By Jeff Beals
“You may have heard that I’m about to receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom.”
That’s how former NBC News anchorman Tom Brokaw began an episode of “An American Story with Tom Brokaw” a couple months ago. The semi-retired newsman then went on to talk about an experience he had back in high school. After talking about his life, he signed off boldly with the words, “I’m Tom Brokaw. This is an American Story.”
A daily radio network feature, “An American Story” is a 40-second spot, in which Brokaw shares what’s on his mind. It’s called a “story,” but the topics more often than not are Brokaw’s opinions or name-dropping tales about his interactions with wealthy and powerful people.
I always laugh a little to myself when I hear “An American Story,” because instead of a touching little vignette about a piece of Americana, the feature sounds more like a celebration of Brokaw’s ego.
I’m not claiming that Brokaw intends to sound so egotistical during the spots, but to my ears he does nevertheless. That is unfortunate, because Brokaw has done many good things during his career.
Maybe it’s an NBC thing. It appears as if arrogance runs rampant at the National Broadcasting Company especially given the shocking and inexcusable revelations that now-suspended anchorman Brian Williams fabricated news stories in order to make himself look downright heroic.
Major media outlets are famous for their arrogance and the arrogant people who work for them. At some major media companies, the arrogance is palpable, but arrogance is a problem all across society. It’s not just the haughty media types.
One of keys to success is to keep your ego in check and mitigate arrogance. Confidence is a virtue, but arrogance needs to be studiously avoided.
It may seem odd to be reading such a strong admonishment about arrogance from a guy who writes and speaks about the value personal branding. After all, I encourage entrepreneurs and salespeople to become “celebrities in their own spheres of interest.”
While we need to build our personal brands, one of the first things we must accept if we are to become widely recognized and highly respected is the virtue of humility.
There is a fine line between good, healthy self marketing on one side and egotistical boasting on the other. You never want to be that person who causes other people to roll their eyes!
If you want to avoid coming across as arrogant, you might want to take this little three-part test. Ask yourself:
- Are the things I’m doing for personal branding benefit also of social, economic or cultural benefit? If the answer is “yes” you are probably okay.
- If people knew the real reason why I want to build a more widely recognized and highly respected personal brand, would I be embarrassed? If the answer is “no” you’re probably okay.
- Am I sensitive to how my personal branding messages come across to other people? Try to put yourself in your reader’s/listener’s shoes and then honestly assess your message.
Promoting your brand while avoiding arrogance can be kind of tricky. It’s a balancing act, because the world has no room for shrinking violets, but the world also hates blowhards. Society tends to neglect and leave behind people who choose anonymity but it punishes those whose egos are excessively inflated.
It is wise to become a celebrity in your own sphere of interest if your intentions for doing so are noble. If your motivation is self-aggrandizement or to salve some deep-seeded self-esteem issue, then you’ll want to proceed with caution.
Jeff Beals is a professional speaker and award-winning author, who helps professionals enjoy greater success through effective sales, marketing and personal branding techniques. He delivers energetic and humorous keynote speeches and workshops to audiences worldwide. To discuss booking a presentation, go to JeffBeals.com or email at firstname.lastname@example.org or call us at (402) 637-9300.