Introduction to Blow Your Own Horn: Personal Branding for Business Professionals by Rae A. Stonehouse
There’s an old saying that goes “the squeaky wheel… gets the grease.” The saying may have been true at one point in time but now…
The business world is a busy and crowded place. How can a business professional standout from the cacophony of others clambering for attention and recognition?
In this world of digital technology, a world where we are as close as 3° of separation to almost anybody in the world, many so-called technological gurus would have us believe we can easily create an on-line persona, a digital makeover if you will.
I would agree with the statement, to a certain extent. It seems daily we hear of fake restaurant or book reviews. We hear of identity theft where unscrupulous characters have stolen someone’s ID for fraudulent purposes by creating false identities from what they are able to gather from public sources.
If it is so easy for someone to create these bogus on-line identities, how can we then trust any self-promotional material we view on-line?
I believe creating your on-line persona is important however, it is but one step at a self-promotional and marketing strategy.
This book oﬀers a collection of strategies to build your on-line presence and gain recognition in your community.
Your goal may be to raise your prominence at work to apply for a job you have been eying. Perhaps, your goal is to run for political oﬃce, but it seems no one knows who you are. You may be like me, an authorpreneur wanting to promote my publications, myself as an author and my self-publishing business.
You can be brilliant in what you do. If you are a well kept secret, you are not helping yourself or your clients. As an author, you need to put your body of work out there. Articles, blogs and podcasts come into play. We talk about them later in the book.
By putting your ideas out there it does three things:
1) It really builds your credibility as a subject matter expert in that area.
2) It creates/reinforces your brand equity, your value in the marketplace.
3) It creates market gravity… some might call market pull.
If you aren’t an author… well then perhaps you should be. We all have expertise that could be in demand by those who don’t and are willing to pay you for your advice.
Self-promotion hasn’t come easily to me.
As a shy introvert, I believed if I had done something praiseworthy the people in the position to deliver the praise would know and I shouldn’t have to draw it to their attention.
As a registered nurse I recall working on a project with another nurse. I did most of the research and put the project report together. She did very little to participate however, upon completion, she took all the credit.
Back about 20 years or so ago I had an experience that awakened me to the value of self-promotion and the negative consequences of not doing so.
I was contemplating enrolling in a university program focused on leadership, training and organizational development. The program was designed for adult learners and was granting credit towards life and experiential lessons.
I had lots of experience to leverage and the skills to successfully complete the course. Where I fell short was in being able to provide testimonials as to my personal characteristics and my strengths and weaknesses.
I had my personal references lined up. That was easy, I had fellow workers and members of community organizations I was involved with, who provided me with testimonials.
The problem arose from not having a work-based manager or employer to provide a testimonial for me. As a worker, I tended to have as little as possible to do with my supervisors as I could. I did my job and did little over and above my duties. This meant I didn’t have anybody to provide a supervisor–employee testimonial.
How could they?
They didn’t know me. They didn’t know what I was capable of, how could they possibly recommend me?
This was enlightening. It challenged my usual way of thinking. If I was to get ahead in the world, I needed to be able to learn how to leverage my relationships. When I say leverage, I don’t necessarily mean to exploit them. I see value in developing mutually beneficial relation- ships which can lead to win–win results.
As I was contemplating this challenge of not having a supervisor’s testimonial there was a change in our provincial government. I live in British Columbia, Canada. The new government significantly increased the cost of tuition for the program. It went from an aﬀordable $8500 for a two-year program to over $22,000. This eﬀectively closed the window of opportunity for me.
Fast forward a few years or so, actually more than a decade to be honest. I found myself as a director for a local society supporting entrepreneurs. At this point I had been a Toastmaster member for a decade or so and was used to organizing meetings and promoting Toastmaster’s events. With my event organizing experience, I took on the role of VP Training & Development. My role was to organize our monthly town hall meetings where we showcased local entrepreneurial sage experts and allowed them to share their skills and experiences with fellow entrepreneurs.
In that capacity, I stretched the boundaries of what would normally be considered an event organizer. I developed the topics. I created the marketing promotion. I added the promotional copy to our website and then created and monitored the on-line event registration system.
If that wasn’t enough, I recruited our panelists and worked with them to develop promotional material about themselves, which I added to our website for event promotion. I then developed the discussion questions that would be asked to the panelists as I was also the moderator for the panel discussion.
