For those of you who feel ambivalent about placing yourselves at the center of your brand’s marketing efforts, this commentary is for you.
Years ago, as the creator of monthly SMARTY events, I was moderating panels of extraordinary women helming press-worthy businesses. This visibility placed me on the receiving end of some considerable attention and unexpected brand opportunities. While it was all very positive, it forced me to think carefully about how to respond to it-and how to leverage it. You’ve probably had to consider similar choices.
The prevailing advice I heard at that time was to “Make it about me.” Smart, well-meaning people tried to convince me to lead by example, which would have required me to build a digital platform and take pictures of myself on vacation or enjoying the fruits of my labor, all while espousing tips on “how you, too, can become…bigger/better/richer.” Or basically, more like me.
Although this approach may be profitable, at the time, it gave me the moral stomach flu.
It makes me question where we want to live when it comes to self-promotion — and where do we start to get a little nauseated by it? Is there anything wrong with sharing talents, achievements and deluxe vistas as a brand strategy? Not inherently. After all, this is at the heart of social media.
Yet, as the chief promotional officers of our own brands, many of us feel simultaneously that we are the best hood ornament for what we sell while being keenly aware of the tension it produces.
One script does not fit all — and I think everyone has to answer this for herself. I moved 3,000 miles away from me-as-a-brand-opportunity due, in part, to ambition fatigue. Not because I was exhausting myself with my own, but because being around so much ambition, and the resulting self-promotion, was exhausting me. That’s my own tolerance showing, not a judgment against what anyone else’s may be.
But….in a world where professional narcissism is at an all time high, there should be some self-imposed guardrails. My own requirement is that I not embarrass myself (to myself). That, I cannot live with, no matter the applause that may be generated “out there.”
Here’s a thought that may be relevant for anyone — whether flexing abs in a bikini or doling out champagne dreams from Rome: Even if you are your own brand, and you are the thing you’re selling-whether it be expertise, wisdom or flip flops-consider that there’s a lot more longevity in standing for something bigger than yourself.
The spotlight may be required to stay on you, for whatever reason, but my advice (did I just contradict myself?) is to make yourself a representative of the mission. Not the mission itself.