Leveraging Your Reputation: How to promote yourself

Tom Ciesielka is President of TC Public Relations (www.tcpr.net). Tom has over 25 years of marketing and public relations experience, working with individual lawyers and midsize law firms. He is also a former board member of the Legal Marketing Association in Chicago and has spoken at Chicago Bar Associations CLE programs. Reach him at tc@tcpr.net.

I think it’s safe to say that many people can’t stand attorneys who are obnoxious about self-promotion. How many attorneys have you met who were only interested in talking about themselves, and once they were done rattling off their accomplishments and shoving a business card in your face, they moved on to someone else who might help them?

Self-promotion is important, but you don’t want to be arrogant or sound like a sales pitch, so here are some ways to avoid being perceived negatively:

1) Make sure you have something worthwhile to say. Some people think that it’s important to stay in front of people at any cost, so they will provide information that doesn’t have much substance. It’s much more important to make sure that what you’re sharing with others, whether it’s through Twitter, LinkedIn, or your website, is substantive, even when you talk with people offline. Original content, such as information about an important case you’re working on, an article you’ve written, or a slideshow from a presentation you’ve given, is valuable and will help other attorneys improve professionally. But if you feel that talking only about what you’ve done is too self-serving, then share interesting information and useful links that you’ve found elsewhere.

2) Promote others. There are probably other attorneys you work with who’ve done interesting things lately that you can talk about. If you’ve read an interesting article that your colleagues have written, have found out about an important case that they have won, have attended a presentation they’ve done, or have even just seen them on TV, then share that with your audience. If you don’t have a blog, you can send out an email to some people who you think would be interested in what they’ve accomplished, or post it on Twitter or LinkedIn. People appreciate it when others celebrate their success, and it will mean that your promotional efforts aren’t just about you.

3) Know your audience. People hate spam, and if you keep blasting out information, whether it’s about you or others, to everyone on your list, some of those recipients will come to really resent you, and possibly even block you or automatically delete your messages. Take the time to consider your audience. If you know that some people aren’t interested in a project you’re doing, then omit them from the list. It’s much better to take the time to edit a list rather than risk making people angry and annoyed that you keep bothering them.

4) Ask questions. We don’t know everything, and instead of doing a lengthy online search to find answers, we can ask others. If you want to know about a good legal resource to use, a helpful conference to attend, some facts, or just a good place to have dinner with a client, then ask your network for advice. You might hear from people you haven’t interacted with in a while, so this will get your name in front of them again.

5) Pay attention to your environment. If you’re at a formal dinner of a legal association where an attorney is the guest speaker, then that’s not the time to run around the room, talk about yourself, and keep hitting up as many people as possible. Let opportunities unfold with the conversations you have. Someone might simply ask you what you do, and you can talk about yourself in such a way that is sophisticated enough for the occasion. Another type of event would require a different kind of behavior. It’s important to pay attention to where you are, and then act accordingly and present information about yourself that is appropriate.

6) Do what makes your comfortable. One of the reasons why people sound like they’re being boastful is because they’re doing things they think they should do, rather than what they feel comfortable with. Be who you are. Some attorneys can’t stand Facebook, and that’s OK. If you feel you should communicate with others through another outlet, then do it. Some attorneys prefer email because they don’t like to be exposed in social media. That’s fine, as long as you can work with it so you can promote yourself in a sincere way that reflects who you are.

7) Thank people. If someone has given you good information or insight about a case or development in the legal profession, then thank that person, and even do it publicly. For instance, the reason why I’m writing on this topic is because attorney Noel Sterett from Mauck & Baker suggested it…thanks!

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