I’m struggling with a marketing problem and I’m a marketer. Perhaps you can help me out? What problem might you ask?
I’m terrified of marketing my company and myself.
Because I want to shoot videos about the SEO industry for my company, but I’m scared of what will happen. This is a real fear that has kept me from doing what I want to do for years now. I’m scared of the feedback and comments I’ll receive from others, specifically crude feedback about my appearance, how I talk, my language, and any other number of issues that women are frequently subjected to when we’re visible.
Yes, that’s our only crime — being visible.
How do I overcome this fear? I need to be visible to gain business and I’m pretty sure I have a fun, unique way of doing it. A business consultant told me years ago that I should be the Emily Graslie of SEO and digital marketing. I secretly cherished this idea as a massive fan girl who would’ve been in the field of primatology myself if not for a series of random events. Then I found her video about sexism in the industry and it terrified me:
tl;dw? Here are some good takeaways:
“Is there any part of my job that I don’t look forward to? I would have to say it would be the frustratingly negative and sexist comments that I have to sift through in my various inboxes on a daily basis.”
Rhea’s fear, meet reality.
“We have a fear of the feedback from our subscribers and commenters because we’re afraid that our audience is more focused on our appearance than the quality of the content. Even more than that, we’re not convinced that the content has to be good or factual because we’re not convinced that people are watching for the content in the first place.”
I would love to know how much time women anxiously waste on overthinking and preparing our appearance for a conference or a video as compared to our male counterparts. In fact, I conducted an anecdotal experiment on my appearance with shocking results…
Many years ago I used to speak at conferences wearing jeans, a nerdy t-shirt, and a blazer. I was asked to speak often and got good feedback on presentations though I was consistently rated below my more famous male peers even as the highest rated female speaker (several conference organizers let me in on a little secret — the women typically score below men even if the quality of our content is on par or better). This got to me. How could I overcome this handicap caused by simply being born a woman? To make matters worse I often had women and men telling me I should dress up more and make an effort with my looks.
I decided to change my appearance and embrace my feminine side to see if this had an impact on my speaking scores. Sure enough, it did. I received so many more compliments this time around! Unfortunately, all of them were on my appearance:
“You look amazing in that dress.”
“See! You can be a strong, confident woman and still be on stage.”
“I didn’t know you had a bootie.”
“Love your hair down.”
“You look so much better without glasses.”
This was far from the outcome I wanted and to make matters worse, I wasn’t being approached anymore and I needed people to talk to me if my agency was going to attract new business. This was a disaster.
My non-sexual jeans and t-shirt combo with my hair pulled back and glasses on made me easy to talk to, especially where men were concerned. Once I was in stilettos, a dress, and makeup with my hair down and contacts in, I was avoided except by a handful of men who already knew me and even then it felt awkward. It was as if my sexuality was suddenly on the table and no one knew how to handle it including the married conference organizer twice my age who told me the worst thing about the two of us was that we were both married. The advance was shot down and I was never asked back to the conference. Perhaps those events aren’t related, but I know I’m a good speaker and the fact that I’ve spent years questioning whether or not that incident cut me out of a good show is an issue in and of itself.
While this experiment was anecdotal, it’s my experience and that experience shaped my paralysis where marketing is concerned. That has certainly had very negative consequences for the growth of my business, because I stopped putting myself “out there.” Having two kids was also a convenient excuse, because it further eroded my confidence where my appearance was concerned and I never feel like I’m having a “good enough” day to be in front of a camera.
“There’s pressure to be the whole package. Not only do you have to be intelligent and articulate, but you also have to be attractive.”
After having a baby, the one thing I definitely wasn’t feeling was attractive. I realized I looked pretty similar to my normal self, but the exhaustion of raising an infant put bags under my eyes, which people commented on. Often and in professional settings. The last thing I wanted to do was open those comments up to the world in a permanent setting.
So, here I am world. I want to share my love for all things SEO, content strategy, digital marketing, and reputation management with you. I’m a massive nerd who can talk about Google for days, but I’d like to do it without being mansplained at best and sexually harassed at worst.
Is the world ready for another woman sharing her passion for a technical field? Does it even matter? To me it does and I hope I can take this step without negative and crude comments, but I know they’ll come in some form at some point.
Any words of advice are appreciated here. I need to find my courage and to channel my inner Emily Graslie. Thankfully, the outpouring of support from so many incredible women and men after my last post was enough to make me feel safe enough to post this here.