Careers: Self Promotion can be Hazardous to your Brand

Self Promotion Can Be Hazardous to Your Brand — and Your Career

Personal BrandWhen is the most hazardous time for rising PR stars or newly promoted executives during their career? Immediately upon their newly acquired success. They develop one success, and instead of growing it into a second and a third, they start selling themselves shamelessly. “The brand is your promise that represents real things that you deliver,” said Steve Cannon, vice president of marketing for Mercedes-Benz USA, a company that knows something about image creation.

Lyles Carr, a veteran recruiter at the McCormick Group in Arlington, Va., says he tends to discount a résumé that doesn’t list true accomplishments. “It goes back to the old commercial, ‘Where’s the beef?’ ” he says. “They’re trying to substitute style for substance.”

While it’s nice to be able to boast about the sheer numbers of friends you have or Twitter posts you’ve made, sometimes less is, in fact, more. James Alexander, CEO and founder of “Vizibility,” which helps professionals and job seekers control their online identities, recently turned off all the updates from a man on LinkedIn who posted every single hour. “He’s lost his privilege to communicate to me in that way,” he says. “You can spend all this time and effort — it does take time — only to turn around and end up alienating people.”

A better plan is to speak or tweet only when you really have something unique to say. Alexander says that when he’s looking to hire, he reads blogs and comments, hoping for signs of original thought. Often he is disappointed.

Some “over branders” even leave reality behind by faking or exaggerating credentials and degrees — not too smart when Google is just a keystroke away. As you help more people, you build word-of-mouth referrals and job security, he says. Your brand becomes ingrained in people’s minds as useful. Another classic trap is alienating your boss with your overzealous self-promotion.

So how should you split your time between the actual work you do and making sure others know all about it? How about an 80/20 split being a good ratio, with 80% of your effort going toward the job and the bonds you build with co-workers and your boss. The remaining 20% goes into sharing your work and ideas and being visible through speeches, articles, or blog posts.

Of that outside self-promotion, I’ve seen the suggestion of a 70/30 split: Most of it should be informative, entertaining, or educational, whereas 30% can be straight brand building. Here, it’s good to create a conversation: Instead of saying, “Let us create your next website,” post the seven questions one needs to ask before doing so — and then be sure to provide the answers.

At the ’”Marketing Zen Group,” the 25 staffers strive to answer every e-mail that comes in — unlike other companies, which see it as a waste of their time. Don’t you want a lifelong brand rather than 15

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minutes of fame? That takes discipline — which is, as we all know, a lot tougher than pressing the send button.

by Neil Kuvin