I organized some 30 of these town halls over a period of 2 years. At the same time I was developing websites which involved considerable promotional copywriting.
Writing promotional copy for these events and to promote the speakers for those events, raised my promotional skills significantly.
I learned it’s far easier to promote someone else, that is their strengths, their skills, their experiences than it was to promote myself.
As I think back to my journey of self-promotion it may have started with delivering Toastmasters speeches. Part of delivering an eﬀective speech is providing an introduction for your introducer to introduce you to your audience. Your introduction should grab your audience’s attention, so they are eager to hear what you have to say.
Your introduction should also set up your credibility so it answers the question that most of the audience members are asking themselves “why should I listen to this speaker?”
In developing your introduction, you are providing the introducer the promotional copy you have crafted. Instead of ‘blowing your own horn’, which would’ve happened if it were you introducing yourself, it becomes more powerful if somebody else is saying these kind words about you. Sure, you wrote them in the first place, but having somebody else say the words makes it more eﬀective in setting you up as somebody worth listening to.
Fast-forward a few more years and I created and operated an on-line community business events calendar. In that capacity, I researched and curated all local business events. I posted these business-related events to my on-line calendar and added promotional copy where needed. I had created some 2000 or more local on-line event listings.
In addition, I created and sent out a weekly newsletter letting people know about the upcoming local business events and promoting events I was interested in or involved with.
At the time of writing this chapter and book, I have written and self- published a dozen or so books in the self-help genre. As an authorpreneur it’s necessary to self-promote my books, my self-publishing business and myself as an author. It gets easier the more I do it.
Blow Your Own Horn: Personal Branding for Business Professionals has been a side project for me while I have been working on creating and publishing my other self-help books. As I was writing those books it frequently occurred to me the content I was writing applied to not only the content of that particular book but also applied to the concept of self-promoting.
As we work our way through this book, I have utilized content from my other books to illustrate the point I want to make.
Many business professionals are quite comfortable at networking and self-promotion. Many of us aren’t and may find it more painful than pleasurable. I’ve written this book from the perspective of having been a once shy introvert who has learned to become less shy and how to self-promote eﬀectively on my journey through life.
If I can do it… you can do it too.
This book is for business professionals who want to raise their visibility in a crowded workplace or a personal interest venture.
Some will tell you blowing your own horn is bragging. I forward an argument against that belief in an upcoming chapter.
Others will tell you promoting yourself requires you to be phony or to be someone you really aren’t.
If we are to move forward and benefit from our accomplishments, we need to self-promote.
Kurt Vonnegut, with his dry wit, knew better. “We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful what we pretend to be,” he wrote in Mother Night (1961).
Perhaps Vonnegut hit the proverbial nail in the head… “we are pretending…”
“Fake it until you make it” is an old saying that readily comes to mind. While you are faking it, you are developing skills that will eventually allow you to make it… without faking it.
If you want people to toot your horn, you have to provide them with the info you want them to promote. This is not a passive activity. You need to take the initiative to train your trumpeters so their message is favorable. Of equal importance, is tooting other people’s horns. Fair is fair.
As in other books I have written I use what I call the “onion” method of writing. We’ll take a close look at one layer at a time until we have a good understanding of our subject. Each content topic is stand-alone and it isn’t necessary to complete the previous one before working on the steps of another.
I’ve divided this book up into parts to look at personal branding and marketing from diﬀerent perspectives.
Firstly, we look at personal branding and marketing.
Secondly, we look at self-promotion utilizing Linkedin as a tool.
Then we look at eﬀective networking techniques for self-promotion. The Networking Section is followed by self-promotion strategies related to job searching.
After the Self-Promotion When Job Searching Section we look at on-line reputation management and additional social media venues that could be helpful to you in developing your personal brand.
We close our exploration of self-promotional strategies with Resource files to add to our understanding of the topic.
At the end of many of the chapters you will find a list of Action Items for you to complete that will help you move forward in developing your self-promotional skills.
Developing any new skill requires a change of your mindset. Here is a poem I found years ago that I like to refer to often.
If you always think
The way you have always thought
You will always feel
The way you have always felt
If you always feel
The way you have always felt
You will always do
What you have always done
If you always do
What you have always done
You will always get
What you have always gotten
If there is no change There is no change
In our next chapter we explore the concept of personal branding, what it really means, why we should do it and what often prevents us from doing it.