Sunday Morning Soliloquy - Musings of an Urbanite: Self Promotion Takes Some Getting Used To (But I Still Hate It)

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Self Promotion Takes Some Getting Used To (But I Still Hate It)

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What can I say, I absolutely hate promoting myself. Judging by the number of photos I have of myself on this blog, you may think I am pulling your leg, but it is true, I despise promoting myself. Unfortunately, when your business is to sell OR promote other people's business, you have to first sell yourself.

Self promotion is severely uncomfortable for most people. I used to think about people I would meet that would gush about themselves, how awesome they were and all the benefits they could lend you or your business. I would think to myself, "I do not want to be THAT guy." Often times, THAT guy, he/she probably has a lucrative business with clients or a job that got him there because of his self promotion.

When I was an Account Executive at DDB Chicago, I worked for a VP with a great title and even better responsibilities. The day my VP boss was leaving the agency, we went to lunch. At lunch, he said one very important thing to me, "Remember, the squeaky wheel gets the oil." My initial feeling was "I hate the squeaky wheel. I don't want to be the squeaky wheel. I will let my hard work speak for itself." As I grew into a more seasoned professional, I learned that the squeaky wheel trick works too. So long as you can back up your self promotion with substance and hard work, and you are not over-inflating yourself, people will pay attention. If you don't tell people what you are worth, who will?

An Accidental Lesson
I ran the Chicago Marathon in "the year" 2000. The bulk of my teen and adult life was spent running for fun but previous to 2000, I rarely ran more than five miles at any given time.

In celebration of the Millennium, I decided I was going to train and run the marathon. I knew I wanted this to become a reality, not something I thought about and never achieved. In order to ensure my marathon dreams became a reality, I made it a point to tell EVERYONE! I made the marathon declaration to all family and friends. When I met someone new, I would introduce myself by saying "Hi, I am Leyla and I am running the marathon this year." I probably sounded like a crazy person but I promoted myself and the goal I was absolutely, unequivocally going to accomplish.

I did run the marathon in 2000, I averaged a 10 minute mile for 26.2 miles. I never hit "the wall" and I crossed the finish line with the biggest smile on my face. I didn't "promote" my run but I promoted myself and my dedication to the marathon. I actualized it by saying it over and over again, outloud.

Some Helpful Starting Points to Self Promotion:
- Make a declaration. Write it down, say it out loud, profess it however you can and as many ways that you can. And then, own this declaration - really OWN it.

- Write up a "sell sheet" for yourself. Think of yourself as a product. Make a list of Top Ten selling points of your skills or and when referring to the list, remove emotion, don't personalize it. Think of yourself as a product.

- Pay attention to others. Is there someone that you know or admire who is a self-made PR machine? Someone who promotes themselves relentlessly? Watch that person, learn from that person, pay attention to the details and nuances of what makes them successful at promoting themselves.

- Stay truthful and humble. Do not lie, you will be found out. You can stretch it if you know you can back it up. And finally, be humble, this is not about bragging.

Final Thought
Something that has helped me in recently months, in my blackberry, under "notes", I have a memo to myself. "If you say it enough, it becomes true." That is how I feel about self promotion. If you say it enough (and believe in it, practice it, live it) it becomes true! You just have to own it.

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