Acting as your own PR agent is easy: All it takes is a little guts, a little determination, and in extreme cases very little self-awareness.
Maybe that’s why we all try, to some degree, to promote ourselves. And maybe that’s why self-promotion is largely ineffective, except possibly on the grandest of scales.
Fortunately there’s a better way. Here’s a story from comedian, actor, and author Albert Brooks in Vanity Fair about one of his appearances on The Tonight Show:
There was always that last two minutes where Johnny was asking people, “Thank you for coming – what do you have coming up?” And during the last commercial break Jack Benny leaned over to Johnny Carson and said, “When we get back, ask me where I’m going to be, will you?”
So they came back. Johnny said, “I want to thank Albert. Jack, where are you going to be performing?”
And Jack Benny said, “Never mind about me – this is the funniest kid I’ve ever seen.”
And it was this profound thing. Like, oh, that’s how you lead your life. Be generous and you can be the best person who ever lived.
You have the same ability to promote your coworkers, your employees, your customers, your vendors – basically anyone – but it’s easy to lose sight of that when your primary focus is on crafting a business image, building a personal brand, or just protecting your professional turf.
Entrepreneurs are of course vulnerable to glory hogging, since early on a small business is a reflection of its owner and its success often depends on the owner’s ability to build a reputation for knowledge and expertise. And so is anyone who works for big or small companies; if you don’t toot your own horn it’s unlikely anyone will do it for you… and you will go unseen, unnoticed, and unappreciated.
But there’s a better way for you, too. A few examples:
Instead of being the one to share good news, let others receive the public glory. Sure, maybe you really did do all the work. Yeah, maybe you really did overcome every obstacle. Okay, maybe you really did lead a diverse, cross-departmental, multifunctional, high-performance team.
It doesn’t matter.Give someone else the glory. Pick a key subordinate who played a major role. Pick a person who could use a confidence boost from public acclaim. Everyone already knows you were in charge, so celebrate the accomplishment through others.
Stand back and let your team shine; the fact you lead such awesome people reflects well on you.
(Also do your best to keep someone higher in the company food chain from making the announcement, especially if that person had no direct impact. Otherwise your team’s efforts are devalued in other peoples’ eyes and, worse, in their own eyes.)
Instead of blogging about your company’s success, talk about a customer’s success – but don’t make it “salesy.” Instead, share how a customer did something smart. Share how a customer took a different approach to an old problem.
Helping others by promoting their expertise or success is reason enough; as an added bonus, the fact that your customers are such smart and savvy people reflects well on you.
Instead of being the one to lead an implementation meeting, turn the session over to the employee who did the real work on the project. And don’t be tempted to somehow include yourself in the introduction; just say, “Next week we’re rolling out our new scheduling system and Lena is going to walk us through the process.” Immediately turn it over to Lena and sit down… and shut up.
Everyone already knows you’re in charge; the fact that your employees get things done reflects well on you.
Today, promote someone else.
Then they win – and so do you, because in time you’ll be known for consistently recognizing, praising, and supporting others.
And that’s the best personal brand you could ever hope to create.
I also write for Inc.com: