Q&A: When does self-promotion feel authentic to me?

Q&A: When does self-promotion feel authentic to me?

Every month, I publish an answer to a reader’s question. This time I received a question from Amber, a photographer in the United States, seeking insights on promoting her work authentically. I was asked this great question about self-promotion and bragging in an email, and I thought I would share my answer with you all. Here’s a transcript of my answer.

Hi, my name is Amber (United States), and I’m a photographer. I came across this book Letters to a Young Poet, which you recommend on your blog. It’s a truly inspiring book for creatives like me and a great reminder to continue to seek your own artistic voice. A while ago, blogging caught my attention as I saw certain creatives do it, but I haven’t found the courage to put myself out there. Yet, I’m still thinking about writing a personal blog myself to get my work further across. Networking and self-promotion is not my best quality, how do you come across this challenge?

I probably have the same relationship with self-promotion as any other creative I know— most of the time it feels like bragging. Over the years I had to change my relationship with it. As writers we need readers in the same way a singer needs a crowd; no one wants to play for an empty house.

Because I like people to read my writings, promoting my work and getting to know my audience of readers seems to be as important as mastering my craft.

Due to conversations with people in the field, I started to feel like I wanted to approach self-promotion the way I approach my work—which basically means that I need to feel a personal connection to the projects I commit myself to, as well as it needs to serve the audience in some way, shape or form.

That means that if I’m invited to talk to a bunch of young people aspiring to become a blogger, then there is actually a lot that I can share about the whole process of building your blog and getting your work published by established media outlets. There are lessons I learned and there is advice I received from people in the field that already walked down my path, which can be of ultimate value to the audience.

The most important thing I discovered about self-promotion is that it doesn’t have to feel like bragging. When done truthfully, a win-win is created when one sheds light on communicating the value to an audience, while at the same time shedding light on your work. The point of promotion is to make people aware of how your work may enrich their lives and to use it to make more valuable work.

In other words, for me, self-promotion is about putting your ego aside and bringing yourself into a state of mind that puts you at the service of someone else. This can be through a speech that’s at the service of the audience’s needs, through a piece of work with an important message, or even through a conversation with someone. The point of gaining knowledge whether creatively or intellectually, is to share it. There is no point in keeping it to myself.

For example, the reason why The Hotpot is able to reach a couple of thousand subscribers by now is that from the very beginning, I started to mention the experts and journalists from the articles we would recommend. By reaching out to them I asked whether they would be willing to share that Hotpot edition with their following because anyone who follows an environmental expert or journalist might be interested in a curated list of valuable climate reporting.

For those journalists, it was another honor to be mentioned and introduced to a new audience— a way to get their work across. I know how much work and thought goes into a piece of writing and this word through mouth promoting felt like a proper way of getting people to know The Hotpot and still getting them to decide for themselves whether they were interested.

I hope this answers your question. I’m always curious about others’ relationship with bragging and self-promotion. Let me know in the comments!

PS: this is an article in the Harvard Business Review about Savvy self-promotion I found useful.


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Thank you for reading. This reader’s question is part of the Ask Me Anything series. Feedback from you, the reader, is important to me. Want to ask me a question for next month? Send me your question via team@lisanneswart.com


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