could be a little bit risky because if you put the wrong person's nose out of joint by saying something they disagree, you know, some people might not take that in the right way. So, I think I would still...that framework of know, like, and trust, I think is valid for anybody. If you want to build a personal brand, you want to be known, liked, and trusted, and it's kind of relatively simple.

But I think I would counsel somebody in a job to be a little bit more conservative and cautious about some of the stuff they were putting out there, you know, including the personal stuff as well. If you're a business owner and, you know, maybe I could get a job, but I don't know if I could ever get a job now, I think I'm probably unemployable. So, actually, I'm going to have to live on my own wits and do my own thing.

So therefore, actually to me, I can sort of just maybe go a little bit further than I could if I were working in an insurance company, or you know, or something like that, or a bank, or something where you just...there's a line and you kind of.. I'm not saying you want to step over that line, but you can get quite close to the line. Whereas if you are in that corporate environment, you probably don't want to be getting that close to the line.

So, I think it's just degrees of how you would approach it.

- Where do you think the world of safety branding, marketing, safety-related social media is headed, and where would you like to see it go?

- I would like to see more people getting involved, and I would like to see fewer brands and companies using superlatives and claiming to be the panacea for everything because I think that isn't the reality, and I think people do sort of see through that. So I think what is out there at the moment is quite sort of, you know, we're the best thing since sliced bread.

Do you like the pun there? [inaudible 00:40:05] the podcast. There's a lot of that and this is the best thing ever. And I think the reality of the world is a lot more nuanced. And again, that's where I think if you're a brand, it's quite hard to be nuanced. You kind of got to be pushing your brand and what you stand for, what you're going after.

So I think that's another advantage of kind of a personal brand. In terms of where things are going, I think that the pandemic obviously shifted the way that people build relationships, and therefore how people market what it is that they're doing. I think, though, that we're here to stay when it comes to social media. I think we're here to stay when it comes to things like webinars, I think they're hugely powerful and I recommend people be running events like webinars as much as they possibly can because you can build a relationship with lots of people at scale rather than doing it one to one.

So highly, highly recommend webinars. And I think the way that technology's going with AI and things like that is really, really fascinating. I'm a real geek about AI and ChatGPT, and all of this kind of stuff. So I really feel as if that will create some very significant, it already is, but even more significant shifts in content.

And the biggest one is going to be that the busyness and the noise that I mentioned earlier is only going to get worse. So, whereas I've been complaining on this podcast about not enough people are putting themselves out there within the world of safety and trying to build a personal brand and doing the marketing and so on, but actually in five years' time, I probably won't be saying that because AI is just going to make it so easy for everybody to be doing stuff.

So then it becomes a question of the personal brand is worth even more because you are a real person with a real opinions and doing real stuff, rather than all this AI-generated stuff, which I do think it's good and it will get better, but I still feel like people will be able to tell the difference one way or another.

So, to me, all of the big trends are pushing towards building a personal brand and standing out and standing for something and using that as your key differentiator. Because whether you're building a business or whether you're trying to build a career, most people think, for example, that AI, one of the big benefits is around medicine.

So, if you are in Africa and there, there's a doctor every 500 miles or something, that GP, that family doctor role could be fulfilled by AI. So, all of a sudden being a doctor has become functional. Think of all the activities we do within safety that are actually quite functional and that could potentially be disrupted and replaced by AI.

Then you need to think about what are the nonfunctional things, which are the soft skills, the communication, etc. And that is where having your personal brand is going to help you to craft your career and/or build your business much better going forward.

- So, on that note, there are some questions that I ask every guest, and the first one is about soft skill training. So if you were tasked with training the next generation of safety professionals, where would you focus soft skill training for them?

- So, I think that they should develop their presentation skills and their listening skills, their kind of active listening and empathy skills. So, if you can have a powerful conversation where you are able to put across your points with clarity and certainty and conviction and in a concise way, so good communication, but you're also able to use that ratio of two ears to one mouth to listen and understand, that's when you are going to be able to build good relationships with people.

And to me, that's what it's all about. So, I'd certainly start with communication and active listening as being sort of cornerstones of soft skills training.

- If you could go back in time to the beginning of your safety career, and we'll just say after the accident, what is one piece of advice that you might give to yourself?

- Yeah, the easy answer is don't go to get the shopping on that day in May. So I think that I have...if I was being sort of self-critical, which actually I was recently on a podcast, I was invited on a an entrepreneurial podcast to talk about my entrepreneurial journey and stuff. And you always made loads of mistakes, and it's easy to talk with hindsight.

