By Nancy Marshall, The PR Maven®

Don’t Be Hesitant To Promote Yourself (Without Bragging, Of Course)

In today’s business world, self-promotion is indispensable. It is the key to landing a new job, securing a client or running a business altogether.

However, many people are hesitant to promote themselves for fear that it may come across as bragging. And for good reason: Bragging is a major turn-off. According to research, 70% of people can remember a “humblebrag” they heard recently. Why? Because it’s annoying. Bragging sticks out.

But self-promotion doesn’t have to be synonymous with bragging. Nor does “bragging” have to be so unlikeable. It can be sincere. It can leave people thinking more fondly of you — or, at least, learning more about you.

If you’re struggling to promote yourself, you need to make an internal paradigm shift and think about the people out there in the world who need what you have to offer. Consider how you may help them, adding value to their lives. They may need the exact kind of services that you can deliver or the type of products that you are selling. Either way, the onus is on you to put yourself out there in the right way, so the right people can find you. You must find the people who need to buy whatever you are selling.

Don’t think of self-promotion as bragging. Think of it as making yourself available to help people who need you. Think about their problems and how you — and only you — can help solve them. Try to position yourself as the “white knight” who swoops in and saves the day.

This is not to underestimate the annoyances associated with bragging. As a social person, I know what a turnoff it can be to go to a party and meet “that guy” who only talks about himself or “that gal” who can’t keep quiet about her life story. When you have absolutely no interest in what they are offering, it can really rub you the wrong way. But you don’t have to be “that person”!

The key is to know, in your heart, whom you can serve and then become laser-focused on finding those people. Start with your target audience and go from there. If you identify the right audience, they shouldn’t be annoyed about you promoting yourself, since the fit should be natural. They should think: “Wow, it’s too bad that I didn’t meet you sooner.”

In business, you want to make people’s lives easier. If you’re looking for a job, you want the boss to think that you’ll take at least a little bit of the burden off their plate. If you’re pitching a new client, you want them to feel like you understand their problems and can find solutions. You need to connect in a way that says: “I am going to help you sleep through the night.”

Perhaps someone has trees that could fall on their roof and destroy their home, and you have a tree-cutting service that can take down those exact trees and protect that house. Perhaps you are a business broker who specializes in selling a certain kind of company, and there is a family that desperately needs to sell their business because their parents have passed away. Perhaps a small business owner has never appeared on TV or radio, and your PR firm can secure that sort of news coverage (that happens all the time in my world). Remember, you are the problem-solver. Promote yourself accordingly.

You can also look at it this way: If you have a specific type of offering, you have a responsibility to share your offering with the world. There was a song that we used to sing at my summer camp: “Don’t hide your light under a bushel. Let your light shine!”

When I am out in public, I try to share my joy and enthusiasm for what I do and how I help people — not in a way that is bragging but just to show how much I love helping my clients. I really do love it, and I want people to know.

Over time, you will be able to tell the difference between self-promotion and bragging. Listening helps. You need to hear out the other side, so a monologue becomes a dialogue. By growing larger ears and a smaller mouth, you should gain enough self-awareness to promote yourself without turning people off. That’s where emotional intelligence comes into play. Trust your head and your heart, and listen to others along the way.

This article originally appeared on the Forbes Agency Council CommunityVoice in October 2021.

  • Nancy this is a very good article especially coming from Maine as folks here are shy about talkin themselves up.
    I think you could do a proper series on this topic.
    Thank you

    • Thanks for your comment, Marie. I do feel that sometimes Maine people are humble to a fault! I feel that we all have a unique superpower, and sometimes we have to put it out there so we can connect with the people who would benefit from our superpower. For example, I feel I was born to do publicity and PR, but if I never told anyone that, I wouldn’t have clients who wanted to take advantage of my work! You have superpowers, too, right? Please share with me what your special and unique gifts are.