Promoting your company through announcements, media interviews, speaking opportunities, social media, and events is a crucial aspect to growing your business. And as a business owner, it’s your job to (as we in the biz like to say) keep banging that drum.
But, as you may have already discovered, there’s a fine line between effectively publicizing your brand and using every opportunity possible to brag about your company (or—eek!—yourself). So, how do you make sure you don’t become “that person?” Keep these five tips in mind to help you confidently tout the amazing things you’re doing without making people’s eyes glaze over.
1. Keep Your Eyes on the Prize
At this point, it probably feels like you and your company are one and the same. But when it comes to pitching your brand in more formal situations—like at an investor meeting or when delivering a speech—you’re going to need to take yourself (mostly) out of the equation.
Sure, when talking about the founding of the company, or explaining how you’re perfectly positioned to lead your company to success, the story is certainly about you. But otherwise? Stick to the company’s track record and best features, not yours. Your clients want to hear about your hugely successful first quarter, not about the jobs you took to put yourself through business school. You can infuse your fantastic personality into how you deliver that pitch, but people usually wrinkle their noses—and, later, avoid—business owners who use their position to talk about themselves.
2. Play a Part—But Don’t Hog
Have you ever attended a panel where one person answers every question first, interrupts the other panelists, and keeps bringing the conversation back to him and his company? And then everyone in the audience starts to look at one another and you can feel the cumulative level of anxiety rising in the room? Don’t be that person. Make sure your voice is heard, and then share the stage.
Same goes for other situations. If you’re at a industry luncheon, share the airtime with the other people at your table. And when you’re networking, either formally or informally, make sure you ask as many questions as you answer.
3. Know Your Narrative
I’ve noticed that people tend to ramble, lose their train of thought, tell borderline offensive jokes, and generally leave a bad taste in people’s mouths when they’re unprepared. So, no matter what situation you’re headed to—be it a networking events with potential clients or when you’re delivering a speech at industry events—have a mental roadmap for how you want to talk about your brand and the key points you want to bring up. (Remember those audience-specific messages you pulled together a while back? Dig those out.)
For further direction, write down the one thing you want your audience to remember about what you’re going to say. Is it that your company is innovating in ways your competitors are not? Or that you’re breaking into a new audience demographic and are uniquely positioned to do so? Then, build your messaging points around that nugget. And don’t be afraid to throw in an anecdote or two that adds color to what you’re saying. As long as your stories are brief and tie back to your narrative, you’ll give your audience an opportunity to relate to you and (hopefully!) to be inspired.
4. Mind Your Manners
It may sound obvious, but these are the little nuances that can tip your pitch from perfectly acceptable to pretty obnoxious. If you’re writing an email to a journalist, keep it short and sweet. If you’re giving a speech, keep it to the time allotted (and not 20 minutes over!). If you’re networking, listen as much as you speak. And if you’re communicating on social media, respect the unspoken rules of each community (e.g., your Twitter followers won’t appreciate your most recent press release broken into 24 140-character announcements).
5. Learn From Others
Finally, the next time you meet a business owner who irks you, write down the negative feeling you attach to him or her. Did you find her to be condescending? Arrogant? Self-obsessed? Try to remember what, exactly, made you feel that way. Maybe it was when she grabbed the mic from the guy next to her to make a point, or when she failed to ask you about your company after talking about hers for 40 minutes.
The reality is that most people don’t intend to come across as overly promotional (or rude, while we’re at it), but passion can get the best of us all. The more tuned in you are to the situations, mannerisms, and attitudes that rub you the wrong way, the better chance you have of saving yourself from accidently turning your potential clients away.