March 24, 2015

To Toot or not to Toot? The Art of Self-Promotion.

horn tooting

To Toot! (Ashleigh’s take).

You might say I’m a horn tooter.

I toot my own horn.

I’m a shameless self-promoter.

Why? Because I can.

Since I’m not shy, I can get away with it.

I am full of bright ideas and express myself creatively. I get great feedback from folks, because sharing my ideas has the potential to help others.

I give my ideas away freely.

Lots of other folks are just as creative with helpful ideas. What is the difference between me—unabashedly sharing my ideas—or someone else, sitting on the sidelines keeping their bright ideas to themselves?

The difference is the delivery and emotional style.

I’m an extrovert, not afraid of being in the spotlight. I couldn’t care less what people think about me, because I know I’m lovable and smart.

I get it from my mother.

Anytime I ever wanted anything, she always encouraged me simply to ask for what I desired. The worst thing I could be told is “no.” If I didn’t get what I wanted I just changed my question or asked someone else.

I have always known that I live in an abundant universe, full of infinite possibilities.

Self-promotion helps me to reach my goals, be supported and share my gifts with the world.

Or, Not to Toot. (Renee’s story).

I’m shy. I’ve always been shy.

Horn-tooting doesn’t come naturally to me. I’ve always felt like this is a disadvantage, in the realm of academia, my professional/creative career and even my personal life.

You see, I’m an introvert, and introverts are notoriously bad at self-promotion.

When I recognized that this had been a lifelong personal conflict for me, I wrote about it in this article:

I’d feel isolated, and I’d get jealous, mentally accusing some of my (more extroverted) peers of bragging, showing off, attention-seeking. They always seemed to get the most recognition. They’d get the jobs, the grades, the friends, the boyfriends. I knew I was a good person; I just wasn’t interested in getting in people’s faces. I mean, wasn’t pride the result of an inflated ego, and quiet humility a perfectly fine way to be? Why was it always a big competition, anyways, to get noticed?

And as writers/creatives, we have to promote our work.

A big part of my life’s purpose is to be fully authentic, to be fully myself—which includes embracing parts of myself that maybe aren’t as “acceptable” or valued by society. Part of this is about thinking for myself and recognizing the choice in my path.

So, here’s where self-promotion can feel inauthentic: in trying to “get” people to see or read something, it can seem pushy. It doesn’t feel natural… because I want to know that people are choosing to “spend time” with me and share my ideas—via writing, digitally or in real life.

Choosing to read something is like asking a question, a part of a process of inquiry, a deliberate act of interest. So if someone happens on my work and shares it just because they love it, that holds a deeper meaning to me than having a friend read/compliment it just because I’m a friend.

To me, self-promotion should be more of an invitation, a conversation, rather than just “hey look what I did!” It should acknowledge that communication is a two-way street—which is something that traditional “advertising” doesn’t really do, and is probably why the concept of promotion feels so icky to me.

Still, though, there is much value in helping our friends out, by advertising their awesome work and I love to do that.

So, why wouldn’t I do that for myself too?

When we promote ourselves, we need to make sure we aren’t forgetting what is happening at the other end of the communication process and beyond: what are we leaving with the recipient?  Are they engaged into action, into sharing the message in one way or another in their lives?

So, where do we (Ashleigh and Renee) come together in balance, despite coming from opposite sides of the spectrum?

How can creatives find their comfort zone with self-promotion?

In today’s world there is competition in nearly every arena. So, in order to share our ideas, promotion is necessary. At the same time, the age of information makes it easy for a little promotion to go a long way.

“Heroes must see to their own fame. No one else will.” ~ Gore Vidal

Rules for tooting—promoting our work, event or cause:

1. Know ourselves. Ask ourselves honestly where we naturally fall on the spectrum of horn-tooting. If on the shy end of the spectrum, start with finding a tribe rather than “cold calling.” If you feel safe and comfortable with your high quality work, this will show.

2. Grow endeavors organically. This is perfect for a person who is not a natural horn-tooter. The key is producing quality work that we’re passionate about, pleases others and will be of benefit. Identify your audience and choose an appropriate venue or platform and you will likely get noticed without having to promote in a way that feels unnatural. (Hint: elephant journal is a platform that thrives on a community support model of sharing and promotion of great ideas.)

3. Share. As they say, sharing is caring. The more genuine your share is, the further it will go. If you are more of an extrovert, show hard copies of your work, hand out business cards, etc.

4. Forget the numbers. If we are trying to make a living practicing our passion, of course numbers matter in the long run. Unfortunately there is no escaping this entirely. But if we focus too much on this from the start (ie: view counts on a blog post) it can take us away from our original purpose and this disingenuity will show—not only through the work itself, but in the way we are interacting with our colleagues and audience.

5. Start a conversation. Who loves the same things you do? Who does the same kind of work? Ask how other people who have seen success in your field strategize self-promotion. Watch, look, listen. If they love what they are doing, they’ll probably love to talk about it too.

6. Ask for and offer help. We all know horn-tooters, so find a friend who is talented at promoting others and find out what they like. If they are interested in helping, be sure to compensate them for this, whether it’s via a service, monetarily or a straight up promo trade. They may want to help you purely out of love, but it’s important to remember that their time is valuable too!

Although it may feel awkward for some of us, but if we are doing what we love, then promoting ourselves and asking for help with this need not be self-indulgent; it’s a crucial step if we want our thoughts and actions to make a difference to the world.

Spread the good word and help make the world a brighter place.

We love our ele-family!

~ Ashleigh & Renee 


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Relephant Read: 

F*ck Being Shy—Let’s Shine Instead.

10 Ways to Promote Your Blog.

Sex, Kittens & How to Write the Best Blog in the World.


Authors: Renee Picard & Ashleigh Hitchcock

Photo: flickrflickr 

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Renee Picard & Ashleigh Hitchcock