I just had an interesting email exchange with a friend of mine who was concerned about posting an article he wrote on different sites or commenting about an issue he cares about. His concern was based on the idea that he did not want to appear to be promoting himself too much, or appear to be too biased. He even mentioned the idea of creating an alias or using others to post on his behalf.
That got me thinking. Are we so concerned about “self-promotion” that we actually stop saying what we want to say in public?
I remember Dick Vitale talking about an event he does for kids with cancer on Mike and Mike in the Morning. At one point, in the middle of a typically emotional and loud response, Dicky V brought up complaints he has received from people saying that he always promoting himself and his work as if it was a bad thing. Vitale’s response was, and I am paraphrasing here, “Come on, baby! If you don’t promote yourself or what you do – who is going to do it for you? Who will ever hear about what you are doing or why you are doing it?”.
Of course, in blogging, or interacting socially on any medium for that matter, we tend to confuse self-promotion with what we really want to achieve, which is a type of genuine sharing. Seth Godin has a really good short post on this in which he acknowledges that the very term “self promotion” is often used to described someone promoting him/herself at the expense of others. But do we really think that of everyone who promotes themselves?
It’s easy to see Dick Vitale get some flack, because I know of people who are tired of his routine and find his personality… well… annoying. But the truth is – Vitale’s pitch is designed to encourage awareness not so much of himself at the expense of others (fame for the sake of fame), but of his work to helping fight cancer. Translation – there is something genuine and true and useful connected to his promotional efforts. He wants to make a change, and by telling you about that – he is hoping you will join him in that cause.
To Godin’s point, so long as you are really promoting something useful – such as a useful ideas – or tactics or products that actually benefit the person they’re reaching out to, you really don’t fit into this more negative interpretation of “self promotion.”
The other component to this is that you should not let conventional perceptions about promoting yourself to deny you from making a public effort to change a trend or influence people. In the case of my friend, I recommend he take the plunge and get introduced to social media – particularly blogging – so he can experience for himself how people exchange ideas through their blogs and how others respond to them. Because if you hide behind an alias or keep yourself from spreading your useful ideas, you can’t expect to develop the clout or means for the change you want to achieve.