I’ve never been one to “toot my own horn,” as the saying goes.
For most of my life I believed that my work would speak for itself and that self-promotion is, to be quite frank about it, a bit gauche.
But the reality is that hard work, effort, ethical behavior and successful results are not enough. Talent, effort, ethical behavior, and results are necessary, but not sufficient.
In today’s noisy world, your work doesn’t stand out on its own. Your work will not, by itself, rise above the din. Equally importantly, if you allow others to put their spin on your work first then you are always playing defense.
Politicians and their spin-doctors know this better than anyone.
You must be proactive in telling your story.
Silence leaves the door open for someone else to tell your story. In the realm of history, there’s an admonishment that history is written by the victorious.
That adage also applies to career and business success, where history is written not necessarily by the victor but by whomever chooses to tell the story. Nature abhors a vacuum and nowhere is that more evident than in the political gamesmanship on display in many work environments, especially in those organizations where change is feared.
In the business arena, customers are telling your story every day. If you want to stay in business, you must be a participant in shaping and telling the story of your brand. That’s why leading businesses who realize and accept the new reality are embracing brand journalism and adopting it as the foundation for their marketing efforts.
You Are Your Own Brand Journalist
As Tom Peters famously told us some years ago, you have a personal brand–The Brand Called You.
Reid Hoffman followed up more recently with his twist: The Start-up Of You.
Like it or not, you have a personal brand and, if you want to have any chance at success in the current economy, you must work to tell the story of your personal brand. You must be your personal brand journalist and advocate.
At work, your savvy colleagues and managers are telling their stories to other colleagues and to their supervisors. Like it or not, the stories told by your colleagues and managers stories include stories about you, whether explicit or implicit. Sometimes your contributions are simply left out of their stories.
Not everyone perceives events the same way. Perceptions matter and the inclusion or exclusion of facts certainly influence perceptions. The weight given to isolated incidences can also move a trivial matter from a minor, one-off aside to a defining moment.
If you aren’t actively telling your story you don't have a shot at influencing perceptions.
Let me repeat: You must be proactive (and truthful) in telling your own story.
[Tweet “Someone is telling your brand's story. It might as well be you. “]
Thinking About My Own Story
As a professional, the main theme of my professional life might be summed up as helping other people successfully tell their stories through:
- Legal negotiations and legal strategies
- Corporate copywriting
- News reporting and feature writing (links coming)
- Student success (links coming)
On a more personal level, in the realm of personal growth and charting my own path, my story features these themes:
- Committed to excellence
- Openness to change and growth
- Desire and willingness to seek new opportunities where I can grow personally and professionally in ways where I can combine my talents, strengths and interests to make the world a better place.
I'm not interested in stagnation or being satisfied with the status quo. I refuse to settle for someone else's plans for me.
But despite my success-oriented mindset and commitment to constant improvement, I never put much effort into publicly telling my own story.
I assumed my successes would speak for me, even as I was actively involved in creating and promoting the successes of other people. I knew better. But, like I said, self-promotion just left me feeling uncomfortable.
Interestingly enough, I was a subscriber to Fast Company when The Brand Called You appeared in the magazine. I read the article, and filed it away in my mind. I took action to create and enhance my personal brand, but I never made an effort to tell the story of my successes.
So, at this point, I’m determined to remedy my past quiescence and to tell my story and, I hope, demonstrate some of the ways I’ve used my strengths and talents to help others.
I'll be writing and sharing those on this blog over the next few weeks. I hope you'll read and share your thoughts on how my story comes across.
Are YOU Telling YOUR Own Story?
Yes or no? If no, why not?
I'd love to hear from you and learn more about YOUR story. Please leave a comment, share your experiences about personal branding, or just share one of your successes!