Tips for play­ing the fame game in busi­ness

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - BUSINESS - Kath­leen Be­g­ley Colum­nist

A week ago, I did a work­shop on busi­ness writ­ing as part of a mar­ket­ing con­fer­ence in Bos­ton.

I had been hired for the job by a sem­i­nar com­pany in New York.

Dur­ing my in­tro­duc­tion, the head mar­ket­ing ex­ec­u­tive said she was de­lighted that the Man­hat­tan or­ga­ni­za­tion had sug­gested me as the speaker be­cause she al­ready was fa­mil­iar with my name from read­ing this col­umn. Wow! I was im­pressed with my­self. If my Ir­ish-born mom were still alive, I would have called her im­me­di­ately to tell her that my fame was spread­ing faster than runny mashed pota­toes all along the North­east cor­ri­dor.

OK, in the in­ter­est of full dis­clo­sure, I must ad­mit that the woman mak­ing the in­tro­duc­tion hap­pens to live in Downingtown, within the dis­tri­bu­tion area of the Daily Lo­cal News.

But, if you some­day run into my mother in heaven, please don’t tell her that part, OK?

Let her think I am known far and wide for my writ­ing and speak­ing. OK, and maybe for my staunch re­li­gious fer­vor, if you don’t mind stretch­ing the truth. She very much wanted me to be­come a nun.

The odd thing about the in­tro­duc­tion in Bos­ton was that it oc­curred within a few days of highly cov­ered news events in­volv­ing some uber fa­mous peo­ple.

Re­al­ity star Kim Kar­dashian was robbed at gun­point in a lux­ury ho­tel in Paris. Global hu­man­i­tar­ian An­gelina Jolie filed for di­vorce from movie star Brad Pitt. Hol­ly­wood hunk George Clooney and lawyer wife Amal Clooney be­gan fer­til­ity treat­ments.

All of which made me think about the ex­pe­ri­ence of fame, es­pe­cially in the world of busi­ness.

So have many other peo­ple, judg­ing from the huge amount of books on this topic that are listed at Ama­zon.com.

“Some busi­nesses seem to at­tract cus­tomers by magic,” writes Steven Van Yoder in “Get Slightly Fa­mous: Be­come a Celebrity in Your Field and At­tract More Busi­ness with Less Ef­fort.” “Their mar­ket­ing seems ef­fort­less. They may not have made a cold call in years, they may not spend a dime on ad­ver­tis­ing, yet some­how they’re reg­u­larly fea­tured in news­pa­pers and mag­a­zines, and their own­ers or ex­ec­u­tives get to speak at con­fer­ences. Ev­ery­one knows their name, and they get all the busi­ness they can han­dle. The rea­son is that they have made them­selves fa­mous.”

Al­though I used to think ca­reer fame was a re­cent phe­nom­e­non that sprung with the ad­vent of tele­vi­sion shows such as

Shark Tank, Un­der­cover Boss and Celebrity Ap­pren­tice, my as­sump­tion was wrong.

Way back when, moguls such as Henry Ford and J.P. Mor­gan were the dar­lings of the Amer­i­can econ­omy. It seems to me that you can’t get more fa­mous than hav­ing a ma­jor car com­pany or fi­nan­cial in­sti­tu­tion bear­ing your name.

The dif­fer­ence to­day is that much greater num­bers of busi­ness gu­rus have be­come fa­mous, even when their names are not at­tached to their en­ter­prises.

Think Mark Zucker­berg of Face­book, Bill Gates of Mi­crosoft, War­ren Buf­fet of Berk­shire Hath­away.

Be­lieve me, when those guys show up at any kind of busi­ness event, lesser mor­tals hang onto their ev­ery ut­ter­ance.

Any­way, if you think

fame can help you as an en­tre­pre­neur or an ex­ec­u­tive, here are a few ac­tions you may want to in­crease chances that your im­age may some­day ap­pear on the cover of Inc. or Forbes magazine.

