Tips for playing the fame game in business
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?