When the Alpena Chamber of Commerce was awarded the 2009 Outstanding Chamber of the Year Award in the State of Michigan and was a runnerup for the 2010 and 2012 awards, we didn't just congratulate ourselves at a staff meeting and then hope that others happened to hear about it. Heck no. We promoted it until we were blue in the face. We sent a press release, put it on our letterhead, our Facebook page, and our website. We talked about it. We tweeted about it. We wanted anyone and everyone to know about it.
A business owner said to me the other day that one of their competitors had posted a picture of their staff giving money to a community cause. He told me they had also given money to the same cause but hadn't thought about taking a photo and sharing the story.
I was at an organization's board meeting last week and the directors were discussing their frustration that many people didn't know they had played a key role in something big that had happened recently.
So what's this all about? I've noticed a trend recently. I'm not sure how to best describe the trend, other than saying that the bottom line appears to be that we seem to be much too modest. And too much modesty can be damaging.
Saying that is a bit risky, I know. Some degree of modesty is a good thing. No one likes to spend time with "that person" who seems to brag about himself every chance he gets. But never telling your story won't do you much good either. Because if you don't tell your own story, who else is going to? Unless it's a completely amazing or unusual story, chances are quite slim that someone will stumble upon it and tell everyone for you.
I know telling your own story might make some of you uncomfortable. But consider the following. The person who isn't afraid to tell his story tends to get the job over someone who isn't comfortable or good at telling his story. The business leaders who tell their philanthropic or customer service stories tend to create a better perception of their business and attract more new customers than the ones who don't. The community that tells its story and talks about how great it is tends to attract visitors, businesses, and development at a greater rate than the community that sits back and hopes someone else discovers its great opportunities.
I'm not sure why this seems to be a hot topic lately. Maybe it is because we are feeling the competitiveness that comes with a tight economy. You have to find a way to stand out and telling your story is one way to do that. You can choose whether or not you want to tell your personal story. If you are a business owner you can choose whether or not you want to tell your business story. But if you want the community to have a better chance of growth, please make it a point to tell the community's story.
I'll let you in on a little-known piece of information. It's not a secret. It's just not widely known. When we were awarded the Outstanding Chamber Award, we had to nominate ourselves for the award. Any chamber that wants to be considered must self-nominate. The nominations are what the judges use to make their decision. Nominating yourself is the only way to get that recognition. And there's nothing wrong with it.
Of course nominating yourself doesn't guarantee recognition, but guess what we get if we don't tell our story? Absolutely nothing. No one is going to find us and tell our story. If we want others, outside the scope of those immediately involved, to know the great things we do, we must take it into our own hands. Just like if we want people to know what a great community this is, we have to do it ourselves. So let's talk about it. Throw some of that modesty aside and start telling your story.
Jackie Krawczak is the executive director of the Alpena Area Chamber of Commerce. Her column runs bi-weekly on Tuesdays. Follow Jackie on Twitter @jkrawczak.