3 Myths About Self-Promotion

Are you great at what you do, but no one seems to notice? These 3 misconceptions might be getting in your way. Here's the best way to promote the brand called you.

Do you maintain beliefs that are hindering your ability to create a strong and personal brand? You're not alone. Many people hold onto the following misguided beliefs:

1.Doing great work equals having a great reputation.
2.My boss will market my brand.
3.Self-promotion is boastful and bad.

We need to dispel these myths so that you can start on your personal branding journey without being sabotaged by a brand-hindering belief system.

Myth #1: Doing great work equals having a great reputation.

You’ve been slaving away at your job. You’ve worked weekends, woken at the crack of dawn to finish the report your boss requested the night before, delivered on your objectives and your numbers—all without complaint. Surely, you will be recognized for your sacrifice and productivity.

At the department meeting on Monday morning, your boss will announce a new promotion. You start writing your acceptance speech and thinking of whom you will thank for helping you achieve this recognition. But, what, say that again? Kyle is the new director. How can that be? Kyle is a lightweight. He does not consistently make his numbers. He spends more time schmoozing than doing real work. You’ve been robbed!

I’ve heard so many variations on this theme—from professionals around the world. Why does my company take me for granted? How can I get the reputation and rewards that I deserve?

People are not mind readers. They have no way of knowing what great work you are doing unless you let them know. You have to market your contributions to be recognized for your value.

The next two myths are on the same theme.

Myth #2: My boss will market my brand.

John had had a stellar career in advertising. He followed his boss from company to company, where John was promoted and given more responsibilities and a larger salary with every move. When his boss retired, John’s biggest cheerleader was gone. John lacked his own personal brand and network, and could not get the jobs that he wanted. John needed to be his own brand manager and not rely solely on his boss to brand him.

Certain cultures cultivate the image of the boss as a paternal figure who looks after your welfare. Every individual needs to understand that in today’s economy, you have to be responsible for your own destiny. The era of the paternalistic company or boss is over. Even Japanese companies, who historically never laid off workers, are adopting workforce reduction policies to stay flexible and competitive.

Don’t be a victim. Be your own brand manager. To be considered for a new job, a new opportunity or investor funding, you have to be known. Leaving the brand to others is losing control over your brand. Would you rather brand yourself or let your competitors brand you? The choice should be clear.

Myth #3: Self-promotion is boastful and bad.

Most people do not like promoting themselves because of cultural barriers or a personal preference to stay in the background. If you were taught from a young age that you should be humble, then marketing your achievements seems to fly in the face of your cultural values.

At one of my personal branding seminars, an accomplished but quite Chinese manager named Mary told me that all of her life she was taught humility and deference to your elders or boss were important values. For this reason, she never spoke up in meetings and never called attention to herself. I advised her to:

  • Own a place at the table. Know and act like you belong there. Don’t just take up space. You need to contribute your good ideas and show value.
  • Share your work or achievements with your boss and group as a means of educating them about new ideas or best practices.
A few months later, Mary told me I had "changed her life." The branding work helped her to position her unique value and to have the confidence to contribute at strategy meetings. The result was that her boss chose her to lead a key business team.

Self-promotion should not be an exercise in boasting, which can be off-putting. Education is a better concept. Brand education helps a target audience to recognize your value. In the case of Mary, communicating her strategic capabilities helped her to be considered for a leadership role that had eluded her in the past.

Promotion is often thought of as a one-way communication from the sender to the receiver. We need to engage in two-way communication and value.

When communication flows both ways, brands are more engaging and memorable. For instance, when you post interesting content and engage in online conversations with followers, the interaction lets you build your brand without being boastful.

If you still feel you can’t educate the world on your brand for your own benefit, then do it for your organization. If you have a stronger and more valued brand, it will enhance your organization’s brand. If no one knows about your unique value, the world loses out on your experience, expertise and opportunities to engage.

Self-promotion, therefore, is really about educating the market about your value.

What are the benefits of personal branding?

When you are able to articulate your unique brand value, you will be rewarded in a number of ways:

Respect. Your name will have a certain cachet. Your reputation will grow.

Your ecosystem will advocate for you. Influencers will make introductions or endorse you.

Opportunities will arise, such as jobs, clients, projects, partnerships, and speaking and media opportunities.

Success. You will land the job, climb the career ladder or get funding for your company.

Enjoy work and life. By living your desired brand, you will feel more fulfilled at work and in life.

In short, life is better with a great brand.

Find more ways to market yourself as a great leader in the Fast Company newsletter.

Excerpted from BrandingPays: The Five-Step System to Reinvent Your Personal Brand by Karen Kang. Copyright 2013. Used by permission of BrandingPays LLC,BrandingPays.com.

—Karen Kang is the founder and CEO of BrandingPays LLC, a corporate and personal branding company that offers consulting, training and coaching. The author of BrandingPays: The Five-Step System to Reinvent Your Personal Brand (January 15, 2013), Karen is a sought-after speaker at leading business schools and professional organizations. Find her at brandingpays.com, facebook.com/brandingpays and on Twitter @karenkang.

[Image: Flickr user Travis Rock]

Add New Comment

3 Comments

  • Karen Kang

    Thanks, it's correct in the book, but I think the excerpt was retyped for this article.  Also, the first sentence should read "strong personal brand." Still, I have no complaints.  Very happy to be in Fast Company. :)