Imagine driving along the NJ-495 roadway, which dramatically scoops around and dips down the cliffs of Weehawken, New Jersey, into a huge industrial no-man’s land before you enter the Lincoln Tunnel to the legendary city of Broadway, big business, and billionaire dreams. As you navigate your way through this sea of gray, peppered with smokestacks and billboards, your eyes jump from ads for SmartWater to iPhones to one about you.
Now imagine what your billboard would say, how it would look, and what image it would convey. How do you want to be seen by the outside world? Which of your magniﬁcent qualities could you display? How can you summarize your offerings in a snapshot that will grab drivers going 60 miles per hour and hold the attention of commuters stuck in trafﬁc as well?
There’s no room for lots of words or complicated images. And there’s no room for anything that’s less than sparkling about you. While, of course, I’m not suggesting that you actually buy a billboard ad (although it might be a novel approach), this mental excursion will remind you to make your message quick and clear—whether you’re applying for a job or building your business—or else you’ll pay more than the toll!
If you’re an introvert, the thought of your personal brand plastered on a billboard might seem overwhelming. However, it can also be liberating to take the time to think of a message that would matter to the people you want to target—rather than dreaming it up on the spot at a social event or important meeting. Focus on spreading the word to those who can benefit from whatever you've got instead of foisting your offerings on those who aren’t interested.
My client Madeline Abel-Kerns, who is an opera singer, actress, and voice teacher, shares what her billboard would look like: “White, puffy clouds with a beautiful sky—the type of clouds you would want to sit and watch drift by, changing shapes. In black letters there would be two words: ‘Be moved.’ And my name and the date of my next performance.”
Now it’s your turn. If you’re inspired to do so, take out a blank sheet of paper and write down a concise headline for your billboard and draft an image (or find one from a magazine). Also write any other brief message you’d like to add, possibly to get members of your target audience who are driving by to take a desired action. Here is a recap of the information you’ll need to capture:
What Does Your Billboard Say?
Brief message and/or action:
Once you’ve mocked up your billboard, consider how you can apply the concept you’ve created consistently across your self-promotional activities—whether you’re writing a cover letter for a job, designing a Web site for your business, or presenting yourself at a sales meeting.
I’ve adapted this billboard exercise from my book, Self-Promotion for Introverts®: The Quiet Guide to Getting Ahead. The book also includes many other exercises and offers gentle guidance to help you get the recognition you seek to get where you want to go in your career.
Adapted from Nancy Ancowitz, Self-Promotion for Introverts®, McGraw-Hill, 2009, pp. 37, 51-52.