Too often women in the financial services industry are reluctant to promote themselves and their business because centuries of socialization have taught us to be demur and defer the attention to our male counterparts. In her book “Sell Yourself Without Selling Your Soul,” media coach and marketing consultant Susan Harrow helps shatter those preconceptions with an effective guide to understanding the importance of self-promotion and tips on how to get yourself and your ideas out into the marketplace without “morphing into an alpha male.”
Your book is subtitled “A Woman’s Guide to Promoting Herself.” Why do women find it particularly difficult to market themselves as aggressively and, in many cases, as successfully as men?
Women see marketing as shining a spotlight on themselves, and women are reluctant to do that. When I speak to women’s groups, I will ask them how many of them feel that marketing themselves is the equivalent of prostitution, and two-thirds of them raise their hands. I think that other one-third is lying.
Women have the “disease to please.” I tell them to stop being nice. Take your due. Take your one seat. Acknowledge that you have power over yourself, and then take that power. That’s the key in shifting the dynamic. Everything comes from there and nothing else matters.
But those feelings are so engrained. How do we begin to overcome them?
A good way to start is to understand some basic differences between men and women, which is not to say that you have to turn into an aggressive male to get your message across. But you have to be aware of the differences before you can decide how to address them.
First, don’t take anything personally. That’s a big difference between women and men. Men never assume something is personal, and women always do. One of my clients was telling me that women at her firm come to her and complain if they weren’t invited to a meeting. She tells them to go to the meeting anyway. Don’t assume that you were purposely excluded. Assume they just forgot to include you.
Also, men assume they have rights, and women ask for permission or wait to be asked. You need to assume you have rights, too. That often plays out in meetings or on panels. Women don’t like to interrupt, and men have no problem interjecting their thoughts and ideas, so often the woman’s ideas are never heard. Women have to be trained to interrupt. If you know you have something to say, just say it.
Another issue is that women think they have to respond to every situation, whether it is good or bad. If something happens that a man doesn’t like, he just ignores it. Men act like they didn’t hear you or that it didn’t happen. So if someone says something to you that you think is degrading, ignore it and act like you didn’t hear it. Sometimes you need to correct an error, but you can maintain your dignity in that situation by addressing the specific error in a neutral voice and then just moving on.
How can women turn these characteristics into a marketing strength?
Don’t focus on the things that you think you need to change about yourself. Focus on setting your intention by asking yourself, “How can I get what I want?” That helps shift the dynamic, but it requires daily practice.
For example, if you are in a meeting and didn’t respond to something the way you think you should have, review what happened and think about how you would like to change it. Then run that positive scenario through your head so you’ll be better able to handle a similar situation next time.
Then you have to actually do it physically. Get a friend to help you, and keep running through the same scenario over and over again until you start feeling comfortable with it. That helps you develop your muscle memory. When I was a tennis pro, we would practice the same stroke hundreds of times against the net, the machine, and other people. Then when we were in the middle of a match we didn’t have to think about what to do. Our bodies just did it.
Why is media attention so important?