How to Tell Everyone How Awesome You Are

It's the four rules of self-promotion.

Welcome to One Thing Better. Each week, the editor in chief of Entrepreneur magazine (that's me) shares one way to be more successful and satisfied — and build a career or company you love.

Today’s one thing: Hawking yourself.

That one thing, better: Supporting yourself — and others.

Does self-promotion make you uncomfortable?

Or, flip side: Have you put yourself out there, and been criticized for being too self-centered?

I’ve experienced both. I used to hate self-promotion, and was overlooked for opportunities. Then I gained more confidence and was accused of being self-obsessed.

Like this one time I applied for a big job...

During my interview, the company’s CEO said: “I talked to some of your former colleagues.”

“What did they say?” I asked.

“Everyone says you’re smart and talented, but they also said, ‘It’s always the Jason Feifer Show with him.’ What do you make of that?”

I felt a jolt of adrenaline, like I needed to run out of the room. But then I thought: No, I will not be shamed like this.

Today, I’ll share how I answered that guy, and what happened as a result. And I’ll give you permission to speak up — and to make sure everyone knows how brilliant you are.

Because if you don’t tell them, nobody else will.

The four rules of self-promotion.

First, let’s define what we’re talking about.

The way I see it, self-promotion can take any form. It’s sending emails to your network. It’s sharing on social media. It’s telling your boss about your wins. It’s talking yourself up on podcasts. Basically, it’s you broadcasting you — in whatever mediums you can.

Like I said, I once hated all of that. It felt needy and pathetic, like an adult child craving attention. 

Then I looked at the successful people I admired, and I noticed something: They promote themselves all the time, but it never feels like promotion.

That’s when I started to create my four rules of self-promotion…

Rule #1: The best self-promotion isn’t promotional

Have you ever done sales? There are two ways to think about it:

Way #1: You’re out there hawking something. Shoving it in people’s faces.

Way #2: You’re out there solving people’s problems. You have something that can make their lives better, so it’s your duty to ensure they know about it.

When you think the second way, you become better at sales. Your job isn’t to sell — it’s to help people by connecting them with solutions!

Self-promotion is the same, except that you’re the thing they need. So when you speak about yourself, focus on your value to someone else. You’re saying, “Here’s what I learned, and here’s how it can help you…”

Doesn’t that feel so much better?

Rule #2: Self-promotion has a purpose

That’s a photo of Bozoma Saint John. She said it best:

“One of the most undervalued ideas is: When you are better known for the things you do, your value goes up.” 

She worked big jobs at Netflix, Uber, Apple Music, and more — and was all over the media promoting them. “I became an expert at negotiating how public-facing I can be on behalf of the company,” she said on my friend Nicole Lapin’s podcast. “Because the moment you are hidden underneath somebody else, or you don't get the credit for the work that you're doing, the less you are known for your expertise. And you want to be well-known for the things that you do, so people come and seek you for your next job.”

I can attest: This is true. When people know about you, they come to you.

Rule #3: It’ll piss someone off

It just will. And it doesn’t matter.

I’ll tell you why: Those people have nothing to offer you anyway.

For example, let’s go back to my disastrous job interview. The CEO told me: “Everyone says you’re smart and talented, but they also said, ‘It’s always the Jason Feifer Show with him.’ What do you make of that?”

I asked what he meant. He explained that, to some of my past colleagues, I was too out there. I was a big personality. I did things to promote myself, instead of only promoting the brand.

I was surprised. But I didn’t hesitate.

I said yes, I get attention. And I benefit from that — but so do my employers. People connect with people, not with brands, and that makes me an asset. The Jason Feifer Show is good for business. And if you disagree, I told him, then I respect that — but I am not the person for you.

The CEO said he understood. I didn’t get the job.

Did self-promotion lose me that job? Maybe. But if the CEO didn’t value me for me, then I’m better off without it. That job would have made me feel small, and it would have led to fewer opportunities. I’d rather find a place where I can shine — and you should too.

Because here’s the final rule…

#4 There’s no good alternative

I love this line from Bozoma Saint John: 

“People still say I’m self-centered. Well, if I’m not self-centered, who am I supposed to be centered on? Who? Please tell me it’s not you.”

She also said: “If you are not actively involved in building your reputation, then somebody else is creating it for you. So would you rather leave your reputation up to somebody else's imagination, or would you rather do it yourself?”

That’s the thing: Nobody else will do this work for you.

If you’re quiet, you may be appreciated... but you’ll be appreciated right where you are. Bosses will be happy to keep you in place, like a sturdy gear that’s taken for granted.

Please don’t be taken for granted.

What these four rules really mean

Did you notice a pattern?

Rule #1: The best self-promotion isn’t promotional

…because the best self-promotion delivers value to other people.

Rule #2 Self-promotion has a purpose

…because it increases your value.

#3 Self-promotion will piss someone off

…because they didn’t have value for you anyway.

#4 There’s no good alternative to self-promotion

…because if you don’t value yourself, nobody else will.

Value, value, value, value. 

Can self-promotion come off as gross, dumb, and self-centered? Absolutely. Those people are doing it wrong. They won’t get anywhere.

But when you follow the rules of self-promotion, then everything is about value. You deliver value to others, and you get value in turn, and you value yourself, and you become more valuable.

Self-promotion doesn’t have to be greedy. Or self-centered. Or obnoxious. I’m over here running the Jason Feifer Show because nobody will run this show for me. I like this show. I’m proud of this show. Some people might tune out, but more people will tune in. And the same will be true for you. Run your show. Be the showrunner and producer and star, and make sure your audience is happy. This is your show to build. It’s the best show you’ll ever have. Never, ever, ever apologize for that.

That’s how to do one thing better.

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