To celebrate her 10th year as a local insurance agent, Michelle Schaefer blocked off the street in front of her Edmond office, danced to a mobile disc jockey and served hotdogs, cake and ice cream to her customers and anybody else who'd come. To promote the event three years ago, Schaefer ran advertisements and distributed scores of fliers bearing her fourth-grade picture with the headline: "Michelle is 10, and she's having a party!” "People can't believe I actually published that picture, but they still remember it,” said Schaefer, who had planned a 13th anniversary celebration June 14. Realizing she has hundreds of competitors who do what she does, Schaefer unabashedly promotes herself and her business, starting with wearing a badge with her name and the Farmers Insurance logo everywhere she goes. "You'd be surprised how many people have approached me in line at the grocery store to say they just moved into town and need to find a local insurance agent,” Schaefer said. The art of self-promotion is a necessary skill for people who work for themselves or for companies, experts say. "Self-promotion is just common sense,” said Ilise Benun, founder of Marketing Mentor, a Hoboken, N.J.-based consulting business and the author of "The Art of Self Promotion.” A former professional organizer, Benun consistently found information on self-promotion at the bottom of piles of paper that people saved. "The clutter obviously was keeping them from getting the word out about their work,” she said. "The main thing is not to be silent.” Even outgoing, social people can be shy when it comes to their work or someone with authority, she said. The value of self-promotion seems to lose importance and become almost shameful with age, said Evelyn Bollenbach, spokeswoman for Oklahoma State University-Oklahoma City. "We tell our kids to be proud of their work, display their artwork on the fridge and brag about their soccer team on bumper stickers,” she said. "Yet, when we publicize our good works as an adult, self-promotion can take on a negative connotation.” When she's served on selection committees, Bollenbach said, she has found many female applicants qualify their accomplishments. "Instead of saying, ‘I'm the best applicant because I'm good at what I do,' women often preface their statement with an apology, such as ‘I know this may sound like bragging, but ... .' ” The tendency to minimize their capabilities, competence and expertise is one of the biggest mistakes of female business owners, said Darcie Harris, president of EWF International peer advisory groups for female business owners and executives. "The female brain is wired to empathize, better recognize emotions and read others' feelings,” Harris said. "When you put all that together, there's less self-promotion.” Using their natural ability to influence people, female execs can help others make connections and along the way brand themselves as a key link in the business community, she said. Jim Farris, Oklahoma City human-resources expert, believes there's a fine line between self-promotion and being obnoxious. "If it's not a fabrication that you developed a new product that saved your company $1 million, by all means list it on your resume,” Farris said. "But in the interview, be sure and talk about the team effort. "You can't be out there self-promoting for nothing more than self-promoting. You've got to be able to deliver on what you're selling.” Zach Martin, associate adviser in commercial real estate for Sperry Van Ness/William T. Strange & Associates in Oklahoma City, agrees. "My goal is to portray myself as a winner who can close deals,” said Martin, who blasts his name on banners, postcards and e-mails across town. "It's not about who you know but who knows you.” Since Jan. 1, Martin has sold nine properties, totaling $16 million, he said. "I under-promise and over-deliver.”
10. Describe yourself with a question. For example, an interior designer might ask, "Have you ever walked into a room and felt happy just because of the feel of the space around you? That's what I do. I design the interiors of office buildings for creative companies.”
SOURCE: "Stop Pushing Me Around: A Workplace Guide for the Timid, Shy and Less Assertive” by Ilise Benun.
Evelyn Bollenbach, spokeswoman for Oklahoma State University-Oklahoma City, presents this zany 15-second discourse: I'm always lost and always late. I don't like technology, and it doesn't like me. I have a high-fun quotient. I have fiercely loyal friends. I am a target marketing expert.
"This tells them more about who I am than my bio,” Bollenbach said. "Every time I give this, people come up and comment on it afterward, and months later, people remember me when they see me elsewhere.”
Self-promotion tips•Always wear a nametag. •Keep a running record of achievements, so when it's time for your annual performance review, your accomplishments are at the top of your mind. •When someone compliments you on your work, ask them if it's OK if you write it down and keep it in your self-promotion file. •Create a 10-word "elevator speech” to explain what you do. •Give free informational speeches to professional and civic groups. Bring a small door prize so you can collect business cards for the drawing and write follow-up, thank-you notes for coming. •Send news releases, with a picture of yourself, when you reach a business milestone or receive an award. •Ask to do business with the people with whom you do business, such as your banker, dry cleaner and other vendors. •Volunteer for nonprofit organizations to expand your network. •Establish yourself as an expert source for your club or company, so you'll be quoted in the newspaper. SOURCES: Farmers Insurance agent Michelle Schaefer, James Farris Associates, Ilise Benun, author of "The Art of Self Promotion.”
Creating your elevator speechCreate a simple sentence, using verbs and adjectives, to paint a picture of what you do, for whom you do it, and the end product of your work. 1.Write out answers to the questions: What do you do? For whom? What do they get? 2. Turn that information into a 10-word blurb. 3. Rewrite the blurb from a helping perspective. I help (who) create/develop (do what?) resulting in (so they can …) 4. Write from a problem-solving perspective. I work with (who?) to solve (problems?) consequently (so they can …). 5. Write a version that your mother would understand. 6. Write a version that your exercise buddy or a stranger in the doctor's office would recommend. 7. Write a version that would be understood by a colleague or business person you see regularly. 8. Write a version understandable by a colleague at a trade show or industry conference who understands your jargon. 9. Just fill in the blanks. You know (blank). Well, I do (blank). "You see the sign on the top of the building? I make those.”