Whether you like it or not, as an entrepreneur pitching your business you become a public figure. When you choose to make your personal details public in telling your story, there is no turning back. In our era of hyperconnectivity and online oversharing, your story will outlive you. You need to ask yourself: could you live with it if these details live forever? Could your reputation survive?
For example, a perennially popular trend on many a college campus--heck, even I'm thinking of hosting one--is the "ABC" party, to which you wear "anything but clothes." Potentially provocative? Well, sure, but you could also get very creative and fashion a fully functional (and perfectly modest) toga out of a shower curtain. The question becomes how creative do you want to get, and how much do you want to expose? What is the image you want to project?
Here are 3 tips for those blessed with media attention to manage publicity to their advantage.
1. Pick and choose which interviews to do.
Soon after I started LexION Capital, I met a New York Times reporter at dinner who suggested featuring LexION as part of a piece on women in finance. To his surprise, I turned him down. At the time, I was vehemently press-shy. I even refused to post a single photo of myself online. Moreover, I called myself Managing Director instead of CEO, something I am now ashamed to admit. I downplayed my own power in an effort to call less attention to myself and the work I was really doing.
There were a number of reasons I was reluctant to "go public." Some of the feedback I had received (and yes, there is gender bias) questioned my credibility due to my appearance. My baby face that makes me appear years younger (thanks Mom!) has sometimes helped and sometimes hurt me, and in this case led to very pointed questions about where my funding came from. A wealthy husband? Family? Well, no one has yet stepped into that first role, and my single mom, while rich in love, doesn't have much in the way of material wealth. All of this made me camera- and press-shy, concerned that it would detract from the seriousness and importance of LexION Capital's work and what I had accomplished.
The key lesson: I recognized I was not ready to "go public" and this caution served me better than to rush in and have things in print and posterity that I was not ready for.
2. Decide whether or not publicity will this serve your brand.
The impetus for changing my press-shy approach came in the form of one young woman's question: could I recommend a role model for women on Wall Street? I looked around and realized, yes, we are seriously lacking visible women on the Street. It became abundantly clear that I was in a unique position to help other women, and I felt a responsibility to leverage that because my female mentors had done the same for me. It was a carefully considered next step toward my overarching goal of empowering women financially and in their careers.
People don't feel connected to companies; they feel connected to human stories. That is, they respond to you--not necessarily your business alone. So, there may be real gain to sharing your story. I did eventually decide to accept interviews, and to post photos of myself. Since then it hasn't been all roses, but I have learned that the haters are only a small, though loud, minority. I get positive messages from women all over the US and abroad, at all stages of life, thanking me and telling me that they have been inspired by some aspect of my story or my work. I save each and every one of these notes for long, sometimes lonely days, and they truly nourish and sustain me. However, no amount of warm-fuzzies could have persuaded me to make this choice, which is at times a sacrifice, if it did not strategically align with my larger mission of changing the face of Wall Street.
3. Respect the boundaries of loved ones when telling your story.
At this point, we are approached by a reality show every few months. I have heard pitches ranging from filming my future wedding to shadowing my employees to filming me in my home. My dog and cat are probably the only positive votes in this case--they love any source of attention. But these offers leave me, at best, uncomfortable, and my very private partner will have no part of it. So out of respect for the human family members in my household, I keep my personal life just that--personal. When I share my story, talk about my work, or even share more personal aspects of my life like my love of animals or penchant for baking, it is always done in service of my greater purpose. I aim to show that real, relatable women work in finance exist, and to give a human voice to LexION Capital's mission of building a better Wall Street for all.
Whatever shades of your personal life you choose to reveal as a business owner, there are both privacy concerns and safety concerns. Any choice you make should answer both questions in the positive: Does this make good business sense for my business? And more importantly, does this make sense for me and those I love?