How I Got Past the Awkwardness of Self Promotion Without Becoming a Kardashian

Every time I come across one of those “top marketer” lists on Twitter or LinkedIn, a nervous anticipation builds as I quickly scan for my name. Sometimes I’m on them, most of the time I’m not. They are marketers we watch speak at tech conferences, follow on Twitter, subscribe to on Medium, and read about in the press.

People who consistently make these lists deserve all the recognition they get. They are marketing royalty — from brilliant thinkers like Tom Tunguz to high growth marketing leaders like Meg Eisenberg to the Vala Afshar Twitter bot — Wait, he’s a real person?!? 🙂

And every single one of them is exceptionally good at self promotion — and all make it it a priority.

To be honest, self-promotion always seemed like a bit of an ego-serving, distracting waste of time. I really love the GSD grind of marketing; working through something on a whiteboard, writing in a Google Doc, or digging into Google Analytics.

But looking closely at the list above, I realized that nearly every single person in the tech CMO influencer infographic above has directly influenced my career in some way; from the computer science classes I shared with Marc Andreesen (way back in the day), to the actionable advice I read every morning from people like Jason M. Lemkin. Something struck me when I read this particular list of influencers:

Self promotion works when what you have to say could actually materially impact someone’s day-to-day, their life, and their careers.

Think about the ways you’ve been educated or inspired by people on this list. Who hasn’t included the Marketing Technology Landscape from Scott Brinker into a PowerPoint deck? Jon Miller and Sangram Vajre are giving us new ways to think about growth, Rand Fishkin studies everything about SEO so we don’t have to — and then graciously shares it back with us.

[Insert Your Name Here]

There are so many great new marketers I learn about every day, many just a few years into their career. They are wisely making time for self promotion, and while the idea of it turns most people off, there are just too many positives that come from doing it well.

You’ll advance in your career. As you progress in your career, you’ll find that most people are hired through their network. In nearly all cases, your best resume is your network and influence. Both take time to build, so you can’t get started early enough.

You’ll learn to how to communicate results. Many marketers struggle to translate tactical actions into business outcomes.

In particular, the process of writing forces you to step back and think about how to succinctly communicate the impact of your work.

You’ll help build your company brand. Your personal reputation will benefit your company — awareness, hiring, etc.

It reflects on your marketing skills. If we can’t market ourselves, why would a current (or potential employer) think we are the right fit to grow their company?

You’ll feel good for giving back. That single Medium post or conference presentation could become the catalyst for someone else’s career. Seriously, how great is that?

It boosts your confidence. The first post I published to my new Medium publication was advice for aspiring tech CMOs. Between Medium and LinkedIn, it got nearly 10,000 views and over 500 Likes, reaching people well outside of my network.

How to Get Started

Ditch the excuses and start writing. I’ve heard them all: But there’s no time. No one is going to read it. I’ve got nothing important to say. Wrong. The truth is that no matter where you are in your career, someone will benefit from the lessons you have to share.

So create your own Medium publication and get going.

Leverage tech vendors and industry conferences to expand your reach. Tech companies are always looking for customers to speak at their customer conferences, roadshows, and webinars. Nearly all of the “top marketers” you see on those lists use their vendor to increase visibility. They will be thrilled to hear from you. Connect with the account management team at your favorite tech vendor to get started.

Industry conferences take more time, planning, and a bit of luck — but they are a great way to gain recognition among your peers. Conference agendas are often locked many months in advance, so make sure you start researching speaking opportunities 3–6 months in ahead of the conference. Here’s a great list of marketing conferences from Curata as a starting point.

Host or attend a local networking event. Peer groups and networking events are a great way to gain reputation and share knowledge. I’m a member of a small peer group of marketing leaders in Boston, and even though we only meet for a few hours or so a quarter, I’ve found the time incredibly valuable. I always walk away with actionable learning, and it’s helped me build a positive reputation among my Boston marketing peers.

Whatever your role/passion, go see if there is an existing group and join it.

If there isn’t, start one. All it takes is great content, some research and networking with your peers on LinkedIn, and a conference room.

But please, don’t become a Kardashian.

The Kardashian empire was built on relentless, shameless, self promotion. Nearly every Instagram or tweet is a carefully calculated statement, designed to build the Kardashian brand or sell whatever product they happen to be endorsing at the moment.

They have turned being famous for being famous into an empire worth tens of millions.

But thats not the kind of self promotion I’m advocating for. There’s a fine line between shameless promotion and the kind that helps build a reputation and career. Gary Vaynerchuk built his business by being a relentless but likable self promoter. He does it the right way, by being authentic, helpful, and having something important to say.

Do that, and you’ll start showing up on all those best-of marketing lists too.

Time for your self-promotion: Click the ❤ to recommend this article, and write a response with even a single lesson you want to share.

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