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The Art of Tooting Your Own Horn

As a soon-to-be college graduate, I am excited and ready to begin my career in public relations. However, I have several uncertainties and questions about my future field. The most prevalent and recurring of these uncertainties is when and how to ‘toot my own horn.’

Someone once told me, “If you don’t toot your own horn, no one else will.” I have found this to be great advice and mostly true; however, my attempt to understand the boundaries and to practice the art of properly tooting my own horn has come to no avail.

Personally, I get uncomfortable when talking about my talents and accomplishments. Not only do I not want to come off as bragging, but I also do not want to be labeled as overconfident or arrogant. After all, humility is a respected virtue.

In hindsight of my college education, I never actually learned how to sell myself as a talented professional with ease and sincerity. This leads me to ask: since most people rarely acquire the skills to promote and talk about themselves in a graceful and tactful manner, are we supposed to rely on others to sing praises on our behalf? Or if we are to take matters into our own hands, where is the line drawn between appropriate self-promotion and bragging at its finest?

This predicament also pertains to big business in PR. Every day in our field, something significant happens that others should know about: a firm creates an outstanding campaign, lands a new client, demonstrates expertise on an important topic, provides noteworthy service to existing clients or wins an award. Yet more often than not, these major events go unnoticed by the people to whom it should matter the most.

How do we, personally and professionally, achieve value through self-promotion, without making it too much of a good thing? Or how do we know that through our humility, we’re not missing out on a golden opportunity to sell ourselves and our companies?

It’s all about balance.

Just as we’re not going to walk into an interview and declare how wonderful and talented we are, we know that positive regard and appraisal for our work isn’t going to just happen on its own.

So my take on this dilemma is to take everything in stride. We don’t need to be in a constant state of tug-of-war between practicing modesty and publicizing accomplishments. We should minimize the boasting and maximize the value of what we’re saying. A company should space out the number of press releases it distributes and announcements it makes, if only for the sake of avoiding information overload.

Tooting our own horns should be properly planned. We shouldn’t just let it occur by happenstance. It is important that we learn how to reconcile our efforts to be humble with the need to promote our talents. We should take advantage of our opportunities and use them as leverage for successful, unadorned self-promotion.

by Madeline Reeves


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    Madeline, I enjoyed reading your article and found it helpful. I, too, find myself struggling to balance my boasting and humility. I still like to think that if you work hard, produce great products and not boast about yourself then someone will do it for you. So far, I have found that to not be the best way.

    I do agree with the idea that we must take it in stride. Balance is definitely needed. If we are too boastful then we are considered arrogant. If we are not boastful enough then our work can be taken for granted or overlooked.

    At then end of each day, I still believe that if you supply the best product then you get the best pay day. Tooting your own horn or not tooting your own horn can only get you so far. When it is time to make decisions, people are going to look at the quality of your work, not the quality of your self-promotion.


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