If you apply basic marketing techniques to your own professional profile, you can stay above the horizon and influence the way you are perceived by your peers, your superiors and your professional community.
Developing the habit of routinely marketing yourself can be like making deposits into a professional development bank. If you sell yourself effectively you’ll probably enjoy more than your share of interesting opportunities. And when the big career challenges come along you’ll be ready to respond. If you’re thinking about putting more energy into your personal PR campaign, consider these tips from marketing guru Walt Borton:
- Remember the fundamentals.
- Get serious. Take the concept of professional development seriously, and as you do so look for ways not only to enhance your capabilities, but also to increase your visibility. Join professional and community organizations; participate in seminars, workshops and conferences; and cultivate your stature as a presenter on new practices and research projects.
- Know your brand. Spend a little time thinking about the “branding” process as a personal drill. It’s as important to you as it is to Tide or Coke because, like them, you want your constituency to know what your “brand” represents. Purpose, content, quality and reliability all might be communicated by the language you use to describe who you are and what you do. The words and the style with which you present yourself differentiate and distinguish you from your colleagues and competitors.
- Inform your network. Keep in mind that the most compelling advertising or marketing is word-of-mouth. If someone whose judgment you trust recommends a restaurant, a wine or a hair stylist, you pay attention. If you need a reliable mechanic, you ask someone you trust. So that they are prepared to talk about you, gently inform those who trust you about your accomplishments and honors. Often that won’t require “blowing your own horn” so much as getting others to do it for you. For example, when the Alumni Association honors you, make it easy for them to send a press release to your local and professional media.
- Manage the news.
- Good news gets around . . . but bad news travels fast. A standard PR maxim is “stay in front of the story,” and that has a personal dimension, too. In every professional’s life there are genuine, substantive mistakes and failures. But, like you couldn’t hide the broken picture window from your mom, you won’t be able to hide the tough moments from those in your professional (and sometimes personal) circles. Openly acknowledge the mess. Actively help to clean it up. Discover and share what can be learned from it. Real wisdom and progress comes from an honest examination of what didn’t work, and why. And real leaders recognize that.
- What goes around comes around. When someone on your team -- and sometimes on the other team -- does something terrific, spread it around. Seize reasonable opportunities to acknowledge the accomplishment and applaud the individual. If you behave graciously, it will come back to you, at least in the long run.
- Bite your tongue. When someone on your team -- and sometimes on the other team -- screws up, think before you speak. If you say anything at all, let it be to the person with the problem. And try to phrase it like: “Is there any way I can help?”
- Take the long view.
- Look around & ask. Just like when you’re driving your car, study the horizon for challenges and opportunities. Even when you’re busy, take time to notice how your contributions and efforts are being perceived by others. And that means that sometimes you have to ask someone. In fact, it’s not really optional. You’ve got to pay your bills, brush your teeth, get exercise and a good night’s sleep -- and you’ve got to regularly assess the harmony between your image and your reality.
- Reach at the right time. Know the difference between recognizing legitimate opportunities and being an opportunist, and act on it. We all know characters who insinuate themselves into projects and situations where they’re not suited for the work, and it can make our skin crawl. But that shouldn’t prevent you from putting yourself forward to assist when you are well qualified, especially if you have a serious interest. When your scan of the horizon yields an opportunity that fits, reach for it.
- Try your hardest. Never worry that striving to do well will offend others or tarnish your image. There’s nothing about being a team player to prevent you from hitting one out of the park. A friend says his mother kicked him into starting a great career with this advice: “You’ll never get to be a rock and roll star standing in your room strumming air-guitar.” Take her advice, do the work, and keep at it until you do it well.
- Quality and honesty work.
- Finally, it’s worthwhile remembering that there is a legitimate alternative to the old public relations axiom, “don’t believe your own PR.” Consider this alternative: “PR we can believe in because it’s the truth.” Nothing will better establish your stature on any horizon than the quality of the work you do, your grace in acknowledging its value, and your willingness to share its benefits with others.