To be effective PR has to be selfless as opposed to self-serving
A recent article in the Harvard Business Review by Daniel Gulati (Be Proud of Your Accomplishments, Not Your Affiliations) got me to thinking about the main difference between an effective PR strategy based on selfless accomplishment and one that descends into self-serving rhetoric.
Specifically, Gulati’s comment about “resume gardening” in which a person places great emphasis on their affiliations such as attending a prestigious college. According to the author, resume gardening is a far too common boasting exercise which diminishes rather than enhances one’s market value. I could not agree more, and cover this disservice to one’s brand at length in the chapter on “How To Be Your Best PR Person” in my upcoming book Bulletproof Your Brand.
In my many years as a confidante to top leaders, affiliations as well as degrees certainly do matter. However, they matter more when you begin your career. Once you are indoctrinated into a corporate culture, your results on the bottom line in addition to your ability to take the corporate vision and inspire others to follow override your affiliations.
“Flaunting your affiliations” in effect highlights the disadvantages of a PR strategy that is based on a self-serving “look at me” in the spotlight perspective. Unfortunately, and in line with our being conditioned since childhood to think that self-promotion is bad and should be avoided at all costs, this has led us to equate PR with bragging. Nothing could be further from the truth!
In today’s highly competitive environment, you need to figure out how to stand out. If you don’t see yourself as manager of your own PR company, you are giving permission for others to define you. Besides delivering tangible value and outcomes for others, you have to be able to talk about what you have accomplished in a manner that promotes your personal brand.
There is a huge difference between promoting oneself based on meaningful contributions resulting from sharing your unique abilities, and the empty calorie self-promotion to which the HBR article refers.
With the former, self-promotion is accepted but not from having to stand on a “soapbox”. Rather, self-promotion is where you naturally get the recognition because of the difference you make. You invest time to share your wisdom and talent with your company, colleagues, reports or customers. You build a reputation because of the value you bring when you help others to shine. In other words, you are what you produce, which means that your PR is tied to a service attitude and corresponding results.
While I do not want to diminish the value of graduating from an Ivy League school at the top of your class, I would like to put it in its proper perspective. This means that affiliations can certainly open doors that may have otherwise remained closed. But getting in the door and staying in are two entirely different things.
Before the most recent economic crisis hit, Six Sigma Black Belts were viewed as being an important part of any team. Shortly after the economy began to slide, these same respected experts were amongst the first to be let go in favor of those who could produce bottom line results. The message to me is clear . . . diplomas are for show, while results are a go in terms of career security and advancement.
So within this framework of meaningful achievement how do you toot your own horn without looking like a braggart?
Like deeds, results speak, and they speak volumes about you. What have you done in the past few years that have caused others to shine? Have you come up with an idea or a vision that you took from concept to positive outcome? These are the real credentials you need to share, and in so doing your brand will shine bright as you take your rightful place in, the front of the workplace stage.