• Map out a strat­egy. In his book, “Get­ting Your 15 Min­utes of Fame and More,” au­thor Ed­ward Se­gal em­pha­sizes the need for plan­ning. One of the first tasks is to de­cide how well known you want to be. I have a friend liv­ing in cen­tral Penn­syl­va­nia who re­cently trav­eled to At­lanta to re­ceive a life­time achieve­ment award in his field. If I gave you his name, I dare­say you wouldn’t rec­og­nize it. But the col­leagues who voted for him sure do.

• Tar­get your ef­forts. Your name need not be on the tip of ev­ery tongue on Earth. Take a page from the play­book of young celebri­ties such as Ri­hanna and Justin Tim­ber­lake. I sus­pect most 20-some­things are fa­mil­iar with their singing ca­reers. But

I’d wa­ger many 60-some­things are not. Do you think Ri­hanna or Tim­ber­lake care? Con­sid­er­ing that each has raked in mil­lions of dol­lars from their record­ings, con­certs and en­dorse­ments, I se­ri­ously doubt it.

• Rec­og­nize the down­side. If you achieve busi­ness fame though fab­u­lous so­cial me­dia strate­giz­ing and ter­rific live net­work­ing skills, be aware that you are open­ing your­self up for neg­a­tive scru­tiny. Haters are ev­ery­where. “The roller coaster ride of fame is not for ev­ery­one,” writes an au­thor known by the sin­gle name of Tsu­fit. In her book, “Step Into the Spot­light: A Guide to Get­ting No­ticed,” she says: “If at a cer­tain point you de­cide the spot­light is not for you, don’t hes­i­tate to put down this book and go back to your ac­count­ing prac­tice.”

• Em­brace 24/7 fame. It doesn’t sleep. Pri­vacy evap­o­rates. Years ago, I had ac­quired a small level of fame from writ­ing my

first book. My photo was on the back cover. About 7 a.m. one Sunday, I slipped into a cor­ner store lo­cated a few doors from my apart­ment. I was wear­ing pa­ja­mas be­cause I fig­ured no one else would be in the place so early on a week­end morn­ing. Well, wouldn’t you know? A reader walked up and com­pli­mented me on my writ­ing. She didn’t say a word about my fash­ion sense, or lack thereof.

• Ex­am­ine your past. Seek­ing fame is not for the faint-hearted. In this day and age, words and ac­tions from decades ago may come back and haunt you. If you have ever been ar­rested for steal­ing from your em­ployer or fired for ly­ing on your job ap­pli­ca­tion, I rec­om­mend keep­ing a low pro­file. I bet pres­i­den­tial can­di­date Don­ald Trump’s ad­vi­sors wish that he had never talked about women with celebrity re­porter Billy Bush.

• Use your fame wisely. I greatly ad­mire celebri­ties who lend their names and

their time to worth­while projects. One is Stand Up to Can­cer, an an­nual tele­vi­sion event that fea­tures a who’s who of Hol­ly­wood. Like most lesser mor­tals, the par­tic­i­pants all seem to have wit­nessed the hor­rific disease up close and per­sonal in a mem­ber of their fam­i­lies.

• Kick the bucket. If you want to achieve long last­ing name recog­ni­tion, die young. Many peo­ple’s fame takes off af­ter they’re in their graves, ac­cord­ing to Jo Pi­azza, au­thor of “Celebrity Inc.: How Fa­mous Peo­ple Make Money. “If you’ve toured Grace­land, tasted Cherry Gar­cia ice cream or plopped a kid in front of a Baby Ein­stein DVD, you have bought what the dead are sell­ing. Just be­cause a celebrity has left this world doesn’t mean they stop gen­er­at­ing value and in­come for those still here.” Two other cases: the daugh­ters of co­me­dian Joan Rivers and for­mer First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy Onas­sis. Each earned more than $1 mil­lion from sell­ing their moth­ers’ pos­ses­sions at fancy auc­tions, which gives me an idea. Want to buy my late mother’s cracked Belleek china or worn Done­gal tweed coat?

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