The three biggest obstacles to gaining national recognition

The three biggest obstacles to gaining national recognition

On Thursday, I”ll start a small series on taking your message to a national level – what it takes and how to get there. But first, let’s look at the three biggest obstacles to gaining national recognition.

I work with a lot of business owners, authors, entrepreneurs and others who are quite well-known in their local markets. Virtually all of them dream of creating a national platform at some point. And some of them do make it, like my friend Michael Schneider who is well on his way as a travel expert.

Others do not. And I have to say that I can spot them almost immediately. There are three reasons why people do not (and cannot) move to the next level. Here they are:

1. Ego

2. Ego

3. Ego

That’s right. Many people have gained a level of recognition in their market they enjoy. They get paid for speaking engagements and wouldn’t dream of doing them for free, let alone pay for their expenses. They’re used to having their messages returned quickly and enjoy a relationship with the media that gives them good access to coverage for their newest projects.

That’s all well and good. But if these things have become an entitlement , rather than something that you accept with gratitude, watch out when you try to go big time. Going national puts you back on the starting line. Actually, it puts you way BEHIND the starting line. It’s a bit like the smartest kid in high school who gets accepted to Yale. In his first semester he all of a sudden finds out he is average. Or worse, below average.

Now this doesn’t apply if you’re in New York City or LA ( or even Chicago, to some extent) If you’d made it there you’ve made it in the most brutal of markets. If you’re in Minneapolis where I am, trying to go national means you’re thrown into a media market that thinks you probably live at best in flyover country, at worst were raised on a farm. (I’ve been called “corn fed” more times than I care to mention at meetings in New York)

You may get lucky, but in most cases it takes years of hard work to reach a national platform. It’s much harder than local and if you enter it with attitude, you’re doomed for failure. Some confidence and real knowledge is required but for the most part other than having some good writing clips and a decent reel it usually means nothing. You are once again the proverbial tiny, tiny fish in a vast pond.

One example I give people is the Travel Channel’s Andrew Zimmern, who does the show Bizarre Foods. Andrew has the right amount of ego and confidence, I think (you need SOME after all) but he worked for years to get a humble cable show and has since continued to be diligent in growing his national platform. I’ve only met him once, years ago, but I’ve watched him and he must have some smarts as well as good advisors. He used his local work on air and in print to step up to a national platfrom yet continues to keep himself grounded in Minneapolis media as well. I think he’s a great example of how long it takes, and the things you have to do to make it to the next level.