But where I probably could have done better, and I think this is an analogist to people in lots of walks of life, including safety, is I think I overlooked getting the basics right. And thinking about that from a safety perspective, I see this a lot in my world of slips and falls, because people kind of just assume that they're doing it well because it's kind of simple or straightforward.

They assume they're doing it well. But when you kind of look at it with a beginner's mind and a fresh set of eyes, you can see that they're not doing these basics as well as they thought. So, I think just having that constant ability to take a step back and try and analyze, you know, who you are, where you are, what you're doing, is it working, and get more of those foundational basics rights would've been beneficial to me.

And I advise people to try and do that. Yes, in slips and falls, but in other areas as well, including these softer skills.

- You did mention one book, are there any books or resources that you would recommend to listeners if they want to learn more about some of the things we've been discussing?

- So yeah, the book was "Key Person of Influence" by Daniel Priestley. Highly recommend that. He does regular webinars and give him a follow on social media as well. Feel free to give me a follow on LinkedIn and you can sort of see the way that I go about doing this stuff. I actually run fairly regular events as well about this kind of soft skill stuff in the Safety Roundtable, so jump into one of those.

I mean, there are a number of other people who put out good content on this topic as well. I suppose what I'd say is there's always a benefit to listening and consuming, but in my opinion, you're going to get much more out of creating something for yourself rather than consuming. So, rather than, you know, sitting down and reading Daniel Priestley's book, maybe rather than spending five hours doing that, why don't spend five hours writing some articles, or creating some posts and putting your perspective out there and trying to start some conversations off?

So I'm not sort of poo-pooing the idea of learning and developing, because I'm a big believer in that, but I think sometimes, especially if you are not already engaged in doing this stuff proactively, there are lots of fears or blockers or misconceptions about why you can't do it or, you know, who's going to want to listen to me, or I've got nothing to say, I've got nothing to add.

What value do I bring? All those sorts of things. And so I would encourage people just to kind of try and push themselves through that glass wall and actually start doing stuff. So, here's a challenge for everybody. Do some posts, tag me in, tag Mary in, tag some of the other people in that have been on this podcast.

You know, do the ats and then put their name in. And what you'll find is if you do that, we'll engage with you, and we'll start to create some conversations and that will give you some confidence, and then more people will get involved. Because if I comment on something, I've got, you know, 27,000 followers or something stupid like that on LinkedIn, some of them see that and they'll start piling in and Mary's going to respond. So, you know, just give it a go and start doing something and, you know, prolific beats perfect, like I said earlier.

- Okay. So the next question is where listeners can find you on the web, but I think the answer to that should be pretty clear by now.

- Well, very active on LinkedIn. So if you search for Christian Harris Slip Safety, you would definitely find me. But yeah, I've also got quite an active YouTube channel. I'm on all the other channels as well, but I invest most of my time into LinkedIn, and all of the sort of events I run and stuff like that are all kind of mentioned on LinkedIn. You can find the podcast, but all these other things there.

So yeah, come to LinkedIn and join the safety party.

- Okay. Well, that brings us to the end of our episode. Thanks so much for joining us, Christian.

- Thank you very much.

- Listeners, I hope you enjoyed this episode. If you haven't already, check out our backlog of episodes on topics ranging from the neuroscience of safety to managing psychosocial risk, and pretty much everything in between. I'd like to thank the "Safety Labs by Slice" team, always wonderful to work with and always on brand. Bye for now.

Christian Harris

Christian Harris is a safety and risk management expert, who believes that proactivity and a scientific approach to risk powers business performance. He’s the host of the Safety And Risk Success Podcast, fortnightly Safety Roundtable webinars, and the founder of Slip Safety Services – where his team typically helps clients to reduce slip, trip and fall accidents by 57%+. A firm believer of the importance of building a personal brand, marketing around an issue and putting your opinions out there to create demand for yourself and / or your business, Christian even does some coaching about these subjects for safety business owners.

Find out more about Christian’s work: Slip Safety Services

The Safety Roundtable: Take part in the Safety Roundtable

The Safety and Risk Success Podcast: The Safety and Risk Success Podcast on Apple Podcasts

Christian highly recommends this book: Key Person of Influence Book - Daniel Priestley

Christian Harris on Youtube: Christian Harris - YouTube