In my role as the head of a PR firm, one of the most common misconceptions I see has to do with the superlatives people choose to describe themselves. Now, I’m not referring to how the media positions someone, but rather how someone seeking PR wants to refer to him or herself.
I once overheard my senior strategist, Tony Panaccio, having a conversation with a client about what their tagline should be. It went something like this:
Client: So, what should I call myself?
Tony: I’m not sure what you mean.
Client: Well, when I identify myself to the media.
Tony: Well, your name is Jim, right (not the actual name)?
Tony: So, why don’t we stick with that? It’s short, concise and happens to be, you know, your name.
Client: That’s not what I meant. I was trying to think of something catchy.
Tony: Okay, how about “James?”
It went on like that for a bit, until Tony was able to explain to the client that it’s not kosher to try to “name” yourself to the media.
Taglines can work well for people who have their own radio or TV shows, but for those just breaking into the spotlight, it actually has the reverse effect than intended. The media is a cynical, somewhat sensitive league of professionals, not unlike Tony, actually. When they see a name they’ve never seen before with a tagline they’ve never seen before, it strikes them as odd and out of place. In fact, many will turn their noses up at those self-made designations.
We often get folks who want to attach all kinds of superlative descriptions of themselves in their bios like “genius,” “brilliant,” “guru.” The point is that those in the media will come up with the nicknames and catchy taglines as they see fit, once they have come to understand that person’s experience is real. They are the ones who get to determine who the gurus are and not the prospective gurus themselves.
Further along those lines, some have tried to attach the terms “groundbreaking,” “innovative” and even “spectacular” to describe their products or their books. The problem is that the media feels they are the ones who will determine if someone or something fits those descriptions. When people are positioned that way as part of a pitch or an article, it can be offensive and it immediately raises the question as to the validity of that designation. That’s why using superlatives about yourself in order to establish your credibility, typically results in exactly the opposite effect.
That’s why I don’t call myself anything like “The PR Mechanic” or “The Marketing Maven,” as others in my industry call themselves. It’s not for me to make those calls. It’s up to you and the media to determine that I’m deserving of some kind of title to show my expertise.
In the meantime, feel free to call me Marsha. All my friends do and you’re far more likely to get my